PEBBLE BEACH – Forgive George Gandranata if he ignored NCGA history.
The 23-year-old posted “the biggest win of his life” in defeating 53-year-old Casey Boyns for the NCGA Amateur title at Spyglass Hill. Gandranata played the role of Stewart Cink in stopping Boyns’ Tom Watson-like quest to add an amazing 15th NCGA title to his legacy. In the semifinals, the champion had stopped the other legend in the younger NCGA ranks, Randy Haag.
“They never give up,” the champion said regarding his semifinal and final opponents. “I really respect both of them; they really pushed me.” Indeed, after building a 3-up lead against Boyns, the Cal Berkely senior watched that lead evaporate on the 32nd hole. But he took advantage of a Boyns mistake on the 35th hole, as the Pebble Beach caddie left his approach shot in the front bunker and made bogey. The champion made par to eek out a 1-up lead he held on to on the final hole.
“I felt like I was due,” the native of Indonesia said. “I’ve been down before this week so I felt I could still do it. Just persevere and play strategically – anything can happen.” The two-time all-PAC 10 team member is majoring in Economics and has a clear picture of his near future: “Accuracy has always been my strength. Getting longer is the key for me to reach the next level.” All week, Gandranata was usually first hitting into greens – even in the finals despite the 30-year age difference. But his remarkable consistency and accuracy with long irons an fairways woods made the champion a very tough competitor. The Emeryville resident had previously trained at the IMG Academy in Pendleton, Florida under David Leadbetter’s direction.
For runner-up Casey Boyns, who was making his fifth trip to the finals in hopes of adding to his two titles, an internal battle with his swing kept the Pacific Grove resident from the winner’s circle. “The whole week I was fighting my swing,” he said. “Then I’d hit a good shot and he kept answering. I just didn’t make any putts today.” Save for one. A 55-foot bomb on the 26th hole, Spyglass’ brutal uphill 8th, stopped the champion’s momentum and led the Boyns tieing the match six holes later. Boyns concluded the morning 18 on a mini roll, winning three of the last five holes to take a one-up lead. But Gandranata responded on the first nine of the afternoon, taking four holes to stake a three-up lead. Once Boyns squared the match, it becams clear that the last player to make a mistake would lose, a distinction the runner-up earned when he found the bunker on the 35th hole.
The good news for other competitors in NCGA events is that Boyns will indeed become a senior golfer. But before that occurs two years hence, the NCGA legend clearly still has some noise to make amongst younger players.