by Tod Leonard, San Diego Union Tribune
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (August 1, 2010) -- If John Malone had pulled off a playoff victory in the San Diego City Amateur Championship on Sunday, it would have been one of the greatest upsets in tournament history.
Instead, the 31-year-old boat engine builder from Chula Vista had to settle for a near-miss against a kid with a stellar pedigree and résumé.
Steven Kearney, 19, who will be a sophomore at Stanford in the fall, shot 1-under-par 71 on the Torrey Pines South Course to force a playoff at 1-under 215, and he beat Malone with a par on the second playoff hole, the par-4 seventh.
Malone shot 75, as did fellow third-round leader Gary Robinson, who was eliminated with a bogey on the first playoff hole, No. 18.
In the women’s championship, Rancho Santa Fe’s Kaitlin Drolson shot 75 on the South Course and won her first City Am by four strokes. John Hoffman scored 77 and captured the senior division by five shots.
Kearney, who won the CIF-San Diego Section individual championship in his senior year at La Costa Canyon, was playing in his third City Am and knew the pain of falling short in a playoff. He lost on the first extra hole two years ago when Jamie Puterbaugh drained a birdie.
This time, Kearney won with two pars, including an impressive recovery on the second playoff hole after he badly hooked his drive into a patch of dirt. From there, he rifled an iron onto the green, and Malone made bogey after slicing his drive right into the trees.
Kearney opened the tournament Friday at Balboa by shooting a 71 that included seven birdies and a quadruple bogey. He shot 73 on Torrey North on Saturday despite shooting 5-over in a four-hole stretch.
“I thought I was going to regret those, but I was able to pull through in the end,” he said.
“It’s a big deal to win a tournament in my backyard,” he added.
Malone would have been an intriguing champion. A plus-3 handicap, he has rarely competed and was playing in his first City Amateur. He said he works six days a week and has little time to practice. His home track is the well-worn Chula Vista Golf Course. He also sports a large tattoo on his arm, smokes and has two earrings in each ear.
“I don’t fit the golfer profile,” he said. “Every time me and my dad go out with some other people, they’re like, ‘Why do you play? You’ve got tattoos; you’re a mechanic. What are you doing out here?’ ”
His answer: “I love the game.”
He got everyone’s attention with a 66 at Balboa on Friday and followed it with a 74 on Torrey North.
Drolson, 20, an upcoming junior at Pepperdine, was a winner in her first try in the Women’s City Am. She said she showed up to watch friend Samantha Roberts last year and wondered, “Why am I not playing in this?”
It was Roberts and Stephanie Arcala — both San Diego State golfers — who ended up being her closest pursuers, with Drolson beating them with a 228 total. Arcala (81) and Roberts (77) tied for second, with Arcala earning the runner-up trophy in a playoff.
Drolson’s having a fine summer. She played in the U.S. Women’s Open, won the City Am and will compete in the upcoming U.S. Women’s Amateur.
“Honestly, I hadn’t won a tournament in two years, so this feels pretty good,” she said. “It’s a nice win to have under my belt.”
-- Senior division champion John Hoffman is President of the Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Club While the Seniors received a small break in the forward tee positions, they faced the same extreme pin placements on all three courses which help turn pars into bogeys or worse very quickly. The win was sweet for Hoffman, since he won't be able to defend the TPMGC title he won last year. "They changed the minimum age to 55, so I won't be able to defend my own title," quipped Hoffman. So much for Presidential veto power...
-- And by the way, Sunday's pin placements where as tough as any setup at the South Course - for example the back-right on the aforementioned No. 1 handicap 7th hole and the front-left on the 14th hole. Even the back-right position on No. 18 proved tricky as chasing down the hole too aggressively could prove very penal.
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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (July 30, 2010) -- Word is that the City of San Diego has plans for a new watering system and clubhouse renovations at the classic muni near the San Diego Zoo - Balboa Park Golf Course.
I just hope they don't do anything to take the charm out of it. From the views of the downtown skyline, to the way the course wraps around a canyon, to the unbelievable views from the grill, everything about Balboa Park is the way municipal golf used to be before cities built golf courses that look like private clubs.
Hit is straight, have a handy wedge, make a few putts and Balboa can play as easy as a freeway drive at five am. Miss the small greens in the small places, get some bad bounces off the tee, and they add up quickly.
Brandon Hortt is among those who hit quality shots, made a few putts early, and then got hot with a run of four straight birdies from holes 4-7. The 4th, the No. 1 handicap hole at Balboa, was no problem for Hortt, who hit a 3-wood off the tee down the right side, then lofted a short iron over the trees on the right of the green to within 10 feet of the extreme back pin placement. Hitting driver off the short 5th hole, he left himself with a 50 yard pitch shot that hit the flagstick and dropped to within 7 feet for another birdie. A perfect long iron to short range yielded another on the 6th, and he capped his run with a nice up-and-down from the front of the green on the par-5 7th hole.
Hortt's try at a 5th straight birdie stopped on the back edge of the cup.
The recent high school graduate is among players looking to put their name on the City Championship trophy this year. Defending Champion Harry Rudolph is playing in the Porter Cup, making that quest a little easier.