Walk-off 70-Foot Putt wins NCGA Senior for Tony Padilla
Tony Padilla holds the NCGA Senior Amateur trophy <br>(NCGA Photo)
Tony Padilla holds the NCGA Senior Amateur trophy
(NCGA Photo)

PEBBLE BEACH, CA (September 28, 2017) - Sacramento resident Tony Padilla slammed the door on any thoughts of a potential playoff.

Stuck in a duel with NCGA legend Randy Haag, Padilla finished with the loudest bang, draining a 70-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th Friday at par-71 Poppy Hills Golf Course to walk away with the title at the annual NCGA Senior Championship. For Padilla, who turned 55 in May, it was his first victory in only two starts as a senior.

“Wow, it feels great,” said Padilla, who finished with a 54-hole total of 3-under 210, edging Haag by one.

Padilla’s good fortune began a hole earlier on the par-4 17th when, trailing Haag by a shot, his approach landed and rolled to within two feet of the flagstick for a birdie. Haag’s birdie putt, meanwhile, lipped out, leaving the two tied headed to the 18th.

On the pivotal 18th, Haag’s drive landed in the fairway bunker, forcing him to lay up. Padilla, meanwhile, was dead center, and took advantage of the position, knocking his second shot on the green. Haag hit a pretty third shot that stopped within seven feet of the pin, but it didn’t matter after Padilla’s heroics.

“When I saw Randy’s shot into the green I had a feeling that I had to make my eagle putt to win. But you’re not really thinking about making it,” Padilla said.

For Haag, it was yet another cruel ending to what has been a cruel stretch. In the Olympic Club member’s last four events–the most recent being The Crump Cup–he’s had at least a share of the lead heading to the 17th hole. He’s gone winless in each of the four events–two of the losses coming when he made a late double-bogey. This time though, it was Padilla’s birdie-eagle finish that did him in.

“At least I like all the guys who ended up winning,” quipped Haag, who shot a final round 70. “I haven’t experienced a run like this in all my years.”

A premonition of things to come had come earlier at the 14th. Trailing by two shots at the time, Padilla appeared headed to at least a bogey as his ball sat just off the green, about 25 feet from the flagstick. He’d save par by making the putt.

“I hit a bad drive on the 14th. That could’ve been a disastrous hole,” Padilla said. “I had a couple of really good breaks today.”

In last year’s final round, Haag also played in the final pairing. He’d get stuck watching eventual winner Casey Boyns make putt after putt.

“Casey made every putt and apologized,” Haag said.

Padilla, a member at Winchester CC, could just be getting started. A fomer mini tour player (including Hogan Tour), he had his amateur status reinstated a year ago. He’s played in other NCGA events, but has mostly competed with the younger corps. At this year’s NCGA Valley Amateur, he’d finish in 10th place.

The decision to have his amateur status reinstated came after his son graduated high school. Prior, Padilla had helped coach his son.

“I found myself sitting at home, getting bored. I was playing golf, but just at my club,” Padilla said. “I figured shoot, I may as well get my amateur status back.”

Just like that, he also now has his first NCGA senior major win.

“So far, it’s a really good start,” Padilla said with a smile.

Fellow Olympic Club members Bruce Hanavan and Mike Staskus finished T-3 at 219 after rounds of 75 and 77, respectively. Hanavan was awarded third place in a card-off.

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First played in 1962, the NCGA Senior Championship is the association’s premier event for players aged 55 and over. The championship will be 54-holes of stroke play (18 holes per day). After 36 holes, the field will be cut to the low 30 individuals and ties. Pre- qualifying required for non-exempt players. Players must have a handicap index of 7.4 or less.

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