by Pete Wlodkowski, for amateurgolf.com
Jeff Burda is one of the rare people who is actually looking forward to being a few years older.
Burda, 52, has three years until he can be a 'true' senior amateur golfer, and until then he's just fine with entering the Championship Division of tournaments like the amateurgolf.com Diablo Valley Amateur, which has a 'young senior' eligibility of 50 and over.
The 1997 Alameda Commuters Champion's performance over the weekend showed he has no problem competing with the 'flat bellies' (his is flat too, for the record) as he managed a windy Sunday at Shadow Lakes to fire 72 for an even-par weekend total and 3-stroke margin of victory over Garett Wagner.
Wagner, who fired a wonderful 4-birdie round of 68 on Saturday, held a 2 stroke lead over Burda heading into the final round, but an errant tee shot on the first into the tall grass led to a triple bogey start which quickly vaulted Burda into the lead.
But the tournament-tough Burda knew he had to keep it in perspective.
"The early lead wasn't in my mind at all," said Burda, a Banker with Modesto Commercial Bank. "I was mainly trying to focus on my own game today and not worry about my position in the field."
Indeed, focus was the word of the day on Sunday, where winds made the fairways look tighter and the greens nearly impossible to avoid a 3-putt on.
Burda required some serious focus on No. 12, where his three wood tee shot was lost in the tall fescue grass to the left of the fairway bunker, which makes "US Open" rough look like fairway.
"I didn't hit it poorly," explained Burda. "It just wasn't the right shot to reach the fairway."
Burda's provisional drive, down the middle to 75 yards in front of the green, was followed up with a sand wedge to 2 feet and a 'birdie' on the second ball for a score of bogey 5 on the hole, and solid momentum to finish the round. But his shot on the day didn't come until the 17th, a 172 yard par three over water with a flag tucked just feet from the back-right edge. Burda tucked a 4-iron to 6 feet, and although he missed the birdie putt he was able to par the 18th and finish 3-strokes in front of Wagner.
The Net Division field bore the brunt of the weather, and they should be commended for keeping play moving despite a few 'others' and scores that in most cases were well above shooting to their handicap. First round leader Cameron Farah, coming off an opening round of 66, won the 'war of attrition' by posting a net 83 on Sunday that kept him in front of Mason Gunn by 3 strokes.
"Serious putting woes today," explained Farah, the owner of a car-buying service from San Anselmo.
Farah also won the Wine Country Cup in February and knew that today's round could be anyone's to grab, since he watched an early leader lost five strokes in the finishing holes at StoneTree.
Dave Stone of Alamo had one of his best competitive rounds in Saturday's opening round of the Senior Division, a 7-birdie 69 that included 4 birdies in the last 5 holes. Stone, an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist and 6-time Blackhawk Club Champ, managed his game well on Sunday and won the Senior Division by 5 strokes. Clem Richardson of Salinas put some early pressure on Stone, as he was even-par after 8 holes which cut the lead to 2 strokes.
Stone increased the lead on number 18 (their 9th hole) and survived a small 'chipping seminar' he was conducting around the 11th green by hitting the pin with his 6th shot, leaving a tap-in for double bogey. It could have been worse.
"I really didn't do anything terribly wrong on that hole," explained Stone. "But every shot I hit seemed to roll to the wrong place, leaving an even-tougher next shot."
There are 104 other players who know exactly how he feels.
- Joe Zanassi, of Martinez -- best known as the home of another Joe (Dimaggio) -- tied for second in the Senior Division with Clem Richardson of Salinas
-- Special thanks to Tim Eldridge, Ron Parrish, and the entire staff at Shadow Lakes for welcoming amateurgolf.com. The course has a unique links-feeling that puts a premium on short game and accuracy and we recommend it to anyone looking for a game in the East Bay. Also much appreciation to UST Golf Shaft
of Texas, who provided tee gifts including Proforce shafts, headcovers, and hats. If you need a clubfitter to install your shaft, give Pete Wlodkowski a call at 760-685-3406.
--- Shameless Plug: Our next two events are at Stevinson Ranch on April 2nd and 3rd, and Riverbend in Madera (near Fresno) on April 9th and 10th. The Riverbend event is a first year tournament, and amateurgolf.com would appreciate the support of all of our 'regulars' in kicking it off. We can't say enough about Riverbend, which in many ways is similar to the raved-about Stevinson Ranch track. Follow the links above to register now.