PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (June 18, 2012) – Jeff Hoffman of Folsom fired a 3-under par 69 at Spyglass Hill Monday to take the 18-hole lead in the NCGA Master Division Championship. Hoffman’s round was one of only two under-par scores on the day, which featured seven birdies to go along with four bogeys. After opening with a birdie on the first hole, Hoffman got in trouble on the front-nine par-3s with bogeys on Nos. three and five. His round turned around for the better quickly though, as he reeled off five birdies and no bogeys over an eight hole stretch. Starting with a birdie on the seventh, Hoffman would go on to birdie Nos. nine, 11, 13 and 14 to get 4-under par. The key to that stretch wasn’t one of the holes he birdied, however, as he explained he was able to salvage a par on the uphill par-4 eighth hole. After hitting his ball up against a trunk of a tree to the right of the fairway, Hoffman was able to get his ball on the green about 70 feet away, where he then two-putted for par.
“That recovery shot really kept me going because I had just birdied [No.] seven and I didn’t want to give it right back,” said Hoffman, who finished his round with bogeys on 16 and 18 and a birdie on 17.
Hoffman, 50, played in his first Master Division Championship 10 years ago, where he finished second to Randy Haag that year. While he regularly competes in this event, he hasn’t been in contention in a few years and doesn’t know how to explain the change in fortune.
“It’s actually interesting because I haven’t played much golf in the past month,” he said. “It was nice just to come out and enjoy the golf course without much expectation.”
Close behind Hoffman is 2011 NCGA Senior Player of the Year and current senior points’ leader Jim Knoll at 2-under par 70. Knoll, explained his round as consistent, and said his iron play helped him post an under-par round. The Sunnyvale resident has yet to win an NCGA Master Division Championship and would like to add one to his resume. One thing that may work in his favor is having played in the NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship at Poppy Hills for three straight days last week, so he’s very familiar with how the course is playing.
“[The seniors] might have an advantage, but we still have to play well enough to take advantage of it,” said Knoll.
Joining Hoffman and Knoll in the final pairing will be Randy Haag and Jaime Looper, who posted even-par rounds of 72. Haag, a three-time winner of this event (’99, ’02 and ’09), had a very back-and-forth round with five bogeys and five birdies on the day. After bogeying holes three and five, Haag made birdie on No. six, but bogeyed No. nine to go out with a 38. On the back nine the six-time NCGA Player of the Year, converted birdies on holes 10, 11, 14 and 17, while dropping shots on Nos. 12 and 18, to come in with a 34. Looper, who was paired with Knoll Monday, started the day with a birdie on the first hole, but bogeyed No. six and double-bogeyed No. nine. The 2008 Master Division Champion recovered nicely on the back nine with birdies on 10, 11 and 14, with his lone bogey coming on 13.
Also, not to be counted out are five players at 1-over 73: Frank Pieper, Ross Brownlie, Jason Melvin, Dana Jetter and 1998 Master Division Champion Gary Vanier. Four more players stand in a tie for 10th at 2-over 74, while five others are tied for 13th at 3-over 75. Defending champion Darin Lake, struggled Monday with a 7-over par 79 and currently sits in a tie for 34th place. The final round will take place tomorrow at Poppy Hills GC with the first tee time at 7:30 a.m.