by Dennis Knight, San Jose Mercury News
SAN JOSE, Calif. (June 6, 2010) -- Randy Haag has an amateur golfing résumé beyond reproach. A four-time Northern California Golf Association player of the year, he has won the Olympic Club member championship six times.
One of the only titles that had eluded the Burlingame resident was the Santa Clara County Championship played at one of his favorite courses: San Jose Country Club.
Sunday, the 51-year old Haag added a fine crystal vase to his overflowing trophy case by winning the 84th annual tournament with a 2-under-par 208 over three rounds on the 6,225-yard, par-70 layout.
"I've been trying to win this tournament for 20 years and have played it about 12 times," Haag said. "I've led coming into the final hole three times and bogeyed it to lose each time. This is one of the tournaments I've been wanting to win for a long time."
This time, Haag played the tricky 370-yard 18th hole just as he envisioned it. Facing an approach shot to a tough pin placement at the front of the small green, Haag left himself a 35-foot downhill birdie putt, needing to three-putt for the win.
Using a long putter and his unique sidesaddle putting style, Haag missed his birdie attempt on the lightning quick green, leaving himself an uphill seven-footer for par. Haag drained it and clenched his fists in celebration.
Jeff Lyons and Matt Cohn tied for second at 210, while defending champion Jay Myers of San Jose State finished fourth at 211.
Haag said his 50-foot chip in for eagle on the 477-yard, par-5 11th hole was the key to his victory.
"The ball was sitting down in a scrunchy lie, and I had to hit it pretty hard and over two humps to get it to the hole," said Haag, who punctuated the shot with a short trot as he tried to use body English to get the ball in the cup. "I had a couple very poor chips, so I guess that evened things out."
Haag also had an important birdie on the par-5 17th hole. After reaching the 516-yard hole in two, he finessed a beautiful 45-foot downhill lag putt to a foot for a tap-in birdie.
# It was a successful homecoming for Don Thames, who won the senior flight in his first year of eligibility by shooting 67-75 —142 to beat runner-up Rich Morrison by five strokes. Terry Houghton (148) was third. He had five birdies in his first round.
A former San Jose State player, Thames won the County title in 1975 at the age of 20.
"This was a great tournament for me," said the 55-year-old Thames, who plays out of Rancho Murieta Golf Club. "I played well, but more importantly, I was able to rekindle some old friendships. It felt good to come home."
View results for Ernie Pieper Santa Clara County & Senior Championship