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Christmas Classic: Reno's Nelson Wins Again

MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA (December 4, 2005) -- Del Monte golf course doesn't have length, water hazards, or many other modern fear-factor characteristics. But regardless of clocking in at only 6357 yards, Del Monte -- known for being the oldest course west of the Mississippi -- has stood up amazingly well as a test of golf. Del Monte may no longer host USGA events as it did in the 1920's, but still sees a wonderful tournament schedule each year with the season-ending (or beginning, depending on how you look at it) amateurgolf.com Christmas Classic being the largest 'amateur-only' event.

A solid contingency of California amateurs make the pilgrimage to Monterey each year in a tradition that goes back to when it was only referred to as 'Casey's' (after tournament founder Casey Boyns).

In Saturday's first round, Danny Buell of San Carlos started with a bogey, then didn't make another mistake (but did make four birdies) for the rest of the day. He called his round "solid," and knew there was a lot of work to be done, with 16 players within 6 strokes of the lead. Dave Nelson, who won the Christmas Classic in 2002, was one of those players, in at 71 and paired in the final group.

Nelson, 49, has been a top Nevada amateur for some time, having racked up four Nevada State Amateurs and one Nevada Mid-Am. In 1982, Nelson competed in the US Open at Pebble Beach. He plays in the Christmas Classic every year, and is well aware that Del Monte rewards experience.

On Sunday, Nelson plugged away on the front nine, keeping leader Danny Buell in sight but not gaining much until the 9th hole, where a birdie, against Buell's bogey, resulted in a two stroke swing and a 1-shot margin for Buell heading into the back nine. Both players birdied No. 10, the short par four, then matched pars at No. 11. Buell bogeyed the Ocean Honda Hole-in-One hole, No. 12, and the tournament was tied. But Del Monte giveth, and Del Monte taketh away - Nelson found that out with a double bogey - bogey stretch on Nos. 13 and 14 that put the tournament back to square.

The hole that probably typifies Del Monte the most, No. 15, is a 350-yard par-4 that doglegs to the left with trees narrowing in to only 20 yards wide inside of the 150 yard marker. And you don't even want to try to hit out of the left trees (the last time I was in there I did notice a sign about an endangered species of bats, however). The occasional heat-sinking missile off a driver can find the front of the green, and that's what Buell tried to pull off on Sunday, but he overcooked it left. One fortuitous bounce later, his ball was in the middle of the fairway just 80 yards out. Nelson played an iron to 150 yards, then smartly kept his approach shot under the hole and made birdie. Buell wedged to 20 feet above the hole and three-putted for bogey. But he still had the lead, and he made a clutch putt of 10 feet on No. 16 to keep it, by one.

The pin on the par-5 17th was so close to the front edge that many players were left shaking their heads. One even 5-putted (he didn't blame the pin placement, to his credit). Matt Marshall, Eric Restrepo. Arvo Voip, Geoff Gonzales, and Brian Thompson all posted birdie fours on the hole, so it couldn't have been that bad. Nelson and Buell both landed wedge shots well beyond the pin, but spun their balls off the green. When Buell, who was farther away, failed to save par, the tournament was tied on the 18th tee. Nelson didn't have a leaderboard to glance at, but this is far from his first golf tournament.

"I knew, of course, that I had to at least catch Danny if I was going to have a chance to win, and I had done that," said Nelson.

Buell's tee shot was left, and blocked by the large oak that stands guard there. He pondered his escape-route while waiting for the green to clear, then boldly attempted to go up and over the limbs but after a loud 'crack' he watched in dismay as the ball bounded straight back and farther from the hole. With it still being his turn to play, Buell pitched out to the middle of the fairway, fifty yards short of the green. Nelson wedged to 30 feet, but still had lots of work to do for par, with an extreme-back pin placement that caused at least one player on the front of the green to chip over the fringe to get there. Nelson had a clear path, and he putted nicely to 2 feet short of the hole, then finished for par. Buell's wedge had skipped past the pin to the back rough, and he hit a deft pitch from there that saved Bogey, and a share of second place with Geoff Gonzalez and Brian Thompson at 145.

But the tournament belonged to Nelson, whose par at 18 resulted in an even-par 72 in the final round and 1-under par score of 143 for the tournament. Not quite as low as the blistering 9-under-par total of 135 he shot in winning the event in 2002, but 2 strokes ahead of anyone else in the extremely competitive scratch and senior scratch divisions of almost 100 players.

