NCGA Four-Ball Preview
May 9, 2013
PEBBLE BEACH – For Russell Humphrey and James Watt, Mother’s Day weekend is one of their favorite times of the year, and not because they have some unusual penchant for honoring the important women of their lives. Moreover, it’s due to the fact that the NCGA Four-Ball Championship—which is traditionally held during the second weekend of May—takes place at Spyglass Hill for three days.
“This is the biggest tournament for us all year,” said Humphrey. “This is our Masters.”
If you think that Humphrey is expressing a bit of hyperbole and disingenuousness—after all he did win the 2012 Four-Ball Championship—you’d be dead wrong, just ask his four-ball partner.
“Without question this is by far my favorite tournament of year,” said Watt in a separate interview. “And it was before we had success.”
Last year it didn’t get much better for the Lodi residents as they put together a 54-hole score of 205, 11-under par to get their names engraved on the Roger D. Val Perpetual Trophy. After opening with a six-under par 66 to take a lead, Humphrey and Watt backed those rounds up with a two-under par 70 and three-under par 69 to capture victory. Still, at the conclusion of 54 holes, the tandem needed two holes of a sudden-death playoff to claim triumph over Casey Boyns and William Moore.
“That’s our goal this year, no playoff,” said a laughing Watt as the duo has played in playoffs the last two times they entered—in 2010 Humphrey and Watt lost to Darryl Donovan and Randy Haag.
While the Lodi residents have had recent success in this event the odds are against them in garnering a second consecutive title. The feat for a back-to-back title is tough to come by as only one team has done it in the tournament’s near half-century history. In 2008-2009 Ryan Sloane and Taylor Travis claimed consecutive titles before splitting up their dynamic team. It’s something both Humphrey and Watt are aware of and know that it will be tough to accomplish.
“It would be extraordinary to win back-to-back titles,” said Humphrey. “It would surpass our expectations, not because we don’t think we can win, but because we know how difficult it is to win this event.”
Added Watt, “it would be great, just because you know the skill set of some of the players there,” as he rattled off names including past champions like Boyns and Haag.
That formidable competition begins right off the bat at 7:00 a.m. on Friday morning with the team of Matt Hansen and Tyler Raber, top players on the UC-Davis golf team. Also in that morning wave are Jon Peterson and Eddie Davis (8:00 a.m. No. 10), who finished tied for fifth in 2012 and tied for second in 2011. Humphrey and Watt will tee off shortly after at 8:20 a.m. off No. 1, while perennial top five finishers Boyns and Moore tee off on No. 10 shortly after at 8:40 a.m.
The afternoon wave kicks off with a bang at high noon as the never before seen team of Randy Haag (six-time NCGA Player of the Year) and Jim Knoll (two-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year) will tee it up on No. 10. They’ll be followed by 2005 champions Scott Hardy and Rick Reinsberg at 12:10 p.m., who always contend, having finished tied for fifth in 2012 and tied for second in 2011.
As usual a double-wave of morning and afternoon tee times will take place Friday and Saturday with 92 teams competing over 36 holes. At the conclusion of Saturday’s round the field will be cut to the low 40 teams and ties for Sunday’s final round.
Humphrey summed up a sentiment that many of the players must feel getting to play in this event.
“I believe of all the NCGA Tournaments, the NCGA Four-Ball is the most fun because the venue and format are perfect,” he said, pointing out that there aren’t many tournaments played at a course like Spyglass Hill for 54 holes on a weekend. “It doesn’t get much better in amateur golf.”