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SF City Championship: Semifinal Notebook

By Tom Edwards – For amateurgolf.com

SAN FRANCISCO, California (March 10, 2007) -- The men’s semi-final round of the San Francisco City Golf Championship was played Saturday at the storied Harding Park Golf Course. The event was favored by a bright, sunny sky, temperatures in the seventies with a clean ocean breeze, and almost no one on hand to see it.

Asked to cover this tournament for amateurgolf.com, I was expecting to find some of the suspense and electricity that a quality amateur golf match can generate, including an enthusiastic gallery that increases in size as the field narrows. Ten or twenty years ago, this event drew hundreds, sometimes even thousands of spectators, and was deemed newsworthy enough to be thoroughly covered and reported by local media.

Remarkably, for today’s semi-final competition, aside from the competitors themselves, their caddies, the marshals, and the tournament officials, I could identify only four to six “spectators.” As picturesque as Harding is at this time of year, especially under these conditions, it’s hard to imagine how the City’s own amateur golf tournament seems to have lost so much of its luster.

The caliber of play on Saturday was consistent with the quality of the golfers who survived to reach the semi-final level.

Reid Scarff of Oroville was matched against Jim Evans of Redwood City -- the only San Francisco City Championship “veteran” (and a 2-time past champion) among the semifinalists -- and Kevin Smith of San Jose, the youngest of the final four at eighteen, dueled Chadd Cocco, listed as hailing from Moraga and St. Mary’s College.

Scarff and Cocco cruised through the first 18 holes. Both had established a five-hole advantage over their opponents by the match’s halfway point.

The second leg of the day’s tournament play was tighter, but neither Evans nor Smith could turn the tide. Evans did erase one hole from his then five-hole deficit in the early holes, but he gave one back shortly thereafter when his drive caught a tree on the right side of the fairway and apparently became ensnared in the dense branches. Ultimately Evans accepted the penalty for an unplayable lie and couldn’t improve on the bogey recorded by Scarff.

In the end, Cocco, who made a whopping 10 birdies over the 29 holes played, defeated Smith, 8-and-7 and Evans was eliminated by Scarff by a margin of 6-and-4.

Interviewed in the clubhouse at the conclusion of play, both Smith and Evans were gracious and candid about their own performances and those of their opponents. Smith, playing Harding for the first time during the tournament, was unashamed to concede that Chadd Cocco was simply beyond his reach after a fast start that morning established most of the winning edge he enjoyed at the end. “He made a ton of birdies,” Smith observed, and even though Smith felt he also played well, he gave his opponent credit for a stellar performance.

A senior at Mitty High in San Jose, Smith frequents the Coyote Creek Golf Course and said he will probably choose between St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, and Berkeley when he moves on to college.

Jim Evans had been to the tournament before. He states this was the fifth time he survived at least into the semi-final round of the City Championship. Evans won the tournament twice, in successive years (1995 and 1996), was the tournament’s runner-up in the men’s division once. He has now been eliminated twice at the semi-final tier.

At 47, Evans was willing to stand as the group’s “old man,” but attributed the day’s outcome to the fact that he “just played awful,” and “putted even worse.” Evans explained that, at this stage he’s really a once-a-week golfer, but he still plays this tournament and some others, and is active in competitive amateur tennis as well. But Evans says his priority is operating his marketing business so he can meet college expenses for two children. Like many serious amateurs, Evans had his own flirtation with the idea of going pro.

“I did play a few years on mini-tours,” said Evans. “But there are a lot of good golfers, they’re a dime a dozen. I had to get on with my life.”

Reid Scarff played consistently and then received a congratulatory hug from his mother, who was among the small entourage that was scattered between the two final groups on the course. Appearing composed and confident, Scarff confined his few mistakes to two or three holes over the course of the day and offered his opponent little opportunity to narrow the five-hole advantage Scarff held beginning the second eighteen-hole round. By Scarff’s assessment, the best shot he hit on either of the two rounds was a five-iron which left him with a foot-long putt for birdie at Fourteen.

After the day’s play, Scarff talked about being from a family in which everybody golfs, including a brother who was previously club pro at Butte Creek Country Club, where Scarff takes his routine laps as a member. After four years of business studies at UOP, Scarff says he’s currently “just playing golf.” As to the future, he has aspirations of playing on the professional circuit, summarizing, “We’re gonnna’ give it a shot.”

The only comments about the condition of the Harding course were tempered. Visually spectacular as always, greens were nonetheless rather coarse, and Jim Evans lamented that the fairways and rough areas have again declined in the past few years, despite being earmarked as the venue for several future pro tour events.

* * * Semifinal results from the San Francisco City Championship follow:

Men’s Championship flight: ====================

Reid Scarff, Oroville def. Jim Evans, Redwood City, 6-and-4 Chadd Cocco, Moraga def. Kevin Smith, San Jose, 8-and-7

Women's Championship flight: ======================

Grace Na, Alameda, def. Kelly Wilson, El Dorado Hills, 7-and-6 Diane Kwon, Fremont, def. Emily Childs, default

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