Hoffman wins Marin County Amateur

SAN GERONIMO, Calf. (July 25, 2010) -- What a difference 10 months make.

Last September, Kaz Hoffman struggled over the final few holes, blowing a good chunk of a seven-stroke lead before claiming the Marin County Amateur Golf Championship by two shots. This past weekend at San Geronimo Golf Course there were no such dramatics as the Tiburon native defended his title by a whopping eight strokes.

"I handled myself better down the stretch today," he said yesterday after shooting a 5-under-par 67. "Things went my way, and I made all my putts. É There was less stress and I felt more relaxed."

And it showed. Hoffman was the only player in the 42-man championship flight field to break par in the two-day, 36-hole tournament, carding a 6-under 137 and putting himself well clear of runners-up T.J. Tominaga of Woodside (71-74) and Lucas Degaldo of Chico (75-70). R.C. Orr of Sacramento shot 73 each day to finish in sole possession of fourth place.

"He (Hoffman) was awesome today," said Tominaga. "He had good direction and good distance and he putted well."

Tominaga, a native of Japan who has lived in the United States for past six months after graduating from Japanese University with a degree in economics, knows a bit about quality golf - his father, Tommy, played on the Japan pro tour and the U.S. mini-tour. One of only two players to break par on Saturday, the younger Tominaga began the day with back-to-back birdies to pull even with Hoffman.

But the 394-yard par 4 No. 6 hole proved to be Tominaga's undoing.

Following a frustrating bogey on the fifth hole to Hoffman's birdie, Tominaga tried too hard to make amends, yanked his tee shot into the hazard and wound up with a double-bogey. "I thought I had to make birdie to keep up," he said.

Instead, it was Hoffman who didn't make a mistake, and after Hoffman parred the hole, Tominaga effectively threw in the towel.

"I had a feeling it was over then," he said.

Hoffman, however, wasn't taking anything for granted. He kept applying the pressure and keeping his focus.

Even a slight hiccup on the 415-yard, par-4 No. 12 hole couldn't shake his resolve.

"I saved some good holes, and that bogey on 12th hole was the best," he said. "A double-bogey would have derailed me. É I was feeling pretty good after saving bogey on 12."

However, Hoffman saved his best for last. Instead of wobbling home as he did in 2009, he put a definitive stamp on the 2010 version of the Marin County Amateur.

On the final hole - the 367-yard par-4 No. 18 that he double-bogeyed in last year's final round and thought he might have blown his chances at the title - he hit a conservative 3-iron off the tee rather than tempting fate and hitting driver over the pond that parallels the left side of fairway to about 70 yards short of the green. "I thought it made better sense than going for it," he said.

Then from 135 yards, Hoffman hit a lovely shot to inside 2 feet of the cup for a tap-in birdie, his last of eight for the round.

"That second shot at 18 was the best of the day," he said. "I hit a knock-down wedge and it turned right in."

It was then time to celebrate.

"I never thought I really had it won until that shot on 18," he said.


- In a companion tournament for the over-50 set, Mark Miller of Antioch shot 74-76 to win the inaugural Marin County Amateur Senior title, beating Peter Moren of Danville (74-77) by a single stroke. Larry Riis of Greenbrae (74-78) and Michael Donnelly of Clayton (78-74) tied for third. "It was blind frigging luck (that he won)," Miller said with a smile. "I didn't play all that well."

- Miller was the Northern California Golf Association senior player of the year in 2009, and is currently in second place in that category this season.

- Steve Pence of Fairfax shot 73 for low-round honors among the Seniors yesterday, beating his son Craig by two strokes. The elder Pence finished in a three-way tie for seventh with a two-day total of 157, while the younger Pence finished in a four-way tie for ninth at 153 in the Championship division.

- Only two players from the full field of 62 players - Hoffman and Tominaga - broke par on Saturday while four --- Hoffman, Delgado, Brad Thomas and Matt Williams, both with 71 - did it Sunday. Tournament director Steve Wight cited "easier pin placements" as the reason for the generally lower scores on Sunday.

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