STEVINSON, Calif. (March 27, 2011) -- Randy Haag had five runner-up finishes in the California Mid-Amateur up until this year, including a playoff loss to Kevin Noto of Nevada last year.
But Haag, the top NCGA and amateurgolf.com player, continues to play beautifully and competes with young and old alike. So it was only a matter of time. Give him a tough course and a tournament he hasn't won, and he gets more determined.
Haag's first round of 4-over 40 might sound bad, but he was only four strokes back. Saturday was so windy the round was called at nine holes (and only 3 players broke 40).
The Olympic Club member came out swinging with birdies at No's. 10, 12, and 13 as he started his round with the leaders on the back nine. Hitting every green -- including the tough finishing holes called "The Gauntlet" in regulation -- and posting a 33 put him right where he wanted to be.
But then he did something even a 15-handicapper can relate to.
"I rushed into the clubhouse for a sandwich, got mayonnaise on my hands and rushed to the first tee to catch my group," explained Haag.
"I didn't line up my shot very well, and stupidly hit it out of bounds. I've never done that on that hole."
While Haag was struggling to a double-bogey on the hole, his playing partner Matt Cohn holed his third shot for eagle three on the dogleg right par-5.
Running neck and neck with Steve Wilson and a charging Taylor Hobin, Haag distanced himself with solid shots that resulted in birdies at the 6th (from 3-feet) and 7th holes (slick putt from the back of the green).
"The putt on No. 7 was huge because I knew it gave me a two stroke cushion," he said.
After hitting to six feet on the tough 8th hole, a par-3 with a diabolical green, Haag blew his first putt further away than he started, but made the comeback putt for a key save. Then, despite slightly pushing his drive into the grassy area of the hazard on No. 9, he hit an 8-iron safely onto the green for a par and the victory.
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In the Senior Division, Modesto banker Jeff Burda, like Haag, started the day four strokes back of the leader (John Enright of Montara, who opened with 37) and carved out a 5-under 67 for the victory.
Asked how he played by fellow competitor Herb Jensen, Burda said:
"I set a goal for myself at the beginning of the day to get to even par on the tournament and I made it."
Sounds like Jack Nicklaus in his heyday.
The Net Division had an interesting turn of events, as Bryan Beaver of Brentwood took his second title in the last three amateurgolf.com events by ten strokes as first round leader Chris Ladd found all of the trouble he managed to avoid in the first round. Stevinson Ranch will do that to you sometimes, especially the finishing holes, which are known as "The Gauntlet."
As for amateurgolf.com, we couldn't have found a better home course. It's tough but fair, is in impeccable condition, has an awesome practice facility, and a super-friendly staff. If you're reading this and you've never played there, take advantage of their new group offer:
Bring a group of eight or more and the group coordinator stays and plays free. Tell them amateurgolf.com sent you.