Matt Cohn gets his NCGA PubLinks Championship
Matt Cohn during his title winning round <br>(NCGA Photo)</br>
Matt Cohn during his title winning round
(NCGA Photo)

SEASIDE, CA (April 26, 2016) - After a few years of watching cohorts Bobby Bucey, Robby Salomon and pal Nick Moore win, San Francisco resident Matt Cohn kept wondering when his turn would come.

“It wasn’t on the back of my mind. It was on the front of my mind,” Cohn said. “I consider those guys my peers.”

For the 35-year-old Cohn, the wait is over.

The runner-up to Maverick McNealy at last year’s NCGA Amateur Match Play Championship, Cohn sank a 5-foot putt for par on the first hole of a sudden death playoff Tuesday at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course to beat Brian Helton and win the 51st annual NCGA Public Links Championship. Not only was it Cohn’s first NCGA win, it was his first victory since the 2013 Santa Clara County Amateur.

“This has to be my biggest win,” said a relieved Cohn. “It’s relief, but it’s happier than that. It’s been on my mind for a long time.”

After opening his round with two straight bogeys, it appeared early on that Cohn would only go backwards. Instead, he’d play his next 12 holes at 1- under thanks in part to back-to-back birdies on the par-5 9th and 10th. On No.9, he’d knock his 3-wood approach to within 12 feet leading to a tap-in birdie.

There was also a great up-and-down par on the 14th, where after coming up short of the green, he’d bump a 6-iron from 70 feet away to within 4 feet of the flagstick.

“Those were the important holes,” said Cohn, who finished with a 74 to come in at 147 and tie Helton after regulation. “I knew coming into the day that things could change quickly.”

While Cohn did his part to hang in there, Helton saw a three-shot lead evaporate. A day after a brilliant 70 in the wind at Bayonet GC, the 39-year-old former UC Santa Barbara star slogged his way to a front-nine 41. It wouldn’t get any easier from there, as Helton went 1-over on his back-nine after carding a double- bogey on the 16th. His saving grace, and what got him into the playoff with Cohn, was a crucial birdie on the 18th for a 77.

In the playoff (hole No.1), however, Helton mishit his second shot, leaving him 35 yards from the green. His third shot then checked too soon on the green, leaving him a 17-footer for par. That too missed, leaving Cohn to calmly sink the winner.

“I chunked it. There’s no other way to say it,” said Helton of his approach shot. “I was like a newborn pup out there today. I was fortunate to be in a playoff.”

A former pro who competed for two years on the Hooters Tour (2001-2002), Helton got his amateur status back in 2011. He’d abandon his pro quest due to family obligations and “just not playing enough.” Having recently moved to Shandon outside of Paso Robles, the Public Links was not only Helton’s NCGA debut, but also his first competitive event since last year’s Paso Robles City Championship, which he won.

“I’d taken some years off. Once my kids got older, I started playing more again,” Helton said. “I plan on playing as many NCGA events as I can. I’m looking forward to doing it again. You have to re-learn these things. I’ll handle myself better next time.”

For Cohn, who was playing in his first event of the season, the win hopefully will act as a kick-starter for the rest of the season. He’ll next compete in the NCGA Four-Ball Championship with Moore. Then he’ll play in a U.S. Open qualifier at Pasatiempo GC before heading to New York with Moore to play in the U.S. Amateur Four- Ball at Winged Foot. The pair got into the championship as alternates.

Moore, who won last year’s Public Links and nearly joined the duo in a playoff after carding a day-low 71 to finish at 148, stuck around to watch Cohn make his winning putt. Following the win, he was one of the first to congratulate Cohn.

“Welcome to the club,” Moore said.

Results: NCGA PubLinks
1CAMatt CohnSan Francisco, CA15073-74=147
2CABrian HeltonLos Osos, CA10070-77=147
3CANick MooreSeaside, CA5077-71=148
T4CAZachary SolomonCarmichael, CA5077-72=149
T4CABen PetersRedwood City, CA5075-74=149

View full results for NCGA PubLinks


The NCGA Public Links Championship began in 1966 at Spyglass Hill and is the premier event for the public-course player. The tournament has always included a championship flight for players with handicap indexes of 5.4 or less and two handicap divisions for players with no handicap limit. Contestants must be bona fide public course players who do not hold playing privileges in any course from which the general public is excluded.

View Complete Tournament Information

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