PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (July 12, 2014) -- The Jones Trail tees stretched the new Poppy Hills Golf Course to a robust 7,002 yards, but it was the firm and fast greens and fairways that again left players scrambling to make par.
On a Saturday where the leaderboard tossed into a blender, a quartet of players–Bobby Bucey, Jeremy Sanchez, Michael Tolladay and Brandon Wu–emerged on top with matching scores of 3-over 145 after the second round of the annual NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship at par-71 Poppy Hills.The big mover of the group was Sanchez. The former Hillsdale High (San Mateo) standout, who now plays at Chabot College, posted an even par 71 that included a hole-in-one on the 223-yard 15th hole and established a course record on the revamped layout. The original Poppy Hills record was 62, set by Matt Gogel during the 2001 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
On his ace, Sanchez had considered using a 5-iron. Due to wind, his caddie suggested he hit 4-iron. He went with the 4-iron, and after landing just short of the green, his ball rolled in. “I just hit a big draw,” Sanchez said.
It was the only easy part of his round. Starting on the front-nine, Sanchez wouldn’t card his first par until the par-3 11th. Prior to that, it was a mix of five bogeys, a double-bogey on the 5th and four birdies. On the front, he hit only two greens in regulation.
Following his par on No.11, he’d go 3-under with the ace and a birdie on the 16th. On the back, he hit eight greens in regulation.
“On the back, I just gave myself chances and made the putts,” said Sanchez, who had four putts of over 10 feet fall after making the turn.
Both Bucey, a former star at Chico State, and Tolladay had 3-over 74′s, while Wu shot 75.
“It’s hard to make birdies out there,” said Bucey, who managed to bag just one after he reached the 18th green in two using a hybrid. “You have to be very confident with driver. I left myself in good spots to get up and down. I just couldn’t get any putts to fall.”
He wasn’t the only one.
First round leader and nearby Stevenson School product Skyler Finnell, who had opened with a 69, shot 78 to fall into a tie for sixth, two behind the leaders at 147. Cody Riecks, a freshman-to-be at Fresno State, went from 70 to 80.
Hayden Shieh, who was runner-up at this year’s NCGA Public Links Championship on a tough Bayonet Golf Course, hung in there with a 74 that included an eagle on the par-5 9th. He’ll enter the final round alone in fifth place, just a stroke behind the leaders.
Other players making charges up the leaderboard and putting themselves in immediate contention were Ben Corfee, Chris Whalen and Stevenson School senior Sunny Yan, who all posted rounds of 72.
Corfee, who plays at UC Davis, started out on the wrong foot with a double-bogey on No.2. He’d rebound with three birdies on his next five holes and played his last 11 holes at just 2-over.
“The greens are really undulated and firm,” said Corfee, who picked up on many of the course’s nuances during Friday’s first round, his trip around the new Poppy Hills. “Having played the course helped. You figured out where you wanted to be and where you didn’t want to be.”
The 28-year-old Whalen, who works at Santa Teresa GC, was the epitome of steady, carding an eagle with just three bogeys to get to 149.
“The Jones Trail tees made the course longer, but I didn’t think they were that big of a factor,” Whalen said. “The course doesn’t play that long because you get so much roll in the fairways.”
Nine players are at 150 including CSU-Monterey Bay standout Robby Salomon (78), NCGA Four-Ball champion Danny Paniccia (78), recent California State Amateur medalist Jason Anthony (74) and Chase Dossa, who shot 73.
A sophomore at Sonoma State, Dossa was helped along by a red-hot putter. On No.3, the 10th and 18th, Dossa carded birdies by draining putts of 25-feet or more. On No. 2, he’d chip in from from 10 yards out for birdie.
“On No.2, I was surprised. I was above the pin and just wanted to get it underneath the hole,” Dossa said.
Overall 18, players are within six shots of the lead. The way things are going, all will have a shot at the title.
Playing from a combination of tees ranging from the Jones Trail to the Two Poppies, the first round scoring average was 79.452. The scoring average from Saturday, using only the Jones Trail tees, was 80.764.
The cutline (low 40 and ties) came at 13-over 155. Sunday’s final round is expected to begin at 7:30 a.m.