PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — It already looks like this is going to be another one that literally comes down to the last putts.
EClub East Bay member Andy Nevin and partner Brian Ruiz of DeLaveaga GC jumped into the lead at this weekend’s annual NCGA Four-Ball Championship, posting a 5-under 67 Friday at par-72 Spyglass Hill, but the duo has a who’s-who of Northern California amateur greats right on their heels.
Nevin and Ruiz were nearly flawless in the first round, posting six birdies to go against just one bogey. After making the turn with a solid front-nine 35, the duo cranked it up by carding birdies on holes No.10 through No.12 before adding a final birdie on the par-4 18th.
Nevin, who hails from Danville, and Ruiz, who’s from Los Gatos, however have plenty of company at the top of the leaderboard.
Just a stroke behind the two after coming in with matching 68’s are six teams, including the tandems of Wes Sandroni and Jason Herrera, Jason Anthony and Randy Haag and two-time defending champions Danny Paniccia and Mike Stieler.
Sandroni, who’s coming off a second place finish at last week’s NCGA Public Links Championship, and Herrera, who won the Davis City Championship in April, nearly matched Nevin and Ruiz. The duo also shot a 35 on the front-nine before carding a bogey-free, three birdie 33 on the back.
Haag and Anthony, meanwhile, did their thing backwards. Starting on the back-nine, the duo penciled in three birdies with two bogeys. On the front-nine, Haag, a record six-time NCGA Player of the Year, and Anthony, who was runner-up in last year’s NCGA POY race, carded a 33 with birdies on No.2, No.4 and No.7.
Back in December, Haag and Anthony teamed up at Poppy Hills in a qualifier for the recent U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. They’d shoot a 6-under 65 but missed advancing after falling in a three-team playoff for one spot.
As for Paniccia and Stieler, Friday’s first round was business as usual. Paniccia would produce two of the duo’s five birdies, while Stieler served up three.
With a win this weekend, the two would become the first team to not only win three NCGA Four-Ball titles, but three in row.
When the two won last year, they were three off the lead after a first round 71. In 2013, they were four shots back after the opening round.
Behind the six teams at 68 is another formidable group of nine squads that will enter Saturday’s second round just two off the lead.
Among those coming in at 69 were the tandems of Matt Cohn and Nick Moore, Russell Humphrey and James Watt and Rick Reinsberg and Scott Hardy.
Moore, who hails from Seaside, entered the championship holding the No.1 spot in this year’s NCGA POY race after his win at the NCGA Public Links Championship. Cohn, of San Francisco, was T-8 in the standings.
Hardy, the head coach at St. Mary’s, and Reinsberg, the defending NCGA Master Division champion, are no strangers to winning the Four-Ball, having claimed the title in 2005.
Humphrey and Watt have also won it before, taking the title in 2012.
Five teams are at 70 including the tandem of Jon Peterson and Eddie Davis, who finished second at last year’s NCGA Master Division Four-Ball Championship after losing in a sudden-death playoff.
Saturday’s second round will again feature tee times in the morning and afternoon. Following second round action, a cut will be made with the low 40 teams and ties advancing to Sunday’s final round.
View results for Northern California (NCGA) Four-Ball Championship