Longtime friends Mike Staskus and Frank Pieper have been playing golf together for decades, but this was a first.
In what was the first time playing together as a team, the pair shot 4-under 68 Friday at par-72 Saddle Creek Golf Club in Copperopolis to win the annual NCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship, defeating runner-ups Ralph Costanzo and Greg O’Malley by two shots.While Pieper and Staskus, who finished with a three-day total of 19-under 197, have won tournaments in Northern California, it’s the first time that they’ve ever won an NCGA tournament. Pieper’s father, Ernie Jr., is an amateur legend in the Golden State, having won among other events the California State Amateur Championship (both in 1941 and 1944).
The duo’s 54-hole total of 197 was one shy of the tournament record (196) set by Mark Miller and Herb Jensen in 2006.
“This is a big win for me,” said Pieper, a 63-year-old insurance broker who’s a member at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. “I’ve won some NorCal events but never an NCGA event, so this one is special.”
“It’s great to win,” said Staskus, a 55-year-old attorney who plays out of The Olympic Club and Sharon Heights. “It’s great to see Frank break through, too.”
A day after taking the lead with a tournament record score of 10-under 62, Pieper and Staskus cooled off, but it was enough to get past Costanzo and O’Malley, who also carded a 68.
The only time that Pieper and Staskus had reason to be concerned came early.The duo, who entered the final round holding a two-stroke edge over the field, played their first four holes at 1-over after making a bogey on the par-4 2nd. Meanwhile, Costanzo and O’Malley, who had opened with a then-record tying 63 in the first round, went 2-under through their first four holes thanks to birdies at No.2 and No.3.
The two stroke advantage was suddenly a one stroke deficit, but Pieper and Staskus never wavered. From the 5th tee on to the 18th, Pieper and Staskus went 5 under, thanks in part to back-to-back birdies on holes No.11 and 12, while Costanzo and O’Malley only went 2 under.
The first huge momentum changer for Pieper and Staskus came on the par-3 11th when Pieper chipped in from 30-feet to finally regain the lead.
Just a hole later on the 12th, Pieper and Staskus gained another stroke after Staskus drained a tough downhill 20 foot birdie putt.They’d seal the deal on the 15th, when from 100 yards out, Staskus stiffed a wedge from 100 yards out to within two feet of the flagstick for an easy birdie.
“We were both just playing really well,” Staskus said. “If someone hit a shot where they were out of the hole, the partner came through with a great shot.”
The biggest key for Staskus and Pieper was their second round 62. Over what was a magical back nine, the duo posted eight birdies for a 29, and that included a bogey on the par-5 13th. Pieper closed out the round with four straight birdies.
“We just got so hot in the second round. We started making birdies and it just didn’t stop,” Pieper said. “We really mished them and mashed them.”
It was during the 62 that Pieper and Staskus at one point looked one another and wondered, too.
“We were like, ‘Hey, we need to play together more,’” Pieper said with a smile.After briefly taking the lead, Costanzo and O’Malley could only tack on birdies at No.13 and 18.
“The course was playing tougher today in my opinion,” Costanzo said. “But Frank and Mike played really solid. They came back and beat us.”
Finishing in third place at 201 was the defending champion team of Miller and Gary Vanier. Miller and Vanier, who began the day four strokes behind the leaders, also shot a 68. They’d card five birdies, but also wrapped up their round with a bogey on the 18th. Miller has won the event three times with three different partners.
Coming in at 204 to take fourth place was the team of George Erbez and Tony McBroom. Erbez and McBroom had a bogey free 68 with four birdies.
The first round of the championship was held at par-72 Greenhorn Creek GC in Angels Camp. Both the second and third rounds were held at Saddle Creek.
It is expected that the 2015 NCGA Senior Four-Ball will return the tournament’s original venue–Poppy Hills. (AmateurGolf.com note: The Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course was just re-opened to rave reviews.)
View results for Northern California (NCGA) Senior Four-Ball Championship