MADERA, Calif. (Sept. 18, 2012) -- Spending the majority of his days at Riverbend GC over the past five years, Danny Paniccia found it refreshing to be holding the NCGA Valley Amateur Championship crystal trophy at his place of work Tuesday. After two solid days of play, Paniccia won the 9th Annual NCGA Valley Amateur Championship by a four-stroke margin, posting a two-day total of 141.
Paniccia, a golf shop attendant at Riverbend GC, followed his three-under par 69 on Monday with an even-par 72 on Tuesday, a day where fellow co-leaders Ryan Forst and Mike Stieler faded.
“It’s nice to win [an NCGA major], I have been close and had some chances, but it’s nice to finally come through,” said Paniccia, who finished third at this year’s NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship and lost in the semifinals of the NCGA Amateur Match Play.
The 35 year-old got off to a solid start with a birdie on the opening hole and from there he would make nine straight pars before bogeying the par-5 11th hole. The Clovis resident continued to play steady with six pars over the final eight holes, the only exceptions being a birdie on the par-4 13th and bogey on the par-4 16th.
“I wasn’t as sharp as I was yesterday, but I was just trying to stay focused one shot at time,” he said.
Championship Flight: Danny Paniccia (champion), Steve Wilson, Daniel Butcher and Ryan Forst (co-runner-ups).With the victory, Paniccia finds himself in the middle of a competitive NCGA Player of the Year race with collegiate golfers Ben Geyer and Michael Weaver. The 500 points that will soon come his way will put him only 27 points behind first place leader Geyer, meaning he’ll be in striking distance to overtake the lead with a solid performance at one of the few non-NCGA point events that remain.
“It wasn’t in the cards to start the year, but I’ll take a look at it and see if something fits my schedule,” said Paniccia on whether or not he’ll play in an event over the final two weeks of the points’ season.
Finishing in a three-way tie for second were Daniel Butcher, Steve Wilson and Forst at 145, one-over par. Wilson, who earned the second place medal due to a scorecard playoff, shot the low score of the day in the championship division with a two-under par 70. Butcher followed his one-over par 73 on Monday with a 72 on Tuesday, while Forst struggled to a 76 after an opening round 69.
Fellow co-leader Stieler finished tied for fifth at 146 with Josh Stone and Matt Cohn. Wes Sandroni finished alone in eighth at 147, while defending champion Logan Goulding finished tied for ninth at 148 with Craig Kilcoyne.
Senior Flight: Casey Boyns (runner-up), Jeff Burda (champion) and Mel Collins (runner-up). Not pictured: Gary VanierJeff Burda came away champion of the senior division, after starting the day four strokes off lead. The Modesto resident followed his first round 73 with a two-under par 70 on Tuesday, which included three birdies and one bogey, for a 36-hole total of one-under par 143.
“I was surprised to win, I figured I would need to shoot about a 68,” said Burda. “But you never know, pars can go a long way out here.”
The key stretch for Burda was as he was making the turn, converting birdies on the eighth, 10th and 11th holes. On the par-5 eighth the 59 year-old hit a wedge to four feet for birdie. Then on No. 10, he made a 20-foot birdie putt and followed that with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 11th from 70 feet. His only blemish would come two holes later on the par-4 13th hole where he three-putted for bogey.
Burda, a two-time NCGA Senior champion and a three-time CGA State Senior champion had yet to win a Senior Valley Championship, although he’d come close before losing in a playoff in 2010 at Morgan Creek GCC to Paul Balatti.
“That was in the back of my mind coming into this tournament, so it’s nice to finally check this one off my list,” he said of his first Senior Valley Championship title.
Finishing in a three-way tie for second were Casey Boyns, Mel Collins and Gary Vanier at 145, one-over par. Boyns, who was honored with the runner-up medal via a scorecard playoff, posted an even-par 72, which included three birdies and three bogeys. Collins started the day well back after a first round 76, but he fired the best score among the seniors Tuesday with a three-under par 69. Collins, amazingly made seven birdies on the day, including five over his first eight holes, but he would give some shots back over his final nine taking two bogeys and a double-bogey. Vanier, who had started the day in second place, followed his opening round 71 with a two-over par 74, which included an excruciating double-bogey on the par-4 18th, keeping him out of a potential playoff.
First round leader Doug Johnson struggled in his final round, following his three-under 69 with a seven-over par 79 to finish at 152, tied for 16th place. Defending Senior Valley Champion, Jim Knoll completed 36 holes tied for sixth at 146 two-over par.