SAN FRANCISCO, Calif (June 24, 2011) – Bhavik Patel will face Kevin Wentworth in the finals of the 100th California State Amateur.
Patel defeated home-course favorite Randy Haag on Olympics’ Lake Course 3 and 1, following the same game plan that has served the rising senior at Fresno State and all week. “In all my matches I’ve been able to get an early lead,” he said. “Once you do that, on this course, pars will win. It’s crucial to hit fairways and greens and if I can do that, there’s a good chance I can get up early.”
The Bakersfield resident notched wins on two of the first three holes and was 4-up at the turn, posting an impressive 33. Haag, who was seeking to become the oldest State Amateur champion (Vern Callison was 47 when he won in 1965), was able to close the lead to two holes after 16, but was unable to get any closer.
Patel made the semifinals of the 2009 U.S. Amateur and last year advanced to the round of 16 at the U.S. Public Links at Bryan Park in North Carolina. He was a first team All-WAC performer last year and captured the University of San Diego Invitational championship.. In the morning quarterfinals, Patel defeated Tain Lee of San Juan Capistrano 4 and 3, establishing an early 3-up lead and never letting up. Patel has made two previous trips to the State Amateur, both times missing the cut.
Haag’s morning match was testament to his experience. After getting 2-down to medalist Philip Chian quickly, the veteran recovered with two birdies, including one made after hitting a tree with his tee ball. Haag then proceeded to play virtually mistake-free golf, letting the 20-year-old Chian make two critical errors: a bunkered tee shot on the 15th and a three-putt bogey on 16 that proved the difference in the match.
Kevin Wentworth knocked out the #2 seeded Jake Johnson in a match that also boasted an early lead for the winner. The 27-year-old Wentworth won holes 2-4 with pars and stood 4-up after the 1oth hole. But some loose swings led to only a 1-up advantage by the final hole. A clutch par saved the win for the Arnold resident. It was the second match on the day to reach the 18th, continuing a championship-long trend (only eight matches overall of the 30 played have reached the final hole).
“He didn’t give up and that kept me focused,” Wentworth said regarding his big early advantage. “I had a big lead but it didn’t feel like it.”
Wentworth defeated Cory McElyea of Santa Cruz in the morning quarterfinals 2-up in a match that the Cal-State East Bay alum didn’t take control of until it was nearly over. Johnson, a Cal State Sacramento student, took out USC Trojan Sam Smith 4 and 3, winning holes 11-13 to put the match away.
For Wentworth, reaching the finals represents the next step in a lifelong plan: “This is where I want to be competing. I knew I could get to this level; it’s just taken me longer than others. I still have professional aspirations.”
For the third year in a row, the finals feature a mid-amateur (Wentworth, though barely one at age 27) versus a college player (Patel). The last two years the collegian has come out on top.
The scheduled 36-hole finals tees off Saturday at 7:30 a.m.