Brady Exber (R) and Ben Sawaia (SNGA photo)
LAS VEGAS, NV (March 11, 2018) - It was youth vs. experience in the 2018 Summerlin Amateur Championship and experience won. Brady Exber, a 9-time SNGA Player of the Year, beat Ben Sawaia , a junior at Coronado High School and future UNLV player, with a birdie on the first playoff hole to win the Championship Division. Gary Carpendale (Senior) and John Garrett (Silver) also won gross division titles. Net titles went to Jeffrey Gilliame, Chris Boyer (Senior) and Al Kueker (Silver). — By Bill Bowman, Las Vegas Golf Insider staff.
The tournament was played March 10-11 at two of the three Golf Summerlin courses, Highland Falls and Palm Valley.
For Exber, it was a win he won’t soon forget.
“Let me tell you, you’ll be hearing a lot about Ben in the future,” Exber said. “He’s a player.”
The two each fired 67s in the opening day to share the lead.
Exber started the final tournament day with a double bogey on the first hole while Sawaia posted an eagle. But after Exber birdied two of the next three holes while Sawaia stumbled on the fifth hole, things were tight.
“After I made those two birdies it kind of settled me down and it was on,” Exber said. “It was some really good golf today.”
The second-place finish was Sawaia’s best effort in an SNGA event.
“It felt great playing with Brady,” Sawaia said. “I putted real well the first day but the second day it was a little rougher. My iron and wedge play were good but I had a lot of two putts. But overall I’m happy with the way I played. I was happy to back up a good first round with a solid second round.”
Exber said wins are always special. “With me, you just never know when the last time you’ll win a golf tournament will be,” he said.
Exber also said the golf site also was an edge for him. “After all, we are playing in Sun City, a retirement community,” the soon-to-be 62-year-old Exber said with a laugh. “I’m probably much more comfortable in a retirement community than Ben is.”
Jeff Gilliame made it two straight SNGA titles with a one-stroke victory in the Net Division.
“I just hung in there today,” he said. “My 5-wood was my savior. It kept me out of trouble as the course isn’t that long so I could use it a lot.”
Gilliame held off a hard-charging Nate Ross. “It was definitely a battle down to the last hole with my buddy, Nate,” Gilliame said. “I made a couple of nice par saves on two of the last three holes. I bogeyed the last but it was still good enough to win it.”
Carpendale used an eagle on the par-5 11th hole at Palm Valley en route to a two-stroke victory. Carpendale’s one-under-par 71 on Sunday was the division’s only under-par round over the two days.
“I hit it horrible the first day,” Carpendale said. “And I didn’t hit it well the first nine (Sunday). I finally started hitting the driver better on the back nine and the eagle really jump-started me. I had a couple of other birdie putts on the back but only managed to make one.”
Carpendale hit driver, rifled a 7-iron to about 10 feet and then made the putt for his first SNGA win in 2018 after three victories in 2017.
“It’s a lot easier to go home when you finish up playing well,” he said. “I was just hanging around in case there was a playoff but then they told me it was good enough.”
Chris Boyer breezed to an 11-shot victory in the Senior Net race. Boyer carded rounds of 70-71—141.
“I’m happy to be in the winner’s circle again,” said Boyer, who won the state senior net crown in 2017. “It’s my first tournament back this year. I’ve been practicing a lot and that paid off.”
He added his driver and putter were the key. “I drove it well but my irons and chipping were off,” he said. “My putter bailed me out on a lot of holes.”
Garrett put together a 6-under-par round on Sunday to rally for a four-stroke victory in the Silver Gross division. Garrett’s round included five birdies and an eagle. He came into the final round five shots back.
“I just got lucky and hit a few good shots and made a few putts,” he said with a laugh.
Garrett, who posted his first SNGA win of 2018 but has past Senior and Silver division titles to his name, said the opening round didn’t leave him with many positive thoughts.
“(Saturday) I was pull hooking and pushing everything,” he said. “I was all over the place…I couldn’t hit a tee shot and then I’d three putt. I threw away seven or eight shots.”
Sunday was a different story.
“The key was the eagle I made on eight,” he said. “I was two under and that got me to four under. I’ve seen it plenty of times that once players start making putts, there’s nothing you can do and I made a bunch of 15 footers.”
Al Kueker summed up his Silver Net title succinctly. “Today I finally made some putts,” he said after his two-shot victory over Tom Richardson. It was Kueker’s second straight Silver Net title.
He said the putting the first day was a big problem.
“I hit the ball real well,” he said. “I didn’t miss a fairway either day and hit good irons. But (Saturday) I had 37 putts and today I had 30 putts so I did finally putt pretty well.”
He added he did struggle at the end. “I finished bogey, par, bogey so I didn’t stay with it and finish the way I would have liked,” he said.
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