53rd Annual NCGA Senior Championship
April 29, 2014
Despite a rough start that would’ve left many players second guessing themselves, Jim Knoll never flinched.
Knoll, the NCGA Senior Player of the Year three years running, held steady after bogeying his first four holes Tuesday at par-72 Spyglass Hill for a 5-over 77, giving him a two stroke win over co-runner ups Casey Boyns and Steve Wilson in the 53rd annual NCGA Senior Championship.
The 61-year-old Sunnyvale resident, who’s a print salesman, had come into the final round holding a three stroke lead over amateurgolf.com member Douglas Williams. It’s his second NCGA Senior Championship, the first coming in 2011.
“For all intents and purposes, I probably won it on Monday,” said Knoll, who finished the 36-hole event with a score of 4-over 148. “I knew I was in good shape coming into the final round.”
The cushion would immediately come in handy, as Knoll opened the final round with four straight bogeys, missing a 3-footer, 4-footer and 5-footer on holes No.1 through No.3, respectively.
“I missed every putt I could miss those first four holes,” Knoll said. “Other than putting though I was playing fine.”
By the time he reached the tee at No.5, however, Williams, playing in the same final foursome, had taken a one-shot lead. It wouldn’t be until a birdie on the par-4 8th, courtesy of a 9-iron to within three feet of the flagstick, that Knoll would regain the lead.
“That birdie was real good,” Knoll said.
Still, he couldn’t shake Williams. On No.10, Williams made birdie after stiffing a wedge shot to within a few feet of the flagstick to regain the lead.
The big turning point in the Williams-Knoll duel came on the par-5 11th. There, Williams hit a bad drive and had to lay up, leading to an eventual bogey. Knoll, meanwhile, managed a brilliant up and down from 60 feet for birdie. It was a quick two shot swing, and Williams, who’d finish with a 78, never threatened again, finishing in fifth.
But it was hardly over for Knoll. Next up was holding off recently turned 55-year-old Steve Wilson of Roddy Ranch and amateur greats Gary Vanier and Casey Boyns. Also in the mix, and also playing in groups ahead, were Dan Bieber and two-time NCGA Senior champ Jeff Burda.
Bieber shot 80 and Burda had 76, giving Knoll some breathing room. But there was still Wilson, Boyns and Vanier, the event’s defending champion.
On the 17th tee, Wilson, playing with Knoll, was in striking distance thanks to an earlier birdie on the 11th. Boyns and Vanier, meanwhile, were in the group ahead.
“I was thinking that they all were very capable of winning it and some had won it,” Knoll said. “But this course is relentless. Once you’re over par it’s hard to get those shots back.”
Wilson couldn’t get any closer, making pars on both 17 and 18 for a 75 to come in at 150.
Both Vanier and Boyns made big pushes with 73’s, but finished at 151 and 150, respectively.
While Knoll said he won it on Monday, Wilson said he lost it in the first round. The big culprit? A double-bogey on the par-4 9th, his final hole of the day.
“I hit the ball really well. With Jim starting with a three stroke lead (four over Wilson), you know you have to do something,” Wilson said. “He had a bad day and still ended up winning the championship.”
Boyns, whose NCGA resume is only lacking a Senior Championship title, had four bogeys and three birdies, including two on the always tough 6th and 9th, in the final round. The California Golf Hall of Famer was even through his first 12 holes until a bogey on the par-4 13th. From there, the longtime Pebble Beach caddie wouldn’t be able to card a birdie.
Like Wilson, Boyns also was snakebit in the first round, going 5-over through his first three holes.
“I felt like I was going to do it. My ball striking just wasn’t as crispy as yesterday,” said Boyns, who lost in a playoff to Vanier last year. “I got a little tired.”
Vanier, who was looking to become the first repeat winner since Jim McMurtrey (1994-1995), finished in fourth place.
“Coming down those last few holes, I wasn’t sure what Casey (Boyns) and Gary (Vanier) were doing but I knew that Casey’s known for going low in the final round and Gary’s such a great player,” Knoll said. “It’s so hard to win events like this.”
April 28, 2014
Jim Knoll is on the prowl yet again.
Knoll, the NCGA Senior Player of the Year three years running, jumped to the top of the leaderboard in this week’s NCGA Senior Championship on Monday, posting a strong 1-under 71 at par-72 Spyglass Hill.
The 61-year-old Sunnyvale resident came into the championship on a roll. A month ago he won the Contra Costa County Senior Amateur.
“I played well,” said Knoll, who won the NCGA Senior Championship title in 2011. “I hit a lot of the fairways and most of the greens. I didn’t really come close to many bogeys, to be honest.”
Playing on a course he calls one of his favorites, Knoll was the epitome of steady. He’d card one bogey (on the par-4 6th) while tacking on birdies at No.11 and No.15. On both of his birdies, the six-time NCGA major winner sank 4 footers after knocking it close to the flagstick.