SENIOR DIVISION:

In the Senior Division, Herb Jensen played steady golf for two days and 73-75 = 148 for a narrow one stroke victory over a trio of top players - Mark Miller of Antioch; Bob Rowland of Danville (the first round leader at 71); and NCGA 2005 Senior player-of-the-year Rob Thompson of Merced. Jensen, a dentist during the workweek, was left gritting his teeth walking off the 18th green after Saturday's first round, where a double-bogey finish stained a near-perfect round. On Sunday, however, his walk to the scoreboard was a lot nicer, as the satisfaction of winning over a quality senior field set in.

NET DIVISION:
Todd Knapp of Salinas dominated the net division. As round two scores for most players had nobody screaming 'sandbagger,' Knapp managed his way around Del Monte nicely by firing the low net round of the tournament (a 68) which allowed him to be the only player under par net and win by 6 strokes over Mike Burgess of Rohnert Park and Terry Won of Milpitas.


* * * *

Final results from the 21st Annual amateurgolf.com Christmas Classic, played at the par-72, 6357 yard Del Monte Golf Course:

CHAMPIONSHIP
Name Hometown Rd1 Rd2 Tot Pos Prize*
David Nelson Reno, NV 71 72 143 1 $600
Danny Buell San Carlos, CA 68 77 145 T2 $341
Geoff Gonzalez Diablo, CA 72 73 145 T2 $341
Brian Thompson Gilroy, CA 74 71 145 T2 $341
Arvo Voip Magalia, CA 74 72 146 5 $225
Chad Vivolo Carmel, CA 74 73 147 T6 $163
Eric Restrepo Davis, CA 75 72 147 T6 $163
Marc Peterson Modesto, CA 73 75 148 T8 $113
Matt Marshall Los Gatos, CA 77 71 148 T8 $113
Eric West Berkeley, CA 74 75 149 10 $100
Ross Valentine New Zealand 74 76 150 T11 $80
Andrew Bowdish San Jose, CA 71 79 150 T11 $80
Brian Thibault San Jose, CA 75 75 150 T11 $80
David Schnapp Livermore, CA 75 75 150 T11 $80
Erik Hill Davis, CA 76 74 150 T11 $80
Mike Maurice Castro Valley, CA 75 76 151 T16 $63
David Leuterio Sacramento, CA 76 75 151 T16 $63
Giuliano Delecce carmel valley, CA 74 78 152 T18 $38
Amit Odaiyar lodi, CA 75 77 152 T18 $38
Jeremy Harris Davis, CA 76 76 152 T18 $38
Tyler Raber El Macero, CA 79 73 152 T18 $38
Min-Wook Woo davis, CA 76 77 153
Thomas Camaione Upland, CA 74 80 154
Robert Goodwin Atherton, CA 78 76 154
Patrick MacMichael Santa Barbara, CA 79 75 154
Matt Cole Coto de Caza, CA 73 82 155
Dan Thurston Rohnert Park, CA 80 75 155
David Capel Ripon, CA 81 74 155
Doug Marjama Gold River, CA 78 78 156
Jess Stimack Santa Rosa, CA 75 81 156
Larry Raber El Macero, CA 76 80 156
Andrew Biggadike Palo Alto, CA 78 78 156
Brandon Harkins Walnut Creek, CA 80 77 157
Hans Olson Bainbridge Island, WA 76 82 158
Matt Couch Tracy, CA 79 79 158
Phillip Hall Atherton, CA 79 79 158
Aaron Dean Sacramento, CA 80 78 158
Cameron Rappleye Elk Grove, CA 81 77 158
Sean Dyer Soquel, CA 81 77 158
David Staszko San Jose, CA 80 79 159
Jon Witrado Turlock, CA 80 79 159
Nick Podesta Yuba City, CA 81 78 159
John Seed Gualala, CA 78 82 160
Troy Laughlin Placentia, CA 79 81 160
Grant Rappleye Elk Grove, CA 81 79 160
Juan Lopez Lakeport, CA 81 79 160
Kent Yamane San Jose, CA 81 79 160
Erik Hallgrimson Los Gatos, CA 82 79 161
Joe Gabbert Pleasanton, CA 80 82 162
Tim Graham Sacramento, CA 83 79 162
Ryan Bohning Marina, CA 80 83 163
Paul McChesney Monterey, CA 81 82 163
Steve Batte Las Vegas, NV 79 85 164
Tak Taoyama San Jose, CA 88 77 165
kix marasigan west covina, CA 84 82 166
John Allison Santa Maria, CA 80 87 167
Justin Gabbert Pleasanton, CA 83 84 167
Eric Steichen San Francisco, CA 86 81 167
Jay Stimack Sacramento, CA 85 85 170
Roby Seed Gualala, CA 85 85 170
Tony LaMontagne San Marcos, CA 84 87 171
Zac Toy Palo Alto, CA 88 83 171
Anthony Loiacono San Diego, CA 88 85 173
Ricardo Ronquillo San Jose, CA 88 85 173
P.R. Gaffney Fresno, CA 86 88 174
Kevin Klatt San Diego, CA 86 89 175
Kevin Hartsoch Playa del Rey, CA 87 88 175
Matthew Wallach Los Altos, CA 88 89 177
Kevin Conover Petaluma, CA 80 WD WD
Max Rausch Palo Alto, CA 90 WD WD
Perry Lo Fremont, CA 91 WD WD
Alexander Resurreccion Long Beach, CA NS NS NS
* Note: All prize amounts shown are paid in pro-shop gift certificates
 
