California State Amateur Match Play Preview
June 18, 2013
PEBBLE BEACH - How tough is it to play well for eight straight rounds?
Since 1986, only three players earned medalist honors and won the California State Amateur in the same year.
“It’s impossible,” said defending champion Kevin Marsh about playing well all eight rounds. (Marsh was disqualified this year for playing a ball that was later determined to be out of bounds.)
“Match play has a lot of luck,” Marsh added. “You’re going to have a bad round. You’ve just got to figure out a way to win the match.”
Cameron Park’s Corey Pereira and San Diego’s Xander Schauffele are tasked with bucking that trend after tying for co-medalist with 2-under 142s at Monterey Peninsula Country Club on Tuesday. The last time MPCC hosted the State Amateur in 2007, Josh Anderson won it all as the 31st seed after surviving a playoff just to qualify for match play.
“If you’re kinda struggling but you sneak in match play, it gives you new life,” Marsh said. “It’s a totally different feel.”
That may be good news for Jonathan Garrick, who outdueled seven to qualify for Wednesday’s round of 32 with a birdie on the first playoff hole. Among those he knocked out were two-time State Amateur champion Casey Boyns, and 2006 winner Jordan Nasser.
Garrick will now take on Schauffele.
“Match play is a whole different game,” said Ben Geyer, who is the No. 12 seed after backing up his 69 at the Shore Course on Monday with an afternoon 76 on the windy Dunes Course.
“It doesn’t really matter how good of a player you are,” Geyer continued. “You can beat anyone on any day if you play well, and you can lose to anyone on any day if you don’t play your best. It’s unlike anything else in golf. You’re still playing the golf course, but you’re paying a lot of attention to what your opponent is doing.”
Geyer made it to the final match at La Cumbre CC last year before falling to Marsh, but the performance kicked off a sizzling summer. Geyer won the NCGA Stroke Play on his way to collecting NCGA Player of the Year honors.
“Last year’s match play was a great run, and I don’t see any reason why I couldn’t do it again this year,” Geyer said. “But you still have to play it one match at a time. If you’re not careful, it’s easy to get a couple down in a match, and all of a sudden you’re heading home.
“You just try to get off to good starts.”
Geyer has an intriguing first-round opponent in this year’s NCGA Public Links champion Nick Moore, who also won the Salinas City Match Play.
“I think in match play it’s easy to play a bit more loose,” Moore said. “You know if you hit one bad shot, it’s not going to cost you the tournament, it’s only going to cost you one hole. I think everybody will be able to free their golf swing up a little bit and feel a little more comfortable.”
After four years of anguish, Mark Anguiano is thrilled he isn’t heading home yet. The 20-year-old golfer at Cal State Fullerton tied for the low round Monday with a 4-under 68 on the Dunes before shooting a 75 on the Shore Course.
“The first four years it was very frustrating, because I knew I could do it,” Anguiano said. “I feel relieved.”
John Catlin is a dangerous opponent to face this week, as he won the NCGA Match Play Championship at Spyglass Hill in both 2010 and 2011. He qualified for match play this week after shooting a 2-over 146, earning the 17th seed.
“In match play, you’re playing more what your opponent does than everyone else in the field,” Catlin said. “I’ve always kind of liked that. I’ve always enjoyed mano y mano.”
Another must-watch first match is No. 10 seed Cory McElyea – fresh off a U.S. Open appearance at Merion – and Danny Paniccia, who won last year’s NCGA Valley Amateur and finished second in the points list.
It’s a long week for those gunning for the title. After two rounds of stroke play, there are five matches, including a 36-hole final.
“Sometimes that can play to your advantage, because if you play well, you can keep that groove going,” Moore said.
And the thrill of winning can be a contagious feeling.
“You really get more focused in match play,” Marsh said. “You’re trying to win each hole. I wish I could play more like that in stroke play and really take it one hole at a time.
“If you’re in contention down the stretch in stroke play, it feels just like match play.”