PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Fairfield resident Jason Anthony discovered the secret to going low on the new par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course. Just don’t make any mistakes.
Anthony, the 2014 NCGA Player of the Year runner-up, grabbed the early lead in this weekend’s annual NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship, posting a stellar 4-under 67 in Friday’s first round. But there’s still a long ways to go, and there’s a number of big names in hot pursuit.
Playing out of Green Valley County Club, Anthony was simply flawless. He’d card four birdies—all on the back-nine, where he started—with zero bogeys. After making the turn with a 4-under 31, Anthony made all pars on the tougher Poppy Hills front-nine.
As good as Anthony was, he barely has any breathing space.
Patrick Soli, a senior at UC Davis, is only two strokes behind after carding a 69. Three shots behind after an opening 70, meanwhile, is former CSU-Monterey Bay standout Robby Salomon.
Soli also carded four birdies on the day, but slipped with a pair of bogeys on holes No.2 and No.14. The par-3 2nd played as the second toughest hole, tallying a stroke average of 3.735.
Salomon, who competed in the recent California Amateur Championship at Lake Merced GC, also posted four birdies but was stung by three bogeys.
A pack of six players–including two who know a thing or two about winning NCGA titles–are four off the pace after opening with matching 71′s.
Record six-time NCGA Player of the Year Randy Haag, who’s fresh off an appearance at the recent U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso CC, had two birdies, two bogeys and 14 pars. St. Mary’s men’s golf head coach Scott Hardy, whose NCGA resume includes three NCGA Public Links Championship titles, also posted a 71 after carding three birdies and three bogeys.
The 71 group also includes Pleasanton’s Ryan Knop, who has mastered the course before. In the final round of last year’s Junior Tour of Northern California Tour Championship at Poppy Hills, Knop tossed up an eight-birdie, zero-bogeys 63.
The three others at 71 are Salinas Valley Youth on Course member Sunny Yan, Neil Summers of TPC Stonebrae and El Macero CC member Ben Corfee. Corfee, who’s Soli’s teammate at UC Davis, won this year’s NCGA Four-Ball title with longtime friend Scott Raber.
Defending champion Bobby Bucey, playing out of Oakhurst CC, opened with a 76 (T-41). Gurman Kaur, a senior at Franklin High in Elk Grove and the lone female in the field, shot 81 and is T-93. Kaur’s score came with Poppy Hills playing at 6,733 yards. In the second round of the U.S. Women’s Open, the course played at 6,289 yards.
Following Saturday’s second round, a cut will be made with the low 40 and ties advancing to Sunday’s final round.
Anthony, who just missed qualifying (losing in a playoff) for this year’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship playing with Haag, entered the championship at No.4 in this year’s NCGA Player of the Year standings. He’d finish T-3 at both the Alameda Commuters and Fresno City Championship.
Saturday’s second round will tee off at 7:30 a.m.