PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (March 31, 2014) -- Coming down the stretch, St. Mary’s head coach Scott Hardy felt the full brunt of the weather. Having started on the back-nine, he’d hit driver, 3-wood on three of his four final holes.
“It was brutal,” Hardy simply said.
The first round of the 49th NCGA Public Links Championship was one of those days, as rain and wind pelted first round host course Spyglass Hill.
Despite it all, Hardy was one of those who could smile afterwards. A three-time winner of the championship (2007, 2010, 2011), the 38-year-old found himself at the top of the leaderboard after the first round thanks to a 1-over 73. He’ll enter today’s second round at Bayonet Golf Course tied for the lead with recent Salinas City Amateur winner Austin Roberts.
“I think I have an advantage when the course is playing difficult because I consider myself a good short-game player,” Hardy said.
Now in his 14th season at the helm of the Gaels men’s golf team, Hardy shot a front-nine 35 that included an opening birdie on No.10 and another birdie on the par-5 14th. After making the turn and entering the teeth of the wind, he’d card three bogeys but managed to tack on a birdie at No.5.
“I hit some good pitches and chips and hit my irons well. That and I survived those last six holes,” said Hardy in describing his day. “This is a hard tournament to win.”Roberts, who teed off on No.1, got to 3-under through his first seven holes after a birdie at No.4 and an eagle on No.7 but was tripped up by a triple-bogey on the 8th. A back-nine 37 made him the temporary leader in the clubhouse before Hardy came in.
Coming in just a stroke behind the co-leaders were Brian Nagata and Mission San Jose High senior Hayden Shieh. Nagata’s round included three birdies, three bogeys and a double-bogey on the 431-yard 9th. The 18-year-old Shieh racked up five birdies, including two in a row on No.14 and No.15, and was at 1-under through 16 holes before stumbling with a bogey on the 17th and a double-bogey on No.18.“It wasn’t a bad day except for those last two holes,” Shieh said.
On the 17th, Shieh missed a three-footer for par. On No.18, he’d pull his drive to the right and proceed to hit his approach into the greenside bunker. A chunk out from the sand and a three-putt later and he had a seven.
“I actually thought the weather helped,” said Shieh, who finished before the worst of it arrived. “It made the greens stickier.”
In at 75, just two behind Roberts and Hardy, was a group of five players—Todd Howe, Trevor Clayton, Andrew Roberts, Wes Sandroni and defending champion Nick Moore.
Like Hardy, Moore was among the groups on the front-nine when the weather hit its hardest. The Seaside resident, who was only 1-over through his first nine hung on despite the wet and cold weather, carding just two bogeys on the front.
“It was an amazingly good round for me in the conditions,” Moore said. “We got to the tee at No.1 and it was like a wall of wind.”
Howe, who plays out of Deer Ridge GC in Brentwood, had a pair of birdies and a double-bogey en route to a front-nine 36. On the back-nine, he’d have another double-bogey on the 10th.
“When we were on the ocean holes the wind hadn’t really come up yet,” said Howe, who birdied No.1 and No.7 after sticking his wedge approach shots to 6 feet and 3 feet, respectively. “But from there it kept getting stronger and stronger. When the rain started, I just grinded my way through.”
At 76, only three behind, are Travis Evans and Andrew Moren. A group of five players is at 77 including three-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll and 2012 Public Links champ Trent Tessler.
Looking ahead to Tuesday’s finale at Bayonet, Hardy said he feels comfortable. But so too will Roberts, who works there as a cart attendant, and Moore, who honed his game there. Moore’s winning total last year was even-par 144.“It’s going to be fun,” Hardy said.
Tuesday’s final round begins at 7:30 a.m. weather permitting, with the leaders going off at 9:50 a.m.