Notebook: Long live the city; Lang honors a Northeast legend
03 Aug 2018
by Julie Williams of AmateurGolf.com

see also: Bakersfield City Championship, Sundale Country Club, Tim Hogarth Profile

Tim Hogarth (USGA photo)
Tim Hogarth (USGA photo)

There is a picture on Tim Hogarth’s mantle that catches his eye nearly every day. In the picture, Hogarth, now 52, is kneeling beside his Los Angeles City trophy. His father and one of his two sons are by his side.

“That is probably the most emotional, important golf trophy picture that I have,” said Hogarth, who has won the L.A. City eight times.

Hogarth is a public-golf fan to the core. City championship pictures like this one mark the evolution of his life and family – there are trophy pictures featuring his sons as infants and as young men. His late father is another frequent presence. Hogarth remembers him coming to the final round of the L.A. City each year and cashing in Hogarth’s winning pro-shop credit as part of his birthday gift.

“Before I even knew about USGA events, or SCGA events, I knew about the L.A. City,” Hogarth said. “I knew about the Pasadena City tournament because it’s the one that public golfers played in.”

Hogarth won his sixth Pasadena City title last month.

City golf tournaments are filled with stories like Hogarth’s. They’re often some of the first competitive experiences a golfer has. Past champions lists are dotted with legends of the game, or even just players who now frequent college and professional golf. In 2014, before Hogarth’s last title, Sahith Theegala won the event. Theegala is a Pepperdine standout who was a U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist in 2016.

The San Francisco City Championship, the country’s oldest municipal championship, is another example. Ken Venturi, the 1964 U.S. Open champion, and George Archer, the 1969 Masters champion, are among the past winners in an event that dates to 1917. It still draws the best amateurs throughout Northern California.

The Tacoma (Wash.) City Championship has a similarly long history, having been played since 1931, and a similar theory about staging rounds on the city’s best venues. Tournament director Chaz Singletary lists those top venues as Tacoma Country Club, Firecrest Country Club and Oakbrook Country Club.

There are hundreds more city championships around the country, all with their unique draw and a list of regional winners with more than a few names the casual golf fan would recognize. But in many cases, fields are dwindling. Chalk that up to any number of reasons – pace of play, lack of interest, decline in public golf and increase in life commitments.

Hogarth, for one, hopes they never go away.

“These tournaments that are over 100 years old need to be taken care of,” he said.

Hogarth first played the L.A. City Championship as a 15-year-old. He remembers at least 200 players teeing it up – they came from several of the surrounding areas – but has watched the numbers dwindle in subsequent starts. Hogarth attributes that to the decline in public golf in general.

“People look at city tournaments as, ‘It’s a six-hour round, and it’s going to be miserable,’” he said. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

The onus is on tournament officials, who have to enforce an enjoyable pace even if it means sacrificing a day or two of play at a venue to reserve it for the tournament.

In recent years, Hogarth has started a similar streak at the Pasadena City Championship, a tournament he began playing when he was 35 and had become familiar with the venue, Brookside Country Club, through a Tuesday skins game.

Fellow competitors know Hogarth, wherever he plays, as the man who played public golf all the way into the Masters, a tournament start that seemed as unattainable to him in the 1990s as it does to amateur golfers still. Hogarth won the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 1996 (the tournament was discontinued in 2014) and received an invitation to Augusta as a result. At that point in his life, Hogarth knew little about private golf, and spent most of his time at his (still) beloved Van Nuys (Calif.) Golf Course, a par-3 course. Another golfer told him he should play the Public Links, hosted at Wailua (Hawaii) Golf Club that year, and he went into the event not knowing what the prize was at the end.

Now he’s a USGA champion who occupies a major spot in L.A. golf history. He played the U.S. Senior Open as an amateur earlier this summer.

“They know what I’ve won or who I am,” Hogarth said of area golfers, “but at the end of the day, I’m just public golfer Tim who still hits balls at public golf courses, still wears shorts and a t-shirt to play.”

Brady Baguio has a similar affection for his city championship in Bakersfield, Calif. The 32-year-old made up four strokes in the final four holes at Sundale Golf Club to win the Bakersfield City Championship on July 29. It marks his fifth title in the event since first winning in 2005.

Baguio, who now has a career and a family, has played just 10 rounds this year, but always clears a weekend for the Bakersfield City. He was a sophomore in high school the first time he played, and a red-shirt freshman at Cal State-Bakersfield the first time he won. After a brief stint as a professional golfer playing the Pepsi and Canadian tours, it was the first tournament he played when his amateur status was restored.

“It’s the first tournament I won in this town, and it’s the one I want to play the rest of my life,” Baguio said.

His sentiments go to the heart of these events. They’re a connection to public golf, which is at the core of this game.

Eye on Dublin: The World Amateur Team Championships begin late this month in Dublin, Ireland, and teams are already starting to form. Weeks after announcing increased transparency in its national team selection process, the USGA has named Jennifer Kupcho as the first member of the three-woman team that will represent the U.S. in the event.

Kupcho is two months removed from winning the NCAA individual title for Wake Forest. She also was a member of the victorious U.S. Curtis Cup team, going 3-1-1 in the matches at Quaker Ridge.

The USGA’s new team-selection guidelines make Kupcho an automatic selection given her position in the latest World Amateur Golf Ranking, but she’s a fine choice regardless. Most recently, Kupcho opened her Canadian Women’s Amateur title defense with a course-record 64 at Marine Drive Golf Club in Vancouver.

A format we can get behind: When you’ve got a gem like Sand Valley in your state, you find ways to take advantage of it. Kudos to the Wisconsin Golf Association for launching the Wisconsin State Par 3 Championship July 30-31 at the Sandbox, Sand Valley’s short course.

