PGA Tour’s Matt Bettencourt Eager to Play New Poppy Hills
March 7, 2014
Despite playing in Puerto Rico this week, the NCGA alum took a break to talk about the renovated course, which will make its public debut on April 4.
“It’s great to see the NCGA taking the course to the next level, because it’s a fantastic property,” Bettencourt said. “Everyone should be really excited. I’ve always had a fond feeling for Poppy Hills.”
The Alameda native, who won the 2010 Reno-Tahoe Open, took a sneak peek of the course during February’s AT&T Pro-Am. During AT&T week he stayed in a house just down Lopez Road. He couldn’t resist taking a look, so he ended up walking the front-nine during some off time.
“It’s incredible to see the changes,” he said. “It looks like it’s going to be challenging for great players and also forgiving for new players. It’s got the length, and at the same time it’ll be a position course. I can’t wait to get a crack at it.”
Back full-time on the tour after finishing 16th on the 2013 Web.com Tour money list, Bettencourt is no stranger to Poppy Hills.
He first played the course during its original opening week in 1986 with his father’s golf group. At the time, he was 11 years old.
“I remember back then it was like, ‘Wow, I’m playing golf in Pebble Beach,’” Bettencourt said. “It was great.”
Years later, Bettencourt would hone his skills competing in NCGA tournaments. In 2001, he won the NCGA Amateur Championship and was named NCGA Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002.
It was after his 2001 win at Spyglass Hill that Bettencourt first started thinking about turning pro. But he also wanted to be sure of himself. Among those he’d test his skills against were fellow NCGA great Spencer Levin (who’s also now on the PGA Tour), Bay Area amateur great Randy Haag and Gilroy’s Darryl Donovan. At the same time, he received some mentoring from Jon Dechambeau and Derrell Biddy.
“I figured I needed a year or so of competing in top amateur golf to see where I was headed,” he said. “After that win at Spyglass I felt my game was as good as ever.”
The final confidence booster for Bettencourt, who’d turn pro in 2002, was a friendly round with PGA Tour member Scott McCarron–once a top amateur himself–at Montreaux Golf and Country Club outside Reno.
“I played with Scott and some other pros and realized that I could hit the same shots they were hitting,” Bettencourt said.
Now in his seventh season on the PGA Tour, Bettencourt said his NCGA playing days still benefit him.
“Even now, several times when I’m playing, I’ll think back to positive shots or moments that I had while playing on the NCGA circuit,” he said. “I’d encourage all amateurs to play in NCGA events. The NCGA was everything to me in regards to helping me to develop my golf and helping me compete at a higher level. It was a platform.”