NCGA Player of the Year Race Heating Up
August 31, 2012
PEBBLE BEACH – Who needs the PGA Tour Playoffs when an exciting race is happening right here in Northern California? With the NCGA Player of the Year race ending one month from now, one of three players looks to claim the 2012 award and make history in the process. Either one of two newcomers in the race, Michael Weaver or Ben Geyer, will become the 28th different player to win the award in its 41-year history, or Randy Haag will win an unprecedented fourth consecutive title and his seventh overall.
Weaver is currently atop the points list and holds the slightest of leads over Geyer, a mere 24 points, 1,555 to 1,531. The junior at University of California-Berkley should maintain that lead over the St. Mary’s College senior, as Geyer looks to be done playing any more point events in the remaining few weeks. Weaver is scheduled to play in this weekend’s California State Fair Amateur, a 250 point event, while Geyer is not.
Weaver’s ascension to the top of the points list has come suddenly. The Fresno native was one of the last golfers to qualify for the match play portion of the U.S. Amateur earning the 60th seed and had a magical run all the way to the final 36-hole match. Weaver looked ready to claim the U.S. Amateur title being 2 up with two holes to play, but a birdie by his opponent Steven Fox on the 35th hole and a lipped out par putt by Weaver on the 36th hole forced extra holes, where Fox won with a birdie on the 37th hole. Still, Weaver earned 585 points (towards the NCGA Player of the Year race) for his runner-up performance less than two weeks ago, which vaulted him to the top of the list for the first time this year. Other events which have made up Weaver’s body of work include wins at the Palo Alto City Amateur and Alameda Commuters Championship, a round of 16 finish at the California State Amateur, a quarterfinal performance at the San Francisco City Championship and a runner-up finish at the Fresno City Championship.
Before Weaver took residency atop the points list, Geyer had held that position for a little more than a month. The Arbuckle native rose to the top after winning the NCGA Stroke Play Championship in mid-July and earning 600 points. Less than three weeks earlier Geyer had an incredible run of his own by making it all the way to the 36-hole final of the California State Amateur Championship before losing to Kevin Marsh. The 20-year-old interestingly enough earned all of his points after April 29 and earned his most recent points August 17, meaning all of his accrued points have come in a less than four month span.
Randy Haag is currently in third place on the points list, an unfamiliar place for the six-time NCGA Player of the Year. At 1,223 points, Haag still has some work left to do in order to catch and pass Weaver and Geyer, but it’s definitely possible. Haag has an advantage on the collegiate players as he will be competing in the NCGA Valley Amateur on September 17-18, a 500-point event, and could also be participating in other non-NCGA point events over the next month, while the other two likely will not. The 53-year-old held the top spot on the points list for the first nine months of the point season and for the majority of the three previous years. He climbed to the top of the point list in 2012 early with a win at the NCGA Master Division Four-Ball with partner Darryl Donovan and a win at the Stocker Cup, both held in October. Other wins for Haag this season included wins at the Scratch Players Mid-Amateur and the Diablo Valley Amateur.
One more player with an outside chance in the Player of the Year race is Danny Paniccia. The 35-year-old Clovis resident currently is fourth on the points list at 1,004 points, and has gotten there by strong performances in the NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship (semifinalist) and NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship (runner-up). Paniccia will be playing in the NCGA Valley Amateur at Riverbend GC, his home course, and with a win there and a win or solid performance in another non-NCGA point event, Paniccia could find himself atop the points list.
Whatever transpires over the final month, it should be an exciting finish to see who comes out on top.