SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (Aug. 14, 2008) — A week ago, Matt Hoffenberg wasn’t even sure he was going to play in the inaugural SCGA Match Play Championship. Today he’s glad he made the commitment. The 19-year-old Simi Valley resident finished off a day filled with under-par scores by rolling in a 28-foot birdie putt on the 17th hole to hold off Josh Dupont of Poway, 3 & 1, and win the inaugural title at Sandpiper Golf Course.
Hoffenberg, who turned 19 on Monday, piled up seven birdies in this morning’s semifinal as he eliminated Daniel Wax of Pacific Palisades, 5 & 3, then posted seven birdies and an eagle in turning aside the 19-year-old Dupont, a sophomore at Northwestern University.
With the usual match-play concessions, Hoffenberg was 5-under-par this morning and shot 31 on the front nine this afternoon. Dupont — who defeated Bryan Hogan of Bakersfield, 2 & 1, in the semifinals — was 4-under-par in the championship match and said later, “I played great and made a lot of birdies. Unfortunately, it was on the wrong day because Matt just played super golf.”
It was the second time in two months that Hoffenberg and Dupont squared off in a big-time match; the long-hitting, left-handed Hoffenberg defeated Dupont, 5 & 4, in a quarterfinal match of the California Amateur Championship at Lakeside Golf Club in June.
It also continued a successful summer for the rising sophomore at San Diego State, who won the Southwestern Amateur in New Mexico and rallied with closing rounds of 66-66 to finish third in the Pacific Coast Amateur last week at Royal Colwood GC in Victoria, BC.
Hoffenberg appeared to be comfortably in control after making four birdies on the front nine, good for a 3-up lead, only to bogey the 10th and 11th holes.
“I figured that as good as I played on the front nine I was due for a hiccup,” said Hoffenberg. "But I was pleased at how well I was able to get it back together.”
After both players parred the 12th hole, they tackled the 532-yard 13th hole, which plays from tee to green atop cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean and has a deep canyon guarding the green complex. After driving perfectly in the fairway, Hoffenberg nailed a 235-yard hybrid shot that carried a yawning bunker in front of the green and nestled 10 feet below the hole. Dupont pulled his approach left of the green and pitched delicately to six feet, only to see Hoffenberg calmly roll in his eagle putt to stretch his lead back to 2-up.
Dupont again halved the margin by winning the 14th with a conceded birdie. However, on the 392-yard 16th hole, Dupont pushed his drive right and his second shot ended up under a tree in thick rough. After taking two shots to reach the green, Dupont conceded the hole.
After both players made par 4 on the 16th hole (Hoffenberg catching a great break when his drive hit a tree and bounced back in the fairway), Hoffenberg punctuated the win with his 28-foot birdie on the 421-yard 17th hole.
Hoffenberg defeated several big names to reach the finals. After beating Cal State Northridge grad Erik Jarvey of Palmdale, 2 & 1, in the first round, he knocked off 2007 California Amateur champion Josh Anderson of Murrieta, 3 & 2, in the second round and eliminated 2005 California Amateur champion Don DuBois, 3 & 1, in a quarterfinal match.
For five rounds in three days, Hoffenberg made 27 birdies and three eagles over the beautiful seaside golf course, which was designed in 1972 by William F. Bell and is owned by Ty Warner of “Beanie Baby” fame.
At the senior match play championship, Boyd Martin has figured out how to win an SCGA championship, and now he’s making it a habit. Last year, Martin teamed with Rich Tolly to win the SCGA Senior Four-Ball Championship at Industry Hills. Today, the 57-year-old Corona del Mar resident rallied from 3-down with seven holes to play and defeated Chip Bridges of Encinitas on the 19th hole to win the senior division of the inaugural SCGA Match Play Championship at Sandpiper Golf Course.
The day ended as it began for the 61-year-old Bridges when he three-putted the 524-yard, par-5 first hole for the second time in the match. Moments before, Martin had watched in disbelief as his uphill eight-foot birdie putt had slid over the right edge of the hole. After Bridges missed his four-foot par putt, Martin said, “I wish I had made mine instead of him missing his, but either way it was a great comeback and I’m thrilled to have won my first SCGA individual title.”
Martin struggled with his iron-shot distance control most of the day and when he missed a two-foot par putt on the scenic 11th hole (the green lies just steps from crashing ocean waves), he found himself 3 down to an opponent who, apart from the opening three-putt, hadn’t made a bogey.
“I was in trouble,” said Martin. “I figured I had to start making some birdies because I didn’t expect Chip to make many mistakes.”
In fact, the end result was a combination of both factors as Bridges bogeyed four his final seven holes and Martin finally squared the match on the 17th hole when he sank an eight-foot birdie putt. It would be the only birdie either golfer would make all day.
After the first hole, Bridges strung together 10 consecutive pars and had a 3-up lead heading into the 341-yard 12th hole. Both Martin and Bridges failed to reach the green on the sharply uphill hole, but Bridges pitched five feet above the hole and missed the slippery downhill putt, while Martin got up and down for par.
When Bridges managed to halve the 516-yard 13th hole with a bogey 6, it appeared that Martin might be running out of chances and holes. Both players laid up on the par-5 hole but Martin’s approach landed in the yawning bunker fronting the green. Bridges could not take advantage as his pitch shot sucked back down the green to about 60 feet from the flagstick. Bridges’ sharply uphill putt only went about 2/3 of that distance and he missed the 15-foot par putt. Martin, meanwhile, hit his explosion shot 12 feet above the flagstick (always a treacherous proposition at Sandpiper) and he also missed his par putt.
Martin cut the margin in half when Bridges hit his drive on the 14th hole underneath a tree, laid up to 110 yards but left his third shot 20 feet short of the hole. Martin was 20 yards short of the green but pitched four feet above the hole and sank the sliding downhill putt.
Bridges regained his 2-up advantage with a par 5 on the 15th hole as Martin missed a six-foot par putt, but Martin cut the margin again after Bridges bladed a chip shot 20 feet past the 16th hole, leading to another bogey.
That sent the match to the 367-yard 17th hole, the same hole where the day before Martin had holed out from the fairway to win his semifinal match against Warren Caves and where Hoffenberg would end his match against Dupont later in the day. Martin split the center of the fairway, wedged to within eight feet and rolled in the putt. Two holes later, Martin was clutching his championship plate.
--Story by Robert D. Thomas, SCGA