In a dominating performance, Del Rio’s Jeff Burda ran away with the NCGA Senior Championship Tuesday, winning by 10 strokes at Saddle Creek Resort. The Modesto resident’s first-round, 6-under-par 66 established a lead that the rest of the field could not cut into.
“Sometimes when you get that under par you can get nervous,” the champion said regarding his five-stroke lead after the first round. “But I felt confident. The greens were perfect and I always felt comfortable.”
Burda’s commanding play came in one of the NCGA’s most competitive tournaments, with numerous former Senior Players of the Year in the field. But two rounds in the 60s (66-69) ended any semblance of close competition. Burda’s final tally of nine-under 135 on a difficult course where no one else broke par is impressive, to say the least.
Runner-up Gary Vanier of The Olympic Club was never able to get his putter going. “I’m not making anything, but when you are my age, you’re not supposed to,” he said. The runner-up finish for the 2006 Senior Player of the Year breaks a string of individual NCGA Championships at the senior level that dates back to the 2006 NCGA Senior Valley Amateur. Vanier tied with Jim Knoll of Rooster Run, but was able to birdie the first playoff hole to secure second place.
Defending champion Bill Bowen of Lincoln Hills finished 18 strokes back of the champion, turning in a two-round 9-over-par 153 total.
The Super Seniors division, for competitors aged 65 and older, was captured by Jim Welsh of Spring Valley. Welsh came from two strokes down in the final round to upend first-round leader and runner-up Bob Olds of Brentwood.
The Senior is the fifth different NCGA title won by Burda, joining the Public Links, Master Division (which he won three times), Master Division Four-Ball and Four-Ball. “I really wanted to win this tournament,” the champion said. “I knew this was the NCGA’s top event and I’m thrilled to win.”
Champion Jeff Burda, runner-up Gary Vanier
and third-place finisher Jim Knoll
Super Senior champion Jim Welsh and runner-up Bob Olds