Gonzalez wins California State Am
DALY CITY, CA (June 27, 2009)--Geoff Gonzalez captured the 98th California State Amateur at Lake Merced GC, becoming the first player in 15 years and only the 12th overall to win the championship and medalist honors.
The champion defeated 46-year-old Jeff Wilson of Fairfield who was seeking to enhance an already glittering resume. The all Northern California final, the first since 2004 when Spencer Levin won, was initially a Wilson show, as the Green Valley CC member took a 3-up lead into the 8th hole of the match. But the 21-year-old Gonzalez was able to square the final by the end of the morning 18 through gritty putting.
“Once I started making putts I built off that confidence,” the champion said. “It was big to square the match at the end of the first 18.“
Gonzalez was able to take his first lead on the 27th hole in the afternoon round, slowly building to a 3 and 2 conclusion, again on the strength of solid putting. “I was down in every match I played,” the Diablo resident said. “I was used to coming from behind.” The rising senior at Cal Poly entered the State Amateur for the first time in 2009, and marked the culminating point in a several-month process of game improvement. Before a few months ago, Gonzalez had not tasted much championship success, but a hot spring college season led to medalist honors at his State Amateur qualifier at Cypress Ridge and to co-medalist status and the #1 seed this week.
Gonzalez attacked the course in the manner of the modern tour professional, using driver on every hole and bombing it as far as possible. Par 5s are the meat for going low to this player, and Gonzalez gobbled them up all week, birding five of seven in the final match (and going 7-under on the four par 5s on his near course-record 64 in the second round of stroke-play qualifying).
Wilson, who held the lead for most of the match, was unable to get his putter going, and despite laser precision with his approach shots, was unable to capitalize. “His putter was there and mine wasn’t. That was the difference,” the runner-up said. “All my bogeys were three putts. You start to lose confidence in your putter and make tentative strokes.”
The three-time medalist at the U.S. Mid-Amateur and four-time U.S. Open participant, where he was the low amateur at the 2000 Open at Pebble Beach, displayed superior ball striking skills, missing very few fairways and greens. “I was hitting it close but not taking advantage,” Wilson said. “You can’t let somebody hang around like that. He started to hit good shots.” Wilson’s path to the finals took him through veteran Southern Californian mid-amateur and former champion Tim Hogarth, Grant Rappleye of Elk Grove, 1994 champion Steve Woods of Cupertino (the last State Amateur champion/medalist), and defending champion and co-medalist Nick Delio of Valencia.
Gonzalez hit five or six drives during the lunch break and was able to right a leaky driver to start the final 18. “I found something that worked between rounds and started crushing it,” he said.
losing hole from then on. Gonzalez’s trek to the final match had the champion in four close matches, including Logan Goettsch of Fresno, Los Angeles’ Matt Grush, Scott Oxandaboure of Carlsbad and Sam Smith of Turlock.
The Cal Poly rising senior dedicated the win to his recently deceased grandfather, who taught him the game. “My goal coming in was to win, and to accomplish it is huge. To see my name among all those fantastic player, it’s quite an honor.”
Lake Merced GC proved to be both a challenge for the players and a gracious host. The event moves south in 2010, to Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla CC before returning to The Olympic Club in 2011 for the 100th playing.