SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (June 25, 2012) -- Perfect golf course conditions, spectacular weather and some of the best amateur golfers in California came together Monday at La Cumbre CC. The result? Three incredible rounds of 7-under par 64 to lead the field after the first round of the 101st California Amateur Championship.
The 64s were shot by defending champion Bhavik Patel, Ronnald Monaco and Santa Barbara native Kevin Marsh, who put themselves in great shape heading into Tuesday’s final round of stroke play. The top 32 individuals will then advance to the stroke play portion of the Championship.
“It would be really special,” said Marsh, when asked what it would mean to win this event at home. “I’ve never won this event, so to win it here would be great, but there’s just so much golf to be played. If this was a stroke play event, I’d like my chances, but match play, anybody can beat anybody on any given day. Things have to go your way. But it’s nice to get off to a good start.”
Marsh sure did get off to a good start, birdying his first four holes of the day to take a commanding place at the top of the leader board. He came back to earth a bit after that, but never relinquished his place on the scoreboard. Marsh, who currently lives in Nevada but originally comes from Santa Barbara, used to claim La Cumbre as his home course.
Equaling Marsh’s astonishing play, however, was Patel, who clearly didn’t feel the pressures that come along with being the defending champion. Patel carded nine birdies and two bogeys in the opening round of action, setting himself up to make a run for medalist, an honor he missed out on last year by seven strokes.
Monaco, who is playing in the California Amateur for the first time since 2009, when he failed to advance out of stroke play, gave himself a bit more breathing room this time around with a bogey-free round of 64. Before his practice round earlier in the week, Monaco had never played the course before, but that didn’t seem to matter.
“It felt good,” Monaco said. “Stuck to the game plan of hitting fairways and greens and I made some putts and all of a sudden I looked up and I was five or six under heading into my last few holes.”
Also going low Monday was Saint Mary’s golfer Ben Geyer of Arbuckle, Calif. and UC Berkeley golfer Max Homa of Valencia, Calif., who both fired rounds of 6-under par 65.
“It’s always nice to get off to a strong start,” said Homa. “You’re really just playing to get into the top 32, so getting a good first round out of the way is important.”
Geyer led all NCGA players with his 65. The NCGA is battling the SCGA for the Roger Lampham Trophy, which is awarded to the team with the lowest scores after stroke play. Six individuals are on each team, and final results are based on the best five scores for each team over the course of the first two rounds. Helped by team members Patel and Marsh, the SCGA took a commanding 330-356 lead Monday.
The 156 competitors will be back in action Tuesday beginning at 7:30 a.m.