Lake Merced GC
June 22-27, 2009
June 27, 2009
DALY CITY – Geoff Gonzalez captured the 98th California State Amateur at Lake Merced GC, becoming the first player in 15 years and only the 12th overall to win the championship and medalist honors.
The champion defeated 46-year-old Jeff Wilson of Fairfield who was seeking to enhance an already glittering competitive resume. The all Northern California final, the first since 2004 when Spencer Levin won, was initially a Wilson show, as the Green Valley CC member took a 3-up lead into the 8th hole of the match. But the 21-year-old Gonzalez was able to pull even by the end of the morning 18 through by virtue of gritty putting.
“Once I started making putts I built off that confidence,” the champion said. “It was big to square the match at the end of the first 18. “
Gonzalez was able to take his first lead on the 27th hole in the afternoon round, slowly building to a 3 and 2 conclusion, again on the strength of solid putting. “I was down in every match I played,” the Diablo resident said. “I was used to coming from behind.” The rising senior at Cal Poly entered the State Amateur for the first time in 2009, and the tournament marked the culminating point in a several-month process of game improvement. Before a few months ago, Gonzalez had not tasted much championship success, but a hot spring college season led to medalist honors at his State Amateur qualifier at Cypress Ridge and to co-medalist status and the #1 seed at Lake Merced.
Gonzalez attacked the course in the manner of the modern tour professional, using driver on every hole and bombing it as far as possible. Par 5s are the meat for going low to this player, and Gonzalez gobbled them up all week, birdieing five of seven in the final match (and going 7-under on the four par 5s on his near course-record 64 in the second round of stroke-play qualifying).
Wilson, who held the lead for most of the match, was unable to get his putter going, and despite laser precision with his approach shots, was unable to capitalize. “His putter was there and mine wasn’t. That was the difference,” the runner-up said. “All my bogeys were three putts. You start to lose confidence in your putter and make tentative strokes.”
The three-time medalist at the U.S. Mid-Amateur and four-time U.S. Open participant, where he was the low amateur at the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach, displayed superior ball striking skills, missing very few fairways and greens. “I was hitting it close but not taking advantage,” Wilson said. “You can’t let somebody hang around like that. He started to hit good shots.” Wilson’s path to the finals took him through veteran Southern California mid-amateur and former champion Tim Hogarth, Grant Rappleye of Elk Grove, 1994 champion Steve Woods of Cupertino (the last State Amateur champion/medalist), and defending champion and co-medalist Nick Delio of Valencia.
Gonzalez hit five or six drives during the lunch break and was able to right a leaky driver to start the final 18, which was played under decidedly different conditions for a Lake Merced summer day – warm and sunny. “I found something that worked between rounds and started crushing it,” he said.
It took eight holes, but once the champion secured the lead, he methodically built toward the final margin, never losing a hole from then on. Gonzalez’s trek to the final match found the champion in four close matches, including Logan Goettsch of Fresno, Los Angeles’ Matt Grush, Scott Oxandaboure of Carlsbad and Sam Smith of Turlock.
The business major dedicated the win to his recently deceased grandfather, who taught him the game. “My goal coming in was to win, and to accomplish it is huge. To see my name among all those fantastic player, it’s quite an honor.”
Lake Merced GC proved to be both a challenge for the players and a gracious host. The event moves south in 2010, to Rancho Santa Fe GC and La Jolla CC before returning to The Olympic Club in 2011 for the 100th playing.
June 26, 2009
DALY CITY – Geoff Gonzalez and Jeff Wilson will battle for the California State Amateur title Saturday at Lake Merced GC. Gonzalez defeated Sam Smith of Turlock 2-up while Wilson upended defending champion Nick Delio of Valencia on the 19th hole. It is the first State Amateur final to feature both players from Northern California since 2004, guaranteeing a winner from the North for the first time since that year (Spencer Levin).
Gonzalez’s match with Smith was nip-and tuck with neither player able to establish more than a two-hole lead. When the 21-year-old Gonzalez holed consecutive lengthy putts on the 12th and 13th holes to square the match, the Diablo resident was finally able to create some momentum. “My speed has been exceptional all week,” the rising senior at Cal Poly said. “They (his putts) finally started falling.”
