PEBBLE BEACH - Friday’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship final at Spyglass Hill features two players who have danced on the periphery of NCGA tournament success in recent years. The result of tomorrow’s match will anoint one of them with the NCGA’s grandest prize.
Saratoga’s Matt Marshall built momentum early in both the quarter and semifinals Thursday. The La Rinconada member seemingly followed the same plan – establish a big lead and then grind out the victory. But after taking out Kevin Lozares 5 & 3 in the morning and taking a 6-up lead in the afternoon semifinals over D.J. Fernando of Bakersfield, things took a drastic turn. Fernando, who had earlier defeated Jon Peterson of the Olympic Club 5 & 4, rattled off wins on three straight holes despite being dormie to close the gap. But Marshall made a steady par on 17 to secure the 3 & 1 win.
“I was thinking that pars would do it but I didn’t let his run get to me,” the 23-year-old said. “I just stuck to my game plan. I try not to play the opponent too much in match play. I just try to play my game.”
Marshall poured in five birdies on his round versus one bogey and one double and appears primed to capture his first NCGA title. He recently exhausted his college eligibility at UC Davis after transferring two years ago from UCLA. He is in his final year competing as an amateur – a career that has seen him finish third in three straight NCGA Amateur Stroke Play championships and play his way into the round of 16 in two State Amateurs.
“I’ve given myself chances and I’ve put myself in the position to win. If I keep doing that I’m happy,” the 2008 Santa Clara County champion said. He plans on attempting PGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall.
The other half of the bracket saw the 14th seed, Chris Marin of Monterey, emerge on top. The Pebble Beach caddie has also contended in many NCGA events, and earlier this year won the Monterey Bay and amateurgolf.com California Mid-Amateur championships.
The 30-year-old defeated Ricky Stockton of Salinas in the quarterfinals 5 and 4 and then quickly built a 3-up lead over his semifinals opponent, Wes Leith of Davis. But a leaky game that saw Marin miss seven of eight greens squared the match. A gutsy par on 17 provided the margin that spurred the Alameda Commuters runner-up to a 2-up win. The six bogeys Marin posted on the round definitely show a game ripe for improvement, but his steely resolve in taking the match indicates a player ready to win.
“My game is up and down. When it’s here, it’s good,” Marin said regarding his wildly vacillating game. “I approach this event the same way every year – just qualify for match play. If you’re there, anything can happen.”
Marin’s local knowledge from years of caddying, plus the assistance of Spyglass Hill caddies on his bag have certainly helped, but the finalist is quick to point out what many players have noted: “These greens aren’t easy.”
The scheduled 36-hole final tees off at 7:00 and 11:30 am Friday.