PEBBLE BEACH, June 13 — It’s been many years since a more wide-open field presented itself at the California Amateur Championship. There’s no clear-cut favorite this year for the 94th edition of the nation’s most prestigious state championship, which will run June 20-25 at Poppy Hills GC and Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Although six former California Amateur champions and a host of other top amateurs will be in the field, the two logical favorites — defending champion Spencer Levin and defending Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) champion Tim Hogarth — are not playing. Levin is turning pro tomorrow (Tuesday) and Hogarth could not play due to family commitments.
The 156-man field will play 18-hole stroke play rounds on Monday and Tuesday (June 20-21) at Poppy Hills GC, after which the field will be cut to the low 60 scores for a third stroke play round over the famed Pebble Beach Golf Links on Wednesday to determine the 32-man match play field. Two match play rounds will be played on Thursday and another two on Friday will lead to the 36-hole championship match on Saturday, June 25. All matches will be at Pebble Beach.
Championship week will also included the 14th California Golf Association (CGA) Senior Amateur Championship June 22-24 at Poppy Hills GC and the CGA Net Amateur Match Play Championship June 20-23 at four Monterey Peninsula courses.
Two-time former California Amateur champion Casey Boyns of Pacific Grove, who won in 1989 and 1993, is bidding to become just the third person ever to win three titles (Jack Neville, co-designer of Pebble Beach GL, won five times and J.J. McHugh won three titles). Boyns will be joined by former champions Patrick Nagle of Pacifica (who defeated Levin in 2002), Darryl Donovan of Gilroy (2001), Ed Cuff of Murrieta (1998), Steve Woods of Cupertino (1994) and Lee Mikels of Los Angeles (1977).
Among the notable Southern Californians in the field are:
• Kevin Kim of Irvine, who recently captured the California Community College Championship while playing for Saddleback College in Mission Viejo;
• Scott McGihon of Bermuda Dunes, the 2004 Trans-Mississippi Mid-Amateur champion;
• Craig Steinberg of Oak Park, a four-time SCGA Amateur champion who has come close to winning the state amateur, only to fall short;
• Nico Bollini of Yorba Linda, the 2002 SCGA Amateur champion;
• Mark Sear of Manhattan Beach, last year’s California Amateur medalist;
• Don DuBois of Newport Beach, California Amateur medalist in 2002.
Notable Northern Californians will include:
• Mark “Buzz” Peel of Pebble Beach, who has reach the quarterfinals, semifinals, quarterfinals and championship match of the last four events. Last year, he lost to Levin, 4 & 3, in the finals. At age 50, he would become the oldest champion if he wins.
• Daniel Lim of Cupertino and Eddie Olson of Aptos, the two most recent CIF State High School champions;
• Jordan Cox of Redwood City, runner-up in the 2003 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.
During the first two stroke play rounds, competition for the Roger Lapham Cup will also take place, The best five of six scores each day will count for the team total. In addition to McGihon and DuBois, the SCGA team will include:
• Former UCLA player Steve Conway, co-medalist in the 1999 California Amateur and third in last year’s SCGA Amateur;
• UC Riverside star Brandon Hillpot of Beaumont (he was the 2001 CIF-SCGA High School champion;
• David Bartman of Los Angeles, third in last year’s SCGA Mid-Amateur and eighth in last year’s SCGA Amateur; and
• John Pate of Santa Barbara, the 1999 SCGA Amateur and 2000 SCGA Mid-Amateur champion, who lost to Jeff Sanday on the 36th hole of the final match in the 1995 California Amateur Championship.
The California Amateur’s rich history includes many winners who went on to star in the professional ranks, a list that includes Mark Johnson (1997), winner of the Champions Tour Toshiba Classic in March; Bobby Clampett (1978, 1980); Mark O’Meara (1979); John Cook (1975); Johnny Miller (1968); Gene Littler (1953); and Ken Venturi (1951).
Legendary amateurs to capture the title included Johnny Dawson, Bruce McCormick, Roger Kelly, Charles Seaver and George Von Elm.