Gonzalez closed the door on the match and punched his ticket to the finals with two closing birdies on the 17th and 18th holes. The Monta Vista HS alum had earlier taken out Scott Oxandaboure of Carlsbad in 19 holes. Smith defeated Jason Bittick of Ladera Beach on the 18th hole, coming from three holes down with five to play.
Gonzalez made the first team of the Big West Conference in 2009 following a renewed dedication to his game that began in March. “I’ve tried to stay positive and started working out more,” he said. “Right now I’m riding a huge wave of confidence.” Indeed, following a win at the Cal State Irvine tournament and two runner-up finishes at other college events, the Diablo CC member was able to capture medalist honors at both his qualifier for the State Amateur in April and in stroke-play qualifying earlier in the week in his first trip to the State Amateur, firing a near course-record 64 in the process. He is seeking to become the first medalist to win the championship since 1994 and only the 12th all time to do so. “I’d be real proud to have my name on that trophy,” Gonzalez said.
Fairfield’s Jeff Wilson’s placement in the finals is another in a long line of achievements for one of Northern California’s most decorated and veteran players. Four U.S. Opens and medalist honors at three U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships are just a starting point, but his resume is less complete when it comes to titles at the local level. “I can only play the big events every year so I don’t get that many chances,” the Green Valley CC member said. “So it’s great to make the finals. It’s what you shoot for and bingo, I’m here.”
Wilson’s match with defending champion Nick Delio was a classic, though the 19-year-old Delio probably wanted to pull out a fire hose to cool his opponent off after the first four holes that saw four Wilson birdies. Delio righted the ship with steady play, squaring the match on the 9th hole. From there, it was a slugfest, the lead never getting beyond 1-up for the 46-year-old Wilson. Delio, who never led in the match and plays for Cal State Northridge, then provided extra drama, sinking a 40-foot bomb on the 18th to extend the match.
“That didn’t surprise me at all,” Wilson said, cementing the fact that his photo should appear next to a definition of “cagey veteran” in a match-play dictionary. “”It was the way the match went. He’s a fine player and we have such contrasting styles.”
After Delio’s drive on the first extra hole left him stymied from going at the green, Wilson calmly made par for the win.
The auto dealer advanced to the semifinals of the State Amateur in 1982 and was medalist in 2001. He earlier defeated the last State Amateur medalist to capture the title, Steve Woods of Cupertino, who earned medalist honors and the championship in 1994. Delio earned his way to the semis by besting Scott Travers of Trabuco Canyon, 3 and 1.
Both players acknowledge that the difference in age and approach will bear little impact on the final. “There’s more than one way to shoot a score,” Wilson said.
“Age means nothing. There’s a lot of guys who can play,” Gonzalez added.
The scheduled 36-hole final begins at 7:30 Saturday. The final 18 is set for 12:00.
Round of 16
June 25, 2009
DALY CITY – Sam Smith defeated Martin Trainer 2 and 1 in the Round of 16 of the California State Amateur. Co-medalists Nick Delio and Geoff Gonzalez also advanced.
True Lake Merced summer weather, featuring swirling winds and fog, returned for the first time all week, making scoring conditions more difficult.
Scott Oxandaboure continued his impressive play, crushing 2007 champion Josh Anderson 5 and 3. After establishing a 6-up lead, the 27-year-old Carlsbad resident cruised to a win on the 15th hole, continuing a hot streak that has seen the former USC Trojan and California Community College state champion in red numbers the entire week. He faces co-medalist and #1 seed Geoff Gonzalez of Diablo, who showed no signs of the “medalist jinx,” dispatching Matt Grush 1-up.
USC Trojan coach Chris Zambri had to enjoy the match between two members of his incoming recruiting class – Martin Trainer of Palo Alto and Sam Smith of Turlock. Both players had very successful junior careers – Trainer capturing the San Francisco City title as a 16-year-old and Smith winning the NCGA Junior at Lake Merced in 2007. The 18-years olds put on quite a show as their see-saw match danced back and forth (there were five ties throughout) with neither player able to establish momentum. Smith finally took a 1-up lead on the par-3 15th and held on for the 2 and 1 win. “I was hoping we both would play well,” Smith said. “It was fun because every hole counted. You couldn’t afford to give one away.”
Jason Bittick of Ladera Ranch made easy work of E.J. Kahn of Los Angeles, winning going away 4 and 3. The 41-year-old will face Smith in tomorrow’s quarterfinals.
