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SF City Championship: 90th Playing Gets Underway

By Lila Hillard, for amateurgolf.com

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA (February 3, 2006) -- Flooding, drenching rains, sloppy mud, windswept skies – this can only mean one thing to the intrepid group who brave the San Francisco City Championship: Golf! When most of us are warm and comfortable inside, this group of the best amateur golfers in Northern California will compete against the elements as well as their opponents.

Today marks the beginning of a month-long event that holds great and grand historical significance. The San Francisco City Golf Championship is celebrating its 90th year and is the longest continually running municipal tournament in the entire United States. Among its illustrious participants have been such golfing greats as Ken Venturi, who won it three times in 1950,1953 and 1956 and George Archer who won it in 1963. Juli (Simpson) Inkster won the Women’s Championship in 1981 and Dorothy Delasin, now on the LPGA Tour, won the Women’s Championship in 1998.

Less well-known but no less determined are the hundreds of amateur golfers who participate in this event. The “City" as this tournament is affectionately known, consists of 4 flights: The Men’s Championship, the Senior Men’s Championship, the Women’s Championship, and an Open Championship. The play starts with qualifying rounds and ends in match play, with matches at both Lincoln Park and Harding Park. The proceeds from the tournament benefit The First Tee Foundation, a non-profit group that teaches golf and life skills to young people.

“The caliber of golf is amazing,” claims Judith Powell, Tournament Director for this event. “The Men’s Championship is the strongest field ever with 96 players having an index of .7 or better and the average index of .9. This is also our strongest women’s field as well with 36 players having an index of 5 or below.”

In charge of the tournament for the third straight year, Powell recalls one of the highlights of last year was “seeing Sally Krueger win her tenth Women’s Championship by outlasting a 14-year-old Christina Hirano in 38 holes.”

The Men’s Championship is the largest field and is open to the first 240 entries. Survivors of today’s pre-qualifying round (results) at Lincoln Park, plus the contestants who met exemption and handicap requirements will play 36 holes of qualifying on February 11-12. The following weekend, the 63 qualifiers plus the defending champ, Michael Wilson, begin a series of match play rounds that run for three weeks, culminating with the finals at Harding Park on the weekend of March 4-5. Powell sees some great younger players such as Will Johnson, Steve Sparolini (the 2004 winner), and Joseph Bramlett, as well as older veterans such as Randy Haag (the 1999 winner), Jim Evans (the 1995 and 1996 winner), and defending champ Michael Wilson as front-runners.

The Senior Men’s Championship is open to the first 120 entrants who will qualify in an 18-hole medal play round on Wednesday February 15. 32 of these players will begin match play starting on Thursday, February 16, with continuing match play on Wednesday and Thursday, February 22-23. Final match play will also be held on March 4-5. The dramas and rivalries start with the qualifying matches, and Powell recalls watching a play-off last year, in the dark.

”Three senior players kept re-playing the par 3 third hole until someone birdied to put themselves into the tournament. They had to replay three times and could barely see the last putt!”

Past winners Earl Stewart and reigning California Senior Amateur champion Bob Olds are sure to be in contention again this year, along with defending champ Robert Thompson.

The Women’s Championship starts with a qualifying round of 18 holes at Harding Park on Saturday, February 18, which will hone the field to the low 15 scores. Defending champion Sally Krueger (who has won in 1978, 1982-4, 1986, 1988, 1996-97, and 2004-5) will be the first seed and round out the field of 16. Match play will take place the weekend of February 24-25 and continue with the final championship match play held on March 4-5. Challenging Sally Krueger for the title this year are the Hirano sisters, Christina and Jennifer, as well as Eva Monesteri (2003 winner), and Christina Stockton, among many others.

The Open championship is open to 256 entrants, who will qualify in a prequalifying round at Lincoln Park on the weekend of February 4-5. The low scorers will be put in various flights and match play brackets depending on their handicaps, culminating the same weekend as the other finals, March 4-5.

Over the next few weeks, amateurgolf.com will follow the trials and successes of these intrepid golfers as they wind their way toward the top of the rankings and to ultimate success in the “City.” As the stories unfold and the drama heightens, the public is welcome to watch the individual rounds. There is no entrance fee at either Lincoln Park or at Harding Park for watching this event. Powell encourages the public to come out and follow the action.

“It would be great to get big crowds out here for the semi-finals and finals. There used to be crowds of thousands of people following in the 1950’s when Ken Venturi played.”

The whole month is great viewing because the depth for an amateur event is really strong, but the highlights will be the semi-finals and finals on Saturday and Sunday, March 4-5, from 7:30 am – 3 pm at Harding Park as well as the Men’s Championship qualifier on Saturday and Sunday, February 11-12, at both Lincoln Park and Harding Park from 7:30 am – 3 pm.

With this wonderful legacy and the expected dramas, anyone can challenge the sometimes inclement weather to walk in the footsteps of golf lore during the San Francisco City Golf Championship and watch firsthand the finest local amateur golfers make their own history.

For specific information on participants, tee times, flights, and location and results of matches, go to the website for the tournament at www.sfcitygolfchampionship.com.

- Lincoln Park is located at 34th Avenue at Clement in San Francisco (phone: 415-221-9911).
- Harding Park is located at Skyline Blvd and Harding Road in San Francisco (phone: 415-664-4690).

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