BURBANK, Calif. (June 20, 2008)--Austin Roberts of Carmichael will chase both a title and history tomorrow. Nick Delio of Valencia hopes to take a giant step in his burgeoning golf career. They will meet tomorrow in the 36-hole final match of the 97th California Amateur Championship at Lakeside Golf Club.
Roberts, who at age 15 would be the tournament’s youngest champion (Mac Hunter was 16 when he won in 1972), defeated 18-year-old James Erkenbeck of San Diego, 3 & 2, in the quarterfinals this morning and then took out one of the two remaining medalists and the No. 1 seed, Matt Hoffenberg of Simi Valley, 5 & 4, in the semifinals this afternoon.
The 18-year-old Delio, a Cal State Northridge sophomore who got into the tournament at the last minute as an alternate, wore down reigning NCGA Amateur champion Ryan Hallisey of Granite Bay, 3 & 2, in the quarters and then dashed the hopes of the other remaining medalist and the No. 2 seed, 40-year-old Scott McGihon of Bermuda Dunes, with an 8 & 7 semifinal win.
On a day when temperatures soared over the century mark, Delio and Roberts both played solid golf and took advantage of their opponents’ uncharacteristically substandard play to make it an all-teenage final for the second consecutive year.
Delio, whose university team gets to play Lakeside every Wednesday, continued to thrive on his “home course” advantage. In his semifinal round, he posted four birdies and seven pars, winning the first hole and never looking back. “I just stuck to my game plan: fairways and greens and give myself chances to make birdies,” said Delio afterwards.
By contrast, McGihon struggled with eight bogeys and just three pars. “I played really well and Scott didn’t,” said Delio. “The conditions were tough and the wind started kicking up, which didn’t help matters much. Scott was struggling; it was a long day and it’s been a long week.”
McGihon was more succinct. “When you’re playing a guy who is making lots of birdies and no bogeys,” he said afterwards, “you’ve got no chance.” This was the second time that McGihon, a three-time winner of the SCGA Amateur, has reached the California Amateur semifinals only to lose.
With McGihon and Hoffenberg going down to defeat, this marked the 87th year that the medalist failed to go on to win the championship (Steve Woods was the last, in 1994).
Roberts, who attends Sacramento Waldorf High School and was sixth in this year’s CGA-CIF State High School Championship, came into the tournament without many expectations. “I was just hoping to make the cut and have fun in match play,” he said, “so all of this is past my expectations.”
The impact of being 36 holes away from history is beginning to sink in. “Thinking about adding my name on the trophy with all the famous people who have won this event would be really special,” reflected Roberts.
In taking down Hoffenberg, a sophomore at San Diego State, Roberts continued his aggressive play. “My mindset is the take the tee and keep the tee,” he said. “If I’m 3 up, I play like I’m even or 1 down.” One telling example: after Roberts hit his tee shot on the 11th hole out of bounds and ended up making triple-bogey 7, he came right back with a par and two birdies to close out the match. As was the case with Delio vs. McGihon, Roberts was aided by Hoffenberg, who made eight bogeys and just one birdie.
In the quarterfinals this morning, Roberts was all square with Erkenbeck after nine holes but made birdie 3 on the 10th hole, won the 12th with a par 4 after Erkenbeck his tee ball out of bounds, and made birdie 3 on the 13th hole to put him 3 up. “He made a few mistakes on the back nine,” said Roberts. In addition to the OB shot, Erkenbeck missed putts on Nos. 15 and 16 that would have won holes and tightened the match.
Delio was only 1 under par for 16 holes in the morning, but it was enough to knock off Hallisey. “My iron play and chipping have been very solid this week,” said Delio after the win, “but it differs day to day. I was feeling pretty confident, I just needed to get out of my own way and play my game.”
After Hallisey squared the match with a par 4 on No. 11, Delio took the lead for good with a birdie 3 on the 301-yard 12th hole. After both players parred the 13th hole, Delio hit his approach shot on No. 14 to 15 feet and made the birdie putt to go 2 up.
“I felt like I just needed to make par from then on at that point,” he said.