PEBBLE BEACH - Matt Montez was as surprised as anyone to claim medalist honors at the 106th NCGA Amateur Championship at Spyglass Hill.
After posting an opening round 77 in swirling winds, the Sacramento resident closed with a tournament-low two-under 70 for a three-over–par 147 and the #1 seed by one stroke. That total is four strokes north of the score that claimed the #1 seed in 2008.
“After the wind yesterday, I just wanted to make match play,” the 23-year-old said. “I had confidence that with the wind down this morning I would qualify. I never thought I would be medalist.” Montez overcame a six-shot deficit to win that honor.
The San Jose State student will play #32 seed Russell Humphrey of Woodbridge, who survived a one-hole, five-player playoff for the final two spots. Montez likes his chances: “I do well with match play. I’m an up-and-down player, but I can make a lot of birdies.”
The #2 seed was grabbed by first-round leader Reid Scarff of Chico. The Butte Creek resident is “trying to do better in the majors” after claiming three regional titles since last December – the Christmas Classic at Del Monte, the San Joaquin County and the Diablo Valley Amateur. Scarff and partner A.J. Hohn placed second at the NCGA Four-Ball earlier this year. He faces #31 seed Chris Marin of Monterey who took runner-up honors in this same event in 2008.
Tim Honeycutt came into the Amateur on a roll after qualifying via a course-record 63 at The Ridge. The Cold Springs member holed out for eagle on Spyglass’ 10th hole from 135 yards in posting a final-round 73 for a 148 total. The rising sophomore at UC Davis claimed the #3 seed and will face #30 seed Jack Paton of Burlingame.
The leader in the race for NCGA Player of the Year, Randy Haag of The Olympic Club, grabbed the #4 seed. Haag won the NCGA Master Division title in July before earning a spot in the British Senior Open via Monday qualifying. The 50-year-old is one of the NCGA’s most decorated players, and will face #29 seed Teddy Schrier of Stevinson Ranch in the first round.
Other qualifiers of note include 2007 champion Ryan Hallisey of Granite Bay at the #12 seed, four-time NCGA Player of the Year Casey Boyns at the #10 seed and 2009 Public Links champion Bill Moore ( #13 seed). Boyns will face multiple NCGA major winner Scott Hardy in perhaps the marquee match of the first round. Another match to watch is 2009 State Amateur champion Geoff Gonzalez of Diablo versus Michael Weaver of Ft. Washington, who fired a 65 at Spyglass last week in capturing the NCGA Junior title. Defending champion and 2008 NCGA Player of the Year Matt Marshall turned professional at the end of 2008 and is ineligible to compete.
With the tough course conditions, one of the surprising factors in looking at the final match-play field is the narrow dispersion of scores – only seven strokes separate the first seed from the last seed. The cut came at 154, the same score as in 2008.
After two rounds of match play Wednesday beginning at 7:00 and 1:00, the quarter and semifinals are set for Thursday with the scheduled 36-hole final slated for Friday.