SEASIDE, CA (April 26, 2016) - After a few years of
watching cohorts Bobby Bucey, Robby Salomon and pal
Nick Moore win, San Francisco resident Matt Cohn kept
wondering when his turn would come.
“It wasn’t on the back of my mind. It was on the
front of my mind,” Cohn said. “I consider those guys
For the 35-year-old Cohn, the wait is over.
The runner-up to Maverick McNealy at last year’s
NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, Cohn sank a
5-foot putt for par on the first hole of a sudden death
playoff Tuesday at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course to
beat Brian Helton and win the 51st annual NCGA Public
Links Championship. Not only was it Cohn’s first NCGA
win, it was his first victory since the 2013 Santa Clara
“This has to be my biggest win,” said a relieved
Cohn. “It’s relief, but it’s happier than that. It’s been
on my mind for a long time.”
After opening his round with two straight bogeys,
it appeared early on that Cohn would only go
backwards. Instead, he’d play his next 12 holes at 1-
under thanks in part to back-to-back birdies on the
par-5 9th and 10th. On No.9, he’d knock his 3-wood
approach to within 12 feet leading to a tap-in birdie.
There was also a great up-and-down par on the
14th, where after coming up short of the green, he’d
bump a 6-iron from 70 feet away to within 4 feet of the
“Those were the important holes,” said Cohn, who
finished with a 74 to come in at 147 and tie Helton
after regulation. “I knew coming into the day that
things could change quickly.”
While Cohn did his part to hang in there, Helton
saw a three-shot lead evaporate. A day after a brilliant
70 in the wind at Bayonet GC, the 39-year-old former
UC Santa Barbara star slogged his way to a front-nine
41. It wouldn’t get any easier from there, as Helton
went 1-over on his back-nine after carding a double-
bogey on the 16th. His saving grace, and what got him
into the playoff with Cohn, was a crucial birdie on the
18th for a 77.
In the playoff (hole No.1), however, Helton mishit
his second shot, leaving him 35 yards from the green.
His third shot then checked too soon on the green,
leaving him a 17-footer for par. That too missed,
leaving Cohn to calmly sink the winner.
“I chunked it. There’s no other way to say it,” said
Helton of his approach shot. “I was like a newborn pup
out there today. I was fortunate to be in a
A former pro who competed for two years on the
Hooters Tour (2001-2002), Helton got his amateur
status back in 2011. He’d abandon his pro quest due to
family obligations and “just not playing enough.”
Having recently moved to Shandon outside of Paso
Robles, the Public Links was not only Helton’s NCGA
debut, but also his first competitive event since last
year’s Paso Robles City Championship, which he won.
“I’d taken some years off. Once my kids got older,
I started playing more again,” Helton said. “I plan on
playing as many NCGA events as I can. I’m looking
forward to doing it again. You have to re-learn these
things. I’ll handle myself better next time.”
For Cohn, who was playing in his first event of the
season, the win hopefully will act as a kick-starter for
the rest of the season. He’ll next compete in the NCGA
Four-Ball Championship with Moore. Then he’ll play in a
U.S. Open qualifier at Pasatiempo GC before heading to
New York with Moore to play in the U.S. Amateur Four-
Ball at Winged Foot. The pair got into the championship
Moore, who won last year’s Public Links and nearly
joined the duo in a playoff after carding a day-low 71
to finish at 148, stuck around to watch Cohn make his
winning putt. Following the win, he was one of the first
to congratulate Cohn.
“Welcome to the club,” Moore said.