SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Aug. 9, 2008)--Steven Kearney, a rising senior at La Costa Canyon High School in Carlsbad, carded an impressive 4-under-par final round at the difficult Torrey Pines South Course in the final round of the San Diego City Championship, which was nearly enough to unseat three-time defending champion Jamie Puterbaugh. Instead, it forced a playoff between the two golfers on the par-5 18th hole.
Both were a bit loose off the tee, with Kearney finding the fairway bunker and Puterbaugh just next to him on the fringe. Neither golfer could go for the green in two, with Kearney laying up to 90 yards and Puterbaugh to 130. With both golfers knocking solid approach shots onto the green, Kearney was first up with 12-footer for birdie, that he left just short.
Puterbaugh responded by calmly rolling his 10-foot birdie putt into the center of the hole for his fourth straight San Diego City Championship victory.
"The golf course today was the hardest I've ever seen Torrey," said Puterbaugh, who recently graduated from San Diego State University. "I was thankful they had us playing from the blues, I don't know what the scores would've been if we were all the way back."
Puterbaugh, the son of Golf Digest top-100 teacher Kip Puterbaugh, finished two rounds at San Diego's other municipal course, Balboa Park, at 4-under 140 (71-69) and carded a 73 at Torrey to close the tourney at 3-under 213.
"Every year it seems to get harder than the others," said Puterbaugh, who had much of his senior season at SDSU eliminated by a chronic shoulder problem that required surgery in March. "I was solid on the front nine, but that was a dirty 38 on the back nine."
The deciding shot may have come on the 14th hole when Puterbaugh blocked his drive way right, behind a row of trees. Somehow he was able to fly his approach shot between the branches and onto the green, where he converted a 20-footer for birdie on a hole that seemed to have double written all over it from the start.
"I just saw a little window through the trees and went for it," he said. "If the rough was down I would've tried to skip it up to the green, but it was so long there was no way that was happening."
Puterbaugh, who will be heading to Pinehurst next week for the U.S. Amateur was amazed to hear that his opponent was still a high schooler at his alma mater.
"Are you kidding me? You're just a senior, that makes me feel old," he said to Kearney after being congratulated for the win. "Go Mavericks!"
In the senior flight, no one could get close to Howie Knodt, who entered the day with a five shot lead and finished winning by 11 after a final-round 76, tops in the field.
Cal-Berkeley rising senior Allison Goodman has been playing Torrey her whole life, and it paid off when she carded a 3-under 69 on the final round to take a five-stroke victory.
"I was hitting my approach shots really well and then converting when I needed to," said Goodman, who won this tourney in 2006 then took a year off to win the Santa Barbara City in 2007. "I grew up playing North mostly, but I'm pretty familiar with this course. I missed only one fairway and hit 15 or 16 greens, so that helped."
Full scores will be posted shortly.