Defending champion and #2 seed Nick Delio of Valencia continued his impressive play, defeating Micah Burke of Los Angles 4 and 3. The Cal State Northridge student has yet to really break a sweat this week, but is mindful of the challenges ahead: “There’s still a long way to go (to defend his championship). It was tougher today because of the weather so I knew that par was a good score – so that was my goal.” Delio is seeking to become the first repeat champion since Dr. Frank Taylor did it more than 50 years ago.
Delio will face Scott Travers of Trabuco Canyon, who came back from two down in his match against Kevin Fryer of San Ramon, winning 2 and 1. Travers didn’t take his first lead in the match until the 16th hole.
Jeff Wilson of Fairfield upended 19-year-old Grant Rappleye of Elk Grove, 3 and 1. Wilson’s ticket to the quarterfinals was punched via his deep experience in USGA match play events, including runs to the semifinals of two U.S. Mid-Amateurs. Wilson will face 1994 State Amateur champion Steve Woods, a 3 and 1 victor over Brett Kanda of La Crescenta. Both Wilson and Woods have qualified for match play at the State Amateur in recent championships, but a spot in the quarterfinals represents their furthest advancement in many years.
Interestingly, in an event that has come to be dominated by college golfers, who have captured five of the last six state titles, half the quarterfinal field is comprised of mid-amateurs (Oxandaboure, Bittick, Wilson and Woods).
The quarterfinals and semifinals are contested tomorrow at Lake Merced, with the scheduled 36-hole final set for Saturday beginning at 7:30 a.m.
First Round of Match Play
June 24, 2009
DALY CITY – Jeff Wilson of Fairfield won the marquee match of the first day of match play at the California State Amateur at Lake Merced GC, taking out Tim Hogarth 4 and 3. Co-medalists Nick Delio and Geoff Gonzalez also advanced to the second round.
Gonzalez, playing in the first match of the day as the #1 seed, beat Logan Goettsch of Fresno 2 and 1. “I had a totally different mindset coming into today,” the Diablo resident and rising senior at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo said. “ I tried to use the positive vibes from yesterday but to a certain point, it doesn’t matter.” Indeed the 21-year-old carded a near course-record 64 in the second round of stroke-play qualifying in his previous round.
Delio, the #2 seed, has the look of a player whose game is hitting on all cylinders as he cruised through stroke-play qualifying and his first-round match, winning over Kevin Lozares 2 and 1. The Valencia resident’s power proved the difference in winning last year’s event at Lakeside GC, and is again proving a distinct advantage at Lake Merced.
Scott Oxandaboure of Carsbad was perhaps the hottest player of the day, holing a 214-yard double eagle on the 9th hole and then putting his tee shot within one foot on the par 3 12th. The Titleist R&D team member was five under on his day when he closed out 2005 State Amateur champion Don DuBois, 4 and 3. “I was a little shaky coming into the week,” the former USC Trojan said. “ But today I hit fairways and I was able to convert.”
Two incoming USC Trojans will battle in tomorrow’s round of 16 – Sam Smith of Turlock and Martin Trainer of Palo Alto. Both teenagers have had very successful junior careers, and their first-round victories, Smith over Joshua Dupont 6 and 5 and Trainer over James Erkenbeck 3 and 1, hint at a classic battle tomorrow.
The vagaries of the match-play draw served up one terrific morsel Wednesday, that of a duel between two of the most decorated mid-amateurs in the state – Jeff Wilson and Tim Hogarth. Wilson has competed in four U.S. Opens (qualifying out of Lake Merced for two of those), and has advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Mid-Amateur twice, capturing medalist honors in that same event three times. Hogarth’s résumé is equally impressive, highlighted by a U.S. Public Links Championship in 1996 and an appearance at The Masters in 2007.
Wilson took control of the match after the 4th hole, as the 46-year-old birdied four of the next five holes. “I started hitting it close,” the Green Valley CC member said. “And once you get up you can apply some pressure. This is a good golf course for me.” Hogarth was the highest seeded player, at #3, to lose in Wednesday’s first round.
Other former champions still in the mix include 2007 winner Josh Anderson, a 2 and 1 victor over Ramsey Sahyoun, and 1994 champion Steve Woods of Cupertino, who took out Scott Clayton 1-up.