PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Redwood City resident Daniel Griffiths took the lead, but the chase for the trophy is still wide open.
Griffiths, winner of the 2013 San Mateo Country Stroke Play Championship and the runner-up at last year’s AmateurGolf.com Monterey Bay Championship, jumped into the first round lead of the 50th NCGA Public Links Championship on Monday, carding a solid 3-under 68 at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course.
Playing from the Jones Trail tees, which stretch the course to 6.743 yards, Griffiths took advantage of Poppy Hills’ four par-5 holes. He’d birdie each of them, adding another two birdies on the par-3 11th and par-4 14th. His lone hiccups on the day was a trio of bogeys–one coming on No.3 and two coming back-to-back on holes No.15 and No.16. Griffiths finished T-9 at last year’s championship, which was held at Spyglass Hill and Bayonet Golf Course due to the Poppy Hills renovation.
Right on Griffiths’ tail is Roddy Ranch GC member Dominic DeBellis, who also opened strong by posting a 2-under 69. The winner of the 2012 Tracy City Championship and a former caddie on the Web.com Tour, DeBellis couldn’t have asked for a much better start. Having started on the back-nine along with Griffiths, DeBellis opened with a birdie on the 10th and added another birdie on the 15th for a bogey-free, front-nine 33. Later on the front-nine, he’d bogey the 1st and 6th holes, but he’d rebound by closing his round with back-to-back birdies on holes No.8 and No.9.
Others within easy striking distance are St. Mary’s men’s golf coach Scott Hardy and Ben Ledbetter, who both shot first round 70′s.
Hardy, a three time winner of the championship (2007, 2010 and 2011) who with a win this week would join Casey Boyns as the only four-time winners of the event, bounced back from a double-bogey on the 5th with back-to-back birdies on the 6th and 7th. He’d later bogey the 16th, but rebounded from that by closing out with back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th.
Ledbetter, playing out of The Ridge GC, took advantage of the back-nine by opening with a bogey-free, 3-under 32. He’d later add another birdie on the 2nd to get to a total of 4-under, but was quickly stung by three consecutive bogeys on holes No.5 through No.7.
Sitting in a tie for fifth at 71, and also major threats, are Nick Moore and Trevor Clayton. Moore, winner of the 2013 NCGA Public Links title and the champion of the recent AmateurGolf.com California Medal Play Championship, was steady, penciling in 14 pars to go with two birdies and two bogeys. Clayton, who captured 2014 NCGA Player of the Year honors after winning the Valley Amateur, started slowly, carding a 3-over 38 on the back-nine that featured a birdie and four bogeys. After making the turn, he’d get into groove, going bogey-free with three birdies for a 33.
In a tie for 7th at 73 are San Francisco’s Matt Cohn and Morgan Creek GC member Wes Sandroni. Cohn finished 15th in last year’s NCGA Player of the Year points standings.
Six players, including record four-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll and Steven Chung, are six off the pace after shooting 74. On Sunday, captured the Alameda Commuters Senior Championship for a record fourth time. Chung, meanwhile, finished second in the championship proper.
On Tuesday, play shifts to par-72 Spyglass Hill, which will be set up to play at 6,877 yards.The last player to win the championship with a score under par is Kyle Prolo, who took the title at Spyglass Hill in 2008 with a score of 140. The record score for the championship is just 6-under, set in 1999 by Ryan King. Last year’s champion, Austin Roberts, is not in the field this year.