Temecula (Sept 30, 2006) -- Ji-Hwan Park used a perfect combination of steady play and clutch putting for a bogey-free final round of two-under-par 70 and thus became the first amateur to claim the California State Open Golf Championship since Jason Gore in 1997.
The Fullerton resident, who only arrived in the United States from South Korea 10 months ago, held up to the pressure while all the more seasoned challengers, such as 36-hole leader John Lieber of San Diego, fell by the wayside. At 17, Park is believed to be the youngest champion in the history of the event which dates back to 1900.
“I stayed pretty calm all week,” said Park through interpreter Robin Yoo. “The more difficult the situation, I got a little more calm. I had a little more concentration.”
Playing in the same pairing, Park didn’t waste any time erasing Lieber’s two-shot advantage when he rolled in a short birdie putt at the 410 yard, par 4 second hole while Lieber struggled to make a bogey. Park took his first lead of the Championship at the 415 yard, par 4, sixth hole when he made a solid par while Lieber failed to get up and down after missing the green.
“I got off to a bad start,” said Lieber. “I tried to make a comeback, but he’s a very good player. There isn’t much wrong with his game. He was very solid.”
Lieber did make a move with back-to-back birdies at the 445 yard, par 4, 10th hole and again at the 570 yard, par 5, 11th to draw even. Undaunted, Park calmly rolled in a 12-foot birdie putt of his own at the 165 yard, par 3 12th while Lieber made a bogey to stretch his lead back to two shots and showed his pleasure with an enthusiastic fist pump. ”That was the highlight of the day,” said Park. “I knew they were catching up and I wanted to make that putt. It was exciting.”
Without any of his pursuers able to mount any type of a charge, Park pared the final seven holes to win the Championship by two shots over Lieber, who finished with a disappointing round two-over-par 74, and Ed McGlasson of Santa Ana who posted a final round of 69. Lieber missed a chance to finish alone in second when his short birdie putt slid by the cup on the final hole. McGlasson moved himself into position with a strong second round of 64 at CrossCreek Golf Club which tied the competitive course record. With the amateur winning the Championship, Lieber and McGlasson each earned $9,055 as part of the $89,000 professional purse.
The 2006 California State Open Golf Championship boasted the largest field in tournament history. A total of 271 players started the championship while nearly 400 players attempted to qualify. “This year’s Championship is what this event is all about,” said Tournament Director Brad Stormon. “We had great amateurs and great professionals playing side by side. We had excellent competition, and in the end, the player who controlled his ball the best over the course of the event won the Championship. We couldn’t be more proud of Ji-Hwan Park. We can only hope that he has as much success in his career as the last amateur champion, Jason Gore. We look forward to building once again on the success of this year’s event. This event is for the players, but it is driven by the sponsors and community support. For us to take this event to the next level, we will have to continue to grow in that area.”
The California State Open is the oldest professional golf championship in the state. It was first played in 1900 and was won by U.S. Open Champion Willie Smith. Past champions include Jason Gore (1997 & 2004), Dennis Paulson (1990 & '96), Kirk Triplett (1991), Roger Maltbie (1974), Jerry Barber (1959), Gene Littler (1954), Horton Smith (1934) and the legendary Walter Hagen (1915). Past participants include a virtual who's-who of golf history from John Cook and Corey Pavin to Lloyd Mangrum and Sam Snead.
The California State Open Golf Championship is sponsored by El Torito, Coca Cola, Extreme Signs and Graphics, Labor Finders, Paradise Chevrolet, K-Frog, The Country Club at Soboba Springs, Killarney's Irish Pub, Temecula Valley Convention and Visitor's Bureau and JAS Pacific.
2006 California State Open Golf Championship
-- Redhawk Golf Club, Temecula (7,175 yards - par 72)
-- CrossCreek Golf Club, Temecula (6,833 yards - par 71)
206 - Ji Hwan Park (a), Fullerton, CA (69-67-70)
208 – John Lieber, San Diego, CA (67-67-74) ($9,055)
208 - Edward McGlasson, Santa Ana, CA (75-64-69) ($9,055)
209 - Nick Jones, Los Angeles, CA (66-70-73) ($3,430)
209 - Mike Fergin, Santa Ana, CA (67-70-72) ($3,430)
210 – Rickie Fowler, Murrieta, CA (71-70-69)
210 – JJ Jackovac, Napa, CA (71-68-71) ($2,755)
211 – John Leary, Culver City, CA (69-72-70) ($2,530)
211 – Chris Botsford, Pasadena, CA (67-72-72) ($2,530)
211 – John Lepak, La Habra Heights, CA (70-68-73) ($2,530)
211 - Nate Whitson, Ventura, CA (68-70-73) ($2,530)
211 - Steve Pate, Agoura, CA (71-66-74) ($2,530)
NOTE: To view complete results, click on the name of the tournament next to "see also" at the top of this page and follow the "results" tab.