SEASIDE, Calif. (April 2, 2014) —Monterey resident Austin Roberts was clutch when it mattered the most.
Roberts stuck his 65-yard approach shot on the par-5 18th hole at par-72 Bayonet Golf Course to within three feet of the flagstick and sank the putt for birdie for a final round 73, leading to a one stroke victory over Hayden Shieh in the 49th annual NCGA Public Links Championship.
For Roberts, 21, it’s his second victory in nine days. He also won the recent Jim Lathum Salinas City Amateur at Salinas Fairways.
“This is a big win for me,” said Roberts, who finished the weather battered event with a two-day total of 2-over 146 (73-73). “I feel like all the hard work I’ve done the last few weeks has paid off.”
One of the co-leaders entering the final round, Roberts came to the 18th tee tied with Shieh. Shieh pulled his drive left and then found the greenside bunker, leading to a par. Roberts, meanwhile, pulled his drive right into a cluster of trees. But that’s when his local knowledge kicked in.
“I was aiming down the right,” said Roberts, who works part-time at Bayonet/Black Horse as a cart attendant. “There’s a power slot down there.”
While Roberts’ attempt to reach the green in two failed, he left himself with a 65-yard carry shot over a the greenside bunker on the right. His flop shot landed and sat next to the flagstick, leaving him the short putt for the win.
“That third shot was huge. It came off the club perfect,” said Roberts, who moved to Monterey about two years ago. “You can hit that shot 10 times and it’ll come out good maybe two to three times. My heart was racing over that putt. I just put a good stroke on it.”
Before the dramatics, Roberts was simply steady on the notoriously tough Bayonet course. He played his front-nine at two over, carding seven pars and two bogeys (holes No.3 and No.8). On his back-nine, he had eight pars to go with the birdie.
It wasn’t just local knowledge that came through for Roberts. It was also patience.“I felt comfortable because I trust my swing. This course can eat you alive if you put it in the wrong spot,” said Roberts, whose 73 at Spyglass featured only 10 pars. “In conditions like today, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t give any shots away. I came out on top.”
Roberts also got a boost from his caddie, Josh Schmidt, a Bayonet/Black Horse regular.
During Monday’s first round at Spyglass Hill, Roberts on No.4 wanted to hit a 50 degree wedge. Schmidt gave him a full wedge and Roberts knocked his shot to within three feet of the pin for birdie. On No.9, with the wind howling, Roberts was in a bunker with 177 yards to the flagstick. Instead of hitting the 5-iron he wanted to, Roberts took Schmidt’s advice and hit a 4-iron. He made par.
“Those holes were huge in keeping momentum,” Roberts said. “Josh did a great job both days.”
Shieh, a senior at Mission San Jose and Youth on Course alum who had entered the finale a stroke behind Roberts and St. Mary’s head coach Scott Hardy, shot a final round 73 that included five birdies but also five bogeys and a double-bogey on No.1. He’d finish a stroke back at 147.Hardy, a three-time winner of the championship, also struggled to get on track. The 38-year-old, who’s now in his 14th season as head coach of the Gaels, could only muster three birdies while carding seven bogeys for a 76 and 149 third place finish.
“I just could not putt,” said Hardy, who three-putted three times. “That was the difference.”Brian Nagata shot a final round 76 to place fourth at 150. Andrew Moren had a 75 to finish fifth at 151.
Defending champion Nick Moore of Seaside, who is good friends with Roberts, shot 78 to finish tied for 8th. “It was just a tough day for me,” Moore said. “I didn’t putt well and that took me out of the ballgame. I just couldn’t get anything going.”