PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Nov. 10, 2014) — Sunnyvale resident Jim Knoll started off right where he ended.
The defending champion, Knoll sits perched atop the leaderboard following Monday’s first round of this week’s annual CGA Senior State Amateur Championship, courtesy of an even-par 71 at what was a chilly Poppy Hills Golf Course.
While still less than a year old, the new Poppy Hills is becoming familiar turf to the 62-year-old. Less than two weeks ago, Knoll won the NCGA Merlot Flight title while competing with his wife Terry. The duo got the win thanks to a final round 8-under 63 in rainy conditions.
“I’m getting comfortable on this golf course,” said Knoll, who took the first round lead last year and never looked back, winning wire-to-wire. “I know now where I need to hit it. It’s just a matter of hitting it there.”
The reigning NCGA Senior Player of the Year a record four years running, Knoll was simply steady. Starting on the back-nine, he’d open with a birdie on the 10th. He’d quickly bogey both the par-3 11th and scenic 12th, but rebounded by making par on each of his final six holes for a front-nine 36. On his back-nine, Knoll opened with a birdie on the tough opening 1st. Again, the 2014 NCGA Senior Amateur Championship winner instantly slipped with bogeys on No.2 and No.3, but he’d finish with a birdie on No.6 and a closing birdie on the par-5 9th.
As for those now pursuing Knoll, there’s a number of players who have been there and done that themselves.
Just a stroke behind the leader following matching 72′s are Santa Barbara’s John Pate and Monterey resident Casey Boyns. Pate, a runner-up at the 1995 California State Amateur, made his charge by playing holes No.8 and No.9 at 3-under after making eagle on No.9. Boyns, who won the event in 2012 and has earned four NCGA Player of the Year crowns, got to 1-under through his first nine with three birdies. The California Golf Hall of Fame member later slipped with a double-bogey on the 1st after pushing his drive right and a bogey on the 4th, but came right back with a birdie on the par-4 8th.
Among those also in hot pursuit are Michael Turner of Sherman Oaks and Modesto’s Jeff Burda, who each came in at 73.
Turner penciled in two birdies and four bogeys. Burda, meanwhile, was a bit more all over. One of only two players (along with Jim McMurtrey) to win three CGA State Senior titles and the only player to ever win three in a row (2008-2010), Burda started on the back-nine with a ho-hum 37 that featured two bogeys. On the front, he’d play holes No.1 through No.4 at 2-under with three birdies and a bogey. He’d later bogey No.7 and double-bogey the 8th, but righted the ship with a birdie on the 9th.
Alone in sixth place is Howie Knodt of Chula Vista, who shot an opening 74. Record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag of San Francisco, who is making his CGA State Senior debut, opened with a 75 and is tied for seventh with three other players.
In recent years, the Northern California contingent has ruled supreme. A Northern California player has won six of the last seven championships. The only Southern California winner during the stretch has been 2011 champion Mark Nickeas, who won at Saticoy Country Club.
In the CGA Senior Cup, a team event (best three scores out of four) held within the first two rounds of the championship, the NCGA took an eight shot lead, 216-224. The NCGA is being represented by Knoll, Boyns, Burda and defending NCGA Senior Amateur Match Play champion Dan Bieber. The SCGA four are Turner, David Delich (77), Iain Mcdonald (75) and Kemp Richardson (76).
Tuesday’s second round is slated to tee off at 8 a.m. Following the second round, a cut will be made with the low 33 and ties advancing to Wednesday’s final round.
View results for California Senior Amateur Golf Championship