2015 champion Gary Vanier (NCGA photo)
ELK GROVE, Calif. — Gary Vanier notched a historic victory in his Super Senior debut, and served notice that he’ll be ready for next week’s California Senior Amateur Championship.
Vanier, who turned 65 earlier this month, shot a final round 2-under 70 Tuesday at Valley Hi Country Club in Elk Grove to come from two back and win the 6th annual NCGA Super Senior Championship.
The NCGA Senior Player of the Year in 2006, Vanier finished with a record two-day total of 3-under 141 to edge defending champ Herb Jensen and Doug Tambara by a stroke. The previous 36-hole low for the tournament was 144 set by Rob Thompson in 2012 and matched by Jensen in 2014.
“I figured that would I probably do well,” said Vanier, who notched his first win since the San Francisco City Senior Amateur back in April. “This was a perfect tune-up for the Senior State Amateur, and I got the trophy too.”
One of the all-time great Northern California amateurs, Vanier found the goings both familiar but also somewhat odd.
“I certainly know all of the other competitors. They’re guys I’ve been playing with for 40 years,” Vanier said. “I had to get used to the tees being up so much compared to the past. I sort of have an advantage.”
While Vanier, who still competes in numerous senior events, did have a leg up on the field length-wise, he still had to work for the victory.
The Olympic Club member, a retired stockbroker who most of the year now lives in Idaho, surged to the front of the pack with a front-nine 33. He’d card two more birdies later on holes No.12 and No.17, but those were sandwiched in between three bogeys including two in a row on the 15th and 16th.
“I made some bad mental bogeys. I almost gave this one away. That birdie on 17 was huge,” said Vanier, who laced his 4-iron approach shot to within 9 feet of the flagstick and sank the putt.
Both Jensen and Tambara, who had opened with 72’s, temporarily were the leaders in the clubhouse at 142 after posting matching 70’s.
Tambara, who plays out of Palo Alto GC, could only muster three birdies to go with a bogey. Jensen, last season’s inaugural NCGA Super Senior Player of the Year, penciled in four birdies but also had two bogeys.“I had a chance. On No.10 I hit it to within six feet of the pin but it spun back,” Jensen said.
Prior to the final round, Jensen told Vanier that not being in the final foursome could be a blessing. In winning last year, Jensen came from seven shots back to win the title.
“I told Gary he was in a good spot being in the next to last group,” Jensen said. “You don’t want to be in the final group in this event.”
Bob Thomason and Frank Pieper, who shared the first round lead at 69, shot 74 and 76, respectively, in the finale.
David Ellis and Chuck Richesin, the other members of the last foursome, shot 73 and 76, respectively.
View results for Northern California Super Senior Championship