MADERA, Calif. — A thermometer hovering around 100 degrees, 18 grueling holes of regulation and a nine-hole sudden death playoff against an opponent who simply would not budge.
All that, plus NCGA Player of the Year honors on the line.
In an example of fortitude and willpower, Monterey resident Nick Moore conquered them all.
Moore, 33, outlasted 17-year-old Blake Hathcoat of Clovis in what was one of the greatest NCGA finishes ever, beating Hathcoat with a par on the 9th hole of a sudden-death playoff to win the 12th annual NCGA Valley Amateur Championship on a stifling Sunday at par-72 Dragonfly GC in Madera.
For Moore, the victory was his second Valley Am title (2013), his second NCGA win of the year (Public Links Championship) and most importantly, put him in the driver’s seat in the 2014-2015 NCGA Player of the Year points standings.
“Being Player of the Year motivated me more than anything,” Moore said. “I knew that if I finished in second it didn’t do anything. I knew I had to win it.”
Standing in Moore’s way, and doing everything he could to stay there, was Hathcoat. The Clovis North High senior’s goal was to not just get his first win but also grab the attention of a college coach.
He’d push Moore until the 9th extra hole (the par-4 18th), where he lost with a bogey after missing the green in regulation.
“It was a lot fun. I enjoyed it,” said Hathcoat, who has yet to be recruited by anyone and was also runner-up at this year’s NCGA Junior Championship. “On the final hole, I just didn’t play enough wind and it pushed the ball away from the green.”
With Hathcoast finally gone, Moore breathed a huge sigh of relief.“It was one of the most intense nine holes I’ve ever played,” Moore said.The morning 18 holes weren’t a picnic, either.
Having entered the day trailing Hathcoat by two, Moore would post a 5-under 67 with eight birdies and three bogeys. Hathcoat shot a 69 despite an early double-bogey on the par-5 2nd.
“The morning was equally intense. I was keeping Blake’s scorecard so I knew exactly what he was doing and what I had to do,” Moore said.Moore got to a total of 7-under to tie Hathcoat after sinking a huge 10-footer for birdie on the 17th.
“I played a good round so I was confident going into the playoff,” said Moore, who just missed a 12-foot birdie try on the 18th that would’ve won it. “It was a battle. There were a couple of times my heart started thumping, but I’d stop and tell myself to just relax and take it one shot at a time.”
Finishing in third place at 138, just a shot out of the playoff, was Fresno’s Michael Tolladay after his second straight 69. The low round of the day came from two-time Valley Am champ Steven Chung, who shot a 64 to climb into fourth place.
Coming off a disappointing 2013-2014 season where he went winless, Moore had started the 2014-2015 wanting to get back on track. He showed his first signs that he was ready with his victory in April at the Public Links Championship.
Recently, he also qualified for this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
“I had my mind made up to give it a good effort,” Moore said. “It’s a great way to cap the season.”
Contra Costa CC member Dale Bouguennec finally got his turn at the top, and may have served notice for the future in the process.
Bouguennec, a 55-year-old rookie on the NCGA Senior Amateur Tour, won the final event of the 2014-2015 season on Sunday, shooting a final round 2-under 70 at Dragonfly GC to win the Senior Valley Amateur by two over a star-studded quartet of some of the Tour’s best players.
It’s the first NCGA title for Bouguennec, who finished the 36-hole event with a two-day total of 2-under 142.
“I was a nervous son of a gun on the 18th. The nerves were really flowing,” said Bouguennec, who finished with an inconsequential bogey. “I’d played in the final group before, but I’d never won.”
Despite the jitters, Bouguennec held off a who’s-who list of challengers.
Coming in two shots behind the champion at 144 were record three-time Senior Valley Am champ Gary Vanier, four-time NCGA Player of the Year Casey Boyns, soon-to-be record five-time NCGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Knoll and 2014 NCGA Senior Championship runner-up Steve Wilson.Vanier and Knoll both shot second round 70’s, while Boyns and Wilson had 73.
First round leader Scott Anderson of Roddy Ranch GC, who’d opened with a 70, slipped back to a T-7 finish after a 76.
Bouguennec, an operations manager for AT&T, played with Boyns, Anderson and Wilson in the final foursome.
Earlier this year, Bouguennec won the Granite Bay Senior Four-Ball playing with Wilson. He’d finish second at the Marin County Senior Four-Ball with Anderson as a partner.
“It was great playing with Casey and those guys,” said Bouguennec, whose self-described “steady” round included four birdies and two bogeys. “I’m just thankful to win an event that those guys (Vanier, Knoll) have won. It’s a thrill for me to just tee it up with them.”