SOMIS, Calif. (July 20, 2008)--In what was almost (to quote Yogi Berra’s famous aphorism) “déjà vu all over again,” Kevin Marsh of Henderson, NV, held off Tim Hogarth of Northridge by two shots to win the 109th SCGA Amateur Championship by two shots today at Saticoy Country Club.
In what became a two-man battle of former national champions, the 35-year-old Marsh — the 2005 U.S. Mid-Amateur and 1996 SCGA Amateur champion — shot 3-over-par 75 today and finished at 3-under-par 285 for 72 holes over the challenging 6,872-yard layout.
The 40-year-old Hogarth — the 1996 U.S. Amateur Public Links and 2004 SCGA Amateur champion — got off to an awful start with three bogeys and a double bogey in his first five holes, leading to a front-nine 41, but fought back to post 3-under-par 33 on the back nine. He finished with a 2-over-par 74, and at 287 was the only other golfer under par for the championship.
UC Davis student Austin Graham of San Clemente, the first-round leader after a 68, struggled to a 76 today but finished in third place at 289, 1-over-par, two shots in front of John Pate of Santa Barbara and Spencer Anderson of Pacific Palisades.
Marsh became the 20th player to win two or more SCGA Amateur titles, and the 12-year-span between titles is the second longest in SCGA Amateur history.
When he won in 1996 at Santa Maria CC, Marsh let a six-shot lead evaporate over the last five holes and had to win the title in a playoff over Pat Duncan.
“Fortunately,” said Marsh. “I didn’t even think about that coming down the stretch today. I was a little bit nervous all day because it’s been a long time since I’ve won a major stroke-play event, so this was important for my psyche.”
Things might have been different had Hogarth not imploded at the beginning.
“My putter is always the thing that holds me back,” said Hogarth. “When it goes south, it really goes south; today I three-putted four holes at the beginning. But I couldn’t just lay down; I’ve got too much pride to simply throw in the towel.”
Instead, it was Marsh who struggled and kept Hogarth and Graham in the tournament. Marsh made three bogeys and two birdies on the front nine, and blew his tee shot on the 144-yard, downhill 10th hole over the green, which led to a double-bogey 5. When Hogarth stuck his tee shot on the 10th hole to within two feet of the flagstick and sank the putt, it was game on.
Marsh bogeyed the 11th hole after plugging his approach in a bunker, which trimmed the lead to two shots. After Marsh and Hogarth both got up and down from the same greenside bunker for birdie 4s on the 14th hole, Marsh drove into the trees on the 15th hole, was forced to chip out into the fairway and ended up making bogey. Meanwhile, Hogarth laced his approach shot on No. 15 to within eight feet but missed the birdie putt (“a dead pull; it never had a chance,” he would say later). Although he would wedge to eight feet on the 16th hole and sink the birdie putt, he was still a shot back.
However, on the 478-yard 17th hole Marsh, in his words, “nuked” a 143-yard 9-iron to within eight feet of the hole and rolled in the curling putt to stretch the lead to two shots heading to the 522-yard par-5 finishing hole.
Marsh played safe, pulling his second shot well to the left of the green.
“I knew I had plenty of green to work with and figured par would get the job done,” said Marsh.
Hogarth then threw a monkey wrench into that strategy when he hammered a 250-yard, 3-wood bomb over trees that reached the green, 25 feet away from an eagle.
“It was one of the best shots I’ve ever hit under pressure,” said Hogarth. When he charged the eagle putt eight feet past the hole, Marsh breathed a sigh of relief.
“If he had made the eagle putt,” Marsh said. “I would have had to work a lot harder on my birdie putt.” Both players settled for par 5s.
The 18-year-old Graham was mildly frustrated after his round in which he didn’t make a single birdie and didn’t pick up a single stroke on the four par-5 holes.
“I tried to stay patient,” he said later, “but nothing was dropping on the greens.”
He wasn’t too downhearted; he leaves tomorrow to compete in two tournaments in Ireland.
--Courtesy Robert D. Thomas, SCGA