PEBBLE BEACH, CA (July 17, 2005) -- Bob Niger continued his winning ways with a come-from-behind victory Sunday at the Stroke Play Championship at Poppy Hills GC.
The El Dorado Hills resident started the day one stroke back of leaders John Balfanz, Casey Boyns and Danny Buell, and was among 12 players within three shots of the lead. "My goal was to shot 68 today," said Niger. "With so many good players near the lead, I had to concentrate on my game and each shot."
Niger didn't reach his goal of 68, but he did fire an impressive 70 for a 213 total. The two-under-par final round looked a lot lower on a day where only three players broke par. Turning in the low round of the day and winning have become commonplace for Niger. The Serrano member has won eight of his last 20 tournaments, including a recent victory at the Sacramento City Championship. Today's victory gives Niger his fourth NCGA title, almost twenty five years after he captured the Sacramento Valley Championship as a 22-year-old.
"I am significantly better than I was in 1982," said Niger. "I am smarter and more consistent, there is really no comparison." Early morning practice sessions six days a week followed by nine holes after work have helped Niger find the winners circle.
A victory looked like a very distant possibility during first round action. Niger hit his tee shot out of bounds on No. 10 and plodded home for a four-over-par 9 on the hole. An ensuing bogey on the par-3 11th left Niger feeling pressure to turn things around quickly. "I wanted to hang tough at that point," remarked Niger. "I kept telling myself I had come back from bad holes before." A birdie on the par-5 13th hole helped stop the bleeding. Solid play over the next five holes allowed Niger to turn in a respectable first-round 75 despite his woes on the back nine. A sparkling second-round 68, in which he birdied four of Poppy Hills’ five par-5s and ran through the back nine in 32 helped set the tone for his final round charge.
Gary Young and Buell shot 73 and 74 respectively to tie for second place after regulation. A two-putt par on the first playoff hole gave Young second place alone. Meanwhile, all of the other potential challengers faltered, including first-round leader Balfanz, who shot a 12-over-par 84, and two-time state amateur champion Casey Boyns who turned in a disappointing 77. Defending champion Scott Hardy finished with a 230 total, well off the lead.
The stroke-play event was suspended following the 1966 competition, when NCGA officials decided to add the popular Four-Ball Championship. After a successful renewal last year, the championship is in full force. The original stroke-play tourney was played over 72 holes. Niger's name will be added to a trophy that also bears the names of Ken Venturi, Johnny Miller, George Archer, Tal Smith and other early NCGA standouts.
For complete results, click on the tournament link above (amateurgolf.com membership required).