Knoll even had a chance to go lower, but he missed two 3-footers on his front-nine.
“When I did miss, they were good misses,” said Knoll, whose game turned when he switched to a claw putting grip a few years ago. “They were in the right places.”
Coming in at 74, three shots back in second place, was amateurgolf.com member Douglas Williams. In at 75, four behind, was Roddy Ranch GC member Steve Wilson.
Williams, who started on the back-nine, got going with a birdie on the par-5 11th but quickly gave that back with a double-bogey on the par-3 12th. He’d later add another birdie on the 17th but ended up penciling two more bogeys on the front-nine on the par-5 1st and 7th.
Wilson, who was runner-up at the Contra Costa County Senior, had an up and down round. Starting on the back-nine, the recently turned 55-year-old went even through his first nine with three birdies (two coming back-to-back on holes No.14 and No.15), a double-bogey and a bogey. On the front, Wilson doubled the par-4 2nd and No.9, but also managed a birdie on the par-5 7th.
Others in the immediate mix include San Luis Obispo Country Club member Christopher Blair, who had a 76, and Almaden G&CC member Rich Rowley and Monterey resident Casey Boyns, who both are tied for 5th after shooting 77.
The NCGA Senior Championship is one of the last NCGA majors to elude Boyns. The California Golf Hall of Fame member, whose illustrious amateur career includes two California State Amateur titles, has never won the event.
“I just had a bad start,” said Boyns, who began his day on the back-nine. “I didn’t hit a good shot until No.14.”
The longtime Pebble Beach Golf Links caddie opened with a bogey on No.10, and followed that with a triple-bogey on the 11th after first losing his ball and then three-putting. Another bogey on the 12th left him at 5-over through three, but he played even the rest of the way thanks to a closing birdie on the 9th following a terrific 130-yard wedge approach to within a few feet of the flagstick.
In a tie for seventh at 78 is a group of seven players including Del Rio G&CC member and 2010 champion Jeff Burda and defending champion Gary Vanier of Pleasant Hill. Like Boyns, Vanier also lost a ball on the 11th. The only redeeming factor was a birdie on the 18th, courtesy of a 40-foot putt that found nothing but the bottom of the cup.
“I feel like I played 36 holes,” said Vanier, who’s looking to become the event’s first repeat champ since Jim McMurtrey in 1994-1995. “Nothing good was happening. It was just one of those days.”
Randy Haag, making his NCGA Senior Championship debut, opened with a disappointing 81.
The championship concludes Tuesday, with the leaders going off No.1 around 9:40 a.m.
April 23, 2014
Despite having his own niche in NCGA history, veteran Gary Vanier of Pleasant Hill was a bit surprised how the 2013 NCGA Senior Championship at Spyglass Hill unfolded.
In what became a crazy finish, Vanier, whose NCGA resume includes being the first player to win the California State Amateur and California Senior State Amateur, had entered the final round holding a one stroke lead after a solid 2-under 70.
By the time Vanier reached the 14th hole in the second round, however, the record six-time winner of the annual San Francisco City Championship hadn’t just lost the lead (thanks to three bogeys), but trailed by five.
And it wasn’t just any other player who’d taken over the lead, either. With five birdies through his first 13 holes it was another NCGA legend, California Golf Hall of Famer Casey Boyns, who was suddenly atop the leaderboard.
But it was at the par-5 14th where things changed.
While Vanier made a birdie there, Boyns suffered a quintuple-bogey 10 on the 14th after among other things, the longtime Pebble Beach caddie was penalized a stroke for having his ball move after addressing it (he’d stepped on a branch).
After both finished regulation tied at 1-over 145, the two headed for a playoff on the par-4 10th. There, Vanier made par after chipping to within two feet of the flagstick. Boyns, meanwhile, had a 20-footer for birdie but missed, leaving a four-footer for par. He’d miss that one too, sealing the victory for Vanier.
“This one here I really take as a gift,” a somewhat stunned Vanier said afterwards. “Casey [Boyns] really had it won coming down 14, but I guess that’s why you play all 18 holes.”
Starting Monday, Vanier and Boyns will be among a field of 100 as the 53rd annual NCGA Senior Championship returns to Spyglass Hill.
And the pair will come in on a roll. Vanier recently won the Stockton City Four-Ball Senior Championship, while Boyns took first in the amateurgolf.com California Senior Medal Play Championship.
But there’ll be plenty of other NCGA stars, like record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag (who recently turned 55) to watch too.
Notables to also keep an eye on include three-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll, recent Antioch Master/Senior Four-Ball winner Mark Miller and 2013 NCGA Super Senior Championship winner Ron Johnson.
The championship will be held both Monday and Tuesday.