Final Match Set for the California Am
DALY CITY, CA (June 26, 2009)--Geoff Gonzalez and Jeff Wilson will battle for the California State Amateur title Saturday at Lake Merced GC. Gonzalez defeated Sam Smith of Turlock 2-up while Wilson upended defending champion Nick Delio of Valencia on the 19th hole. It is the first State Amateur final to feature both players from Northern California since 2004, guaranteeing a winner from the North for the first time since that year (Spencer Levin).
Gonzalez’s match with Smith was nip-and tuck with neither player able to establish more than a two-hole lead. When the 21-year-old Gonzalez holed consecutive lengthy putts on the 12th and 13th holes to square the match, the Diablo resident was finally able to create some momentum. “My speed has been exceptional all week,” the rising senior at Cal Poly said. “They (his putts) finally started falling.”
Gonzalez closed the door on the match and punched his ticket to the finals with two closing birdies on the 17th and 18th holes. The Monta Vista HS alum had earlier taken out Scott Oxandaboure of Carlsbad in 19 holes. Smith defeated Jason Bittick of Ladera Beach on the 18th hole, coming from three holes down with five to play.
Gonzalez made the first team of the Big West Conference in 2009 following a renewed dedication to his game that began in March. “I’ve tried to stay positive and started working out more,” he said. “Right now I’m riding a huge wave of confidence.” Indeed, following a win at the Cal State Irvine tournament and two runner-up finishes at other college events, the Diablo CC member was able to capture medalist honors at both his qualifier for the State Amateur in April and in stroke-play qualifying earlier in the week in his first trip to the State Amateur, firing a near course-record 64 in the process. He is seeking to become the first medalist to win the championship since 1994 and only the 12th all time to do so. “I’d be real proud to have my name on that trophy,” Gonzalez said.
Fairfield’s Jeff Wilson’s placement in the finals is another in a long line of achievements for one of Northern California’s most decorated and veteran players. Four U.S. Opens and medalist honors at three U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships are just a starting point, but his resume is less complete when it comes to titles at the local level. “I can only play the big events every year so I don’t get that many chances,” the Green Valley CC member said. “So it’s great to make the finals. It’s what you shoot for and bingo, I’m here.”
Wilson’s match with defending champion Nick Delio was a classic, though the 19-year-old Delio probably wanted to pull out a fire hose to cool his opponent off after the first four holes that saw four Wilson birdies. Delio righted the ship with steady play, squaring the match on the 9th hole. From there, it was a slugfest, the lead never getting beyond 1-up for the 46-year-old Wilson. Delio, who never led in the match and plays for Cal State Northridge, then provided extra drama, sinking a 40-foot bomb on the 18th to extend the match.
“That didn’t surprise me at all,” Wilson said, cementing the fact that his photo should appear next to a definition of “cagey veteran” in a match-play dictionary. “”It was the way the match went. He’s a fine player and we have such contrasting styles.” Wilson advanced to the semifinals of the State Amateur in 1982 and was medalist in 2001. He earlier defeated the last State Amateur medalist to capture the title, Steve Woods of Cupertino, who earned medalist honors and the championship in 1994. Delio earned his way to the semis by besting Scott Travers of Trabuco Canyon, 3 and 1.
Both players acknowledge that the difference in age and approach will bear little impact on the final. “There’s more than one way to shoot a score,” Wilson said.
“Age means nothing. There’s a lot of guys who can play,” Gonzalez added.
The scheduled 36-hole final begins at 7:30 Saturday. The final 18 is set for 12:00.