SENIOR DIVISION
Name Hometown Rd1 Rd2 Tot Pos Prize*
Herb Jensen Carmichael, CA 73 75 148 1st $250
Robert Rowland Danville, CA 71 78 149 T2 $158
Mark Miller Antioch, CA 73 76 149 T2 $158
Rob Thompson Merced, CA 77 72 149 T2 $158
Carl Selkirk Chico, CA 75 79 154 T5 $50
Tom Lyons Pleasanton, CA 76 78 154 T5 $50
Terry Ackerman Piedmont, CA 78 77 155
Jeff Early Pleasanton, CA 78 78 156
Bob Cayton Aptos, CA 81 75 156
Neil Duffy Santa Cruz, CA 75 82 157
Jim Welsh San Jose, CA 78 81 159
Rex Massier Concord, CA 78 82 160
Greg Saiki Sanger, CA 81 79 160
Kevin Gaughan Danville, CA 79 82 161
Mark Merrigan Alameda, CA 81 80 161
Barry Zarecky Rancho Murieta, CA 88 74 162
Randy Blankenbaker Rohnert Park, CA 85 79 164
Greg O'Malley Sonoma, CA 82 83 165
Robert Alves Sacramento, CA 81 85 166
Hilton Tudhope Carmel, CA 86 89 175
Bob Schoenherr San Jose, CA 85 WD WD
* Note: All prize amounts shown are paid in pro-shop gift certificates
 
NET DIVISION
Name Hometown Rd1 Rd2 Tot Pos Prize*
Todd Knapp Salinas, CA 73 68 141 1 $300
Mike Burgess Rohnert Park, CA 71 76 147 T2 $200
Terry Won Milpitas, CA 76 71 147 T2 $200
Fred Luper Suisun, CA 69 80 149 T4 $138
Shane Davis Livermore, CA 78 71 149 T4 $138
Jim Thurman Clayton, CA 77 73 150 6 $100
I. Joe Ceniceros La Mirada, CA 71 80 151 T7 $63
Tom Silva Turlock, CA 76 75 151 T7 $63
Marc Sanders Turlock, CA 71 81 152
Tony Velez Rancho Murieta, CA 74 78 152
frank angelo Moraga, CA 76 76 152
Dave Nikitin Vacaville, CA 83 69 152
Charles Balisha Turlock, CA 74 80 154
Peter Funt Monterey, CA 77 77 154
Don Swift Davis, CA 77 82 159
Philip Hacker Martinez, CA 83 76 159
Peter Balisha Turlock, CA 80 81 161
Axel Gomez Turlock, CA 82 79 161
Al Richardson Santa Clara, CA 77 86 163
Dan Avila Turlock, CA 83 82 165
Bill Strahan Burlingame, CA 84 82 166
Matt Mattina Lakeport, CA 86 80 166
Matt Newcomer El Dorado Hills, CA 83 84 167
Dan Gray Patterson, CA 86 81 167
Joe Morais Turlock, CA 80 90 170
Steve Cohen Marina, CA 85 87 172
David Foote Healdsburg, CA 92 83 175
Terry Ulleseit Reno, NV 85 92 177
Randy Ehlers Hughson, CA 76 DNF DNF
Del Hocker San Jose, CA 88 WD WD
* Note: All prize amounts shown are paid in pro-shop gift certificates

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