STEVINSON, Calif. (March 29, 2009) -- After delivering almost summer like conditions in the opening round on Saturday, Mother Nature bit back on during Sunday’s final round of the California Mid-Amateur, providing players with British Open wind conditions the likes of which many of them had never encountered.
Case in point - Senior Division runner-up Gary Vanier described his two days of playing the seventeenth hole, which is tough enough in calm conditions, with water guarding the entire left side all the way to the green.
“The first day I hit driver sand-wedge there, said Vanier. “On Sunday I hit a good drive, then absolutely flushed a three wood to the front edge of the green.”
Vanier was not alone, Sunday closest-to-the-pin winner Chris Brauner was not shy about admitting he used driver to get to the winning distance of eight feet, four inches on the treacherous sixteenth.
“None of us could remember hitting driver on a par three, and today we did it from 219 yards,” said Brauner, who made the trip in from Austin and knows a thing or two about wind.
Indeed, it was the closing stretch of three holes at Stevinson where tourmanent
Chris Marin was the last man standing in the overall championship, which is comprised of two divisions, Masters and Mid-Am, with both being eligible for the NCGA Points for first place. He was among only four players in the Mid-Am or Masters Divisions to break 80 on Sunday, posting a rock solid 77.
“I knew 77 was going to be a good score today against the field, but I didn't’t know how I stood against the other players down the stretch,” explained Marin, who successfully defended his title from 2008.
Because of the final group’s late tee time, the leading players: Randy Haag (who opened with a stellar 65 on Saturday); Cass Traub (first round 68); Fondiller (70); and Marin (also at 70) got a taste of the wind early.
Marin hit driver-driver-eight iron into the par five first hole, which is normally reachable in two for the longest players. And get this, the eight iron was from 92 yards.
Haag, the well decorated amateur from the Olympic Club, struggled with his putting right from the get-go, realizing his side-saddle style was going to be a burden on a day only T. Boone Pickens would love.
“It was waving all over the place,” said Haag, explaining his putting woes. “With a shorter putter you can hunch over and brace in the wind but with my style I’m facing the hole and my hands are much higher.”
Marin pulled ahead on the back nine, making a key birdie on the fifteenth from 20 feet - “The wind pushed it in, he said” and playing the final three holes in “only” 3-over. (He double bogeyed the scary sixteenth, saved par from 50 yards out on seventeen after nearly hitting in the hazard left, and then barely stayed dry with his drive on eighteen and made a grinding bogey.)
The Senior Division couldn’t have been any closer, with Herb Jensen of Carmichael edging Gary Vanier by a single stroke to take the crystal. Vanier posted a 4-under 68 on Sunday, while Jensen posted a 70. Again it came down to Sunday's windy conditions, as players entered survival mode and Jensen's fantastic 77 was enough to make up three shots on Vanier, who posted a very respectable 80.
The Net Division, saw a small but spirited group of players tough it out on Sunday without a single complaint (all of them finished, as opposed to a couple of handfuls of wd's in the Championship flights).
Michael Carr of San Francisco won out, posting a 155 net total to edge out James Grensted by one and Noel Rush by two. Carr, who is originally from Augusta, Georgia, made up five shots on those players in the final round.
-- Special thanks go out to sponsors Bridgestone Golf, Lamkin Grips, Straight Down, Prize Possessions (awards) and everyone at Stevinson Ranch for the warm hospitality. There is good reason we selected Stevinson Ranch as the home course of amateurgolf.com! To view information on stay and play packages at Stevinson Ranch, visit their website at www.stevinsonranch.com.
-- We would also like to thank coach Jeff Cederlind and the entire Turlock Christian H.S. golf team for providing spotters and caddies for the event. The team raised almost $2000 for their Spring trip to Myrtle Beach thanks to the player and caddie donations and amateurgolf.com's support.
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