COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (June 2, 2013) — Dean Clapp has been a regular participant in CGA championships over the last 15 years. He's competed in the Match Play, Stroke Play, Mid-Amateur, Mid-Amateur Match Play, Public Links, Four-Ball and the Two-Man Team.
But while he claimed some titles in team events -- four, to be exact, between the Four-Ball and Two-Man -- he couldn't score the breakthrough for an individual championship.
Until Sunday, that is.
Ironically, less than two months before he's planning to move to northern California after 21 years in Colorado, Clapp captured his first CGA individual title on Sunday, winning the Mid-Amateur Match Play Invitational at the Broadmoor Golf Club's Mountain Course in Colorado Springs.
The 40-year-old from Meadow Hills Golf Course took home the individual hardware with a 1-up victory over Charlie Santaularia of CommonGround Golf Course in Sunday afternoon's final.
"I've always been the bridesmaid but never the bride, so to speak," said Clapp (pictured above and below). "Last night I was telling my wife, 'I have a chance to go out with a bang tomorrow. I could end my Colorado golf career with a bang if I can finish it off.' Lo and behold, I pulled it off.
"I'm elated. I finally got the monkey off my back. It wasn't pretty golf coming down the stretch, but somehow I got it done."
Clapp held a 3-up lead after 10 holes, but Santaularia won three in a row to square the match after a 13th-hole birdie from 15 feet. Clapp immediately responded with a 6-foot birdie to retake the lead, but Santaularia knotted it again with a par on 16.
After both players got up and down for par on 17, the 18th hole decided the match. Santaularia's drive on the par-5 rolled about a foot into the deep native grass on the right side of the hole. From there, he could only advance the ball about 40 yards. Then Clapp hit his second shot to the middle of the green, about 60 feet from the hole.
Santaularia's third went over the putting surface, and after Clapp's eagle attempt up and over a hump finished 3 feet from the cup, Santaularia mis-hit his chip and couldn't sink a par putt from the back fringe. He then conceded the match to Clapp.
"It was a tough break (on 18) because I had to choose the option to carry that 60-yard bunker or just lay out, and I had to lay out," said Santaularia, a third-place finisher in the CGA Mid-Amateur stroke play last year.
"It was tough because I had been driving it really well all day and finding the fairways. (Six inches to the left on No. 18), I'd have had a 7-iron in my hand (for a second shot on the par-5). Unfortunately, I didn't have it happen."
Three 3-putts in the final match also cost Santaularia (pictured at left), a 29-year-old from Denver who played college golf at the University of Texas and University of Kansas.
In Sunday morning's semifinals of the event for players 25 and older, Clapp easily defeated Paul Erdman of Colorado National Golf Club, 7 and 5, while Santaularia beat fellow CommonGround golfer Tim Kratz, 2 and 1.
In fact, Clapp had been on quite a roll all weekend before Sunday's final. He won his first three matches of the event 2 and 1, 6 and 5, and 7 and 5. In Sunday morning's semis, he birdied the first four holes and made seven "3s" on the front nine.
Against Santaularia, Clapp opened with a birdie and never trailed, but he wasn't as sharp. He was even par through 10 holes, but went double bogey-bogey on the next two, and it was a dogfight to pull out the victory.
"Was I concerned? Absolutely I was concerned," Clapp said. "But I knew that I could try to grind it out."
Clapp isn't quite done playing competitive golf in Colorado, but he's close. He'll be among the CGA's representatives in Wednesday's Colorado Cup matches against Colorado PGA professionals, and there's a possibility he'll play in next month's CGA Match Play, but the end is near.
"It's really hard because I've been here for 21 years," he said. "This is where I started playing golf. It's going to be hard to leave that, but there's golf courses in California too."
Both Clapp and his wife are from the northern part of California, and his wife has family up and down that state's coast. In addition, Clapp, who is in the kitchen cabinet industry, was offered a regional sales manager job "that was really hard to refuse."
So it's likely they'll be moving in late July or early August. But that doesn't mean that Colorado tournaments have seen the last of Clapp.
"I still have a lot of love for Colorado golf," he said. "It wouldn't surprise me if I came back and played an event. My mom is still here and I've got tons of friends here."
View results for Colorado Mid-Amateur Match Play Championship