The tournament was open to high school standouts, collegians, amateurs and seniors, and the WSGA reports that the field of 72 players filled quickly.

Bill Feehan Jr., 58, shot 3-under 48 to win.

"I came to that tournament with a resolve that I was going to be brave and take on all of the shots," Feehan Jr. told Wisconsin’s ABC affiliate WISN. "I had a great day putting and made six birdies. It feels great. My dad won over 50 state titles, so growing up as a kid I caddied for him in a lot of those events so it was great to call him up last night and tell him I got a state title."

Pars aren’t going to cut it: Is it just us or has the bar been raised in amateur golf events? Pars, and even birdies, don’t seem to cut it anymore. Leaderboards are tight, and more and more often, it takes something special to win. (Plus, it makes for a better story.)

Alec Dutkowski, who plays for Taylor University, started the final nine holes of the Northern Amateur five shots off the pace. He holed an 8-iron for an albatross at the par-5 10th, followed with four birdies, then won a three-hole aggregate playoff for the title.

Slightly more than your average day’s work on the golf course.

Two days later, Blake Collyer sealed his victory at the W.E. Cole Cotton States by making a hole-in-one at the 15th hole to go 3 up and dormie over Paul Gonzalez. Collyer won on the next hole.

Quote of the week: Here’s to keeping up
“Well, three years ago I was hitting decent for my age but compared to the pros I was like 60 yards behind -- hi, I’m way back here. I had to hit 3-woods onto some greens. There were some holes where I couldn’t even reach it with a 3-wood. So now I think I have a better chance of playing better.”
-Tiffany Kong, low Canadian at the Canadian Women’s Amateur, on an exemption into the CP Canadian Women’s Open. She earned the same exemption three years ago as a 14-year-old.

Winner’s photo of the week: Irish fists of fury
Five questions with…Jack Lang, the Francis Ouimet Memorial winner. Lang will be a senior at Davidson this season as his team looks to defend its Atlantic 10 title.

1. You started with five consecutive birdies in the first round of the Ouimet Memorial. What were you thinking walking to the sixth tee?

To be honest I was just trying really hard to just be happy about it. I recognized that it was something better than usual, I don’t know if I’ve ever started off a round with five birdies in a row. Especially lately, the way I’ve been trying to do things a little bit differently, I’ve just been trying to be a little bit more laid-back and enjoy it, I just wanted to recognize that it was different and cool and great, and that there were still opportunities for me to keep making birdies. I actually had a 105-yard shot into No. 5, and I lipped it out for eagle.

2. This is one of the bigger events you’ve won (Lang also was the Atlantic 10 individual champion in 2017). What does it take to win a major amateur event like this, versus finishing in the top 10 or 15?

It’s a lot of getting lucky on any given week because your putter has to get hot, for one thing. You have to make a lot of putts and generally those mid- to long-range putts have to fall. That’s how it’s been for me. I was good at keeping the ball in play on those weeks and wasn’t wasting any shots that were unnecessary. The stupid mistakes that you make sometimes you can avoid just by playing smart. When you stick to your game plan and avoid those, that’s probably the other aspect that I would throw in there.

3. Looking back at where your game has come since playing three years of NCAA Division I college golf, what’s the biggest change? What has college golf helped you with?

Every junior golfer, especially for me, coming from the Northeast, junior (golf) seems great and it has gotten a lot better than it was in years past, but it doesn’t really emulate the level of play that you see in college, playing against Division I players every tournament. For me, especially freshman year, it was a really big learning curve. Learning that maybe you’re not as good as you once were and you really have to focus in a little bit more and practice a little bit more, a little more motivated to keep up with everyone else. I wouldn’t really say that physically, I’ve become anything different. I still hit all the same shots that I hit before and I hit it about the same distance as when I came into college. You sort of learn that the level of practice and the level of focus is a lot higher. You also sort of learn things about yourself. Like how your game trends some days and how you can use what you learn to translate to lower scores on days they might have been a little bit higher as a junior golfer.

4. Learning to play golf in the Northeast, you have so much golf history and so many good courses at your fingertips.

Since I was 11 or 12, I’ve taken lessons at the Country Club at Brookline, which has all sorts of history – Ryder Cups, U.S. Opens, that’s where Francis Ouimet was from. I was exposed to that really early and very frequently. The New England golf scene isn’t as deep maybe as other golf scenes in the south or on the west coast so as a junior golfer, I was able to play in some of the state amateur events that we had and with all the historic golf courses that we have, if you’re playing high-level tournament golf in the Northeast, then you’re getting to play a lot of them. I’ve been very lucky to play a number of the very high quality courses that are around, especially in Massachusetts, which is loaded with them.

What would you say is your favorite?

That’s hard. I would say that my favorite course in the Northeast that I have played is the Country Club at Brookline. I don’t know if it’s the layout or what, but it has all this history and golf lore about it, which is pretty cool.

5. You’ve mentioned that Francis Ouimet has been a golf idol of yours. What do you find most inspiring about his story or most motivational for you?

I don’t know if he has specifically motivated me, but I like the idea of being someone who people may not pay attention to all the time but someone who works hard behind the scenes and succeeds when moments are big because of the amount of work. I like the idea of being an underdog. I’m not sure if I’m necessarily that way but I’m drawn to being that kind of golfer and that kind of a worker. I watched the movie they made about him (The Greatest Game Ever Played) maybe 10 or 12 times when I was in middle school. I thought it was the coolest thing ever how much of an underdog he was and how great he was in spite of it.

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