PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — AmateurGolf.com wrapped up a three tournament, 300-player month of December (in the middle of an El Nino year to boot) today at the Tour Championship at Poppy Hills.
The home course of the Northern California Golf Association proved to be the perfect host for the second year in a row, and a mostly college field praised the recently redesigned layout as a fair, enjoyable test. Of course, most of those comments came on the second day, with the pin positions in more manageable spots as opposed to Saturday, when the "high and dry" pin placements (chosen in case of rain) made avoiding a three putt nearly impossible.
Clayton Madey was all smiles, all weekend long. The older half of a sibling pair in the tournament (he was paired with Cole on Saturday), Madey had never seen Poppy Hills prior to putting his first peg in the ground on Saturday.
"I hit a bunch of chippy drivers to find the fairway [the first day]," said Madey.
Whatever he did worked, as his maiden voyage on the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. layout was a 2-under 69. And Poppy Hills suited his eyes equally well the second day, as he fired 70 for a 3-under tournament total.
The two-shot victory was not without challengers, as both Ryan Han, playing in front, and defending champion Tanner Hughes (in the final group) managed one-under tournament totals of 141.
In Han's case, a final-round 69 almost came with an ace on the second hole. After being called up by the group in front, Han landed his ball on a ridge 12 feet above-right of the pin, and backed the ball up straight at the hole, where it lipped out.
As for Hughes, he did everything he could to put the pressure on, including giving himself a 15-foot look at eagle on the 18th hole, a gorgeous double-dogleg where you have to bend left off the tee, and right around a tall pine for your second shot if you find the right side of the fairway.
Madey was looking straight at that gorgeous three-story tall, skinny, but potentially round-ruining tree on his second shot, and bent a 2-iron around it to find the green.
"I was just trying to find the left side of the green there," said Madey. "As it flew [close to the tree] I said to myself, 'there's no way it's going to hit the bushy part at the top'" and I'm sure glad it didn't."
Anyone that has played Poppy Hills knows that iconic tree which we hope lasts for ages.
Madey wound up eight feet away and was able to two-putt for birdie and the victory, as Hughes' eagle try slid by.
While there was a small turnout in the Senior Division, it's likely Jeff Britton would have won even in a full field event after shooting a solid 36-hole total of 153 playing the same tees as the "flat bellies."
Britton was in the overall top-five after the first round with a 72 on a day when he dunked his second shot for eagle on the very first hole. Steve Donnelly took second place.
Korsen Yu of Sunnyvale made an appearance after a layoff from AGC events, and fired 147 to take home a one-shot victory over Steve Poletti of Carmel.