Kelly Cup Preview: Mid-ams, seniors face tough test at Lakeside
24 Apr 2019
see also: Kelly Cup Invitational, Lakeside Golf Club, Corby Segal Rankings

Corby Segal won last year's Kelly Cup
Corby Segal won last year's Kelly Cup

By David Ober

Mention The Kelly Cup to anyone who has played it and you get responses like “phenomenal,” “epic,” “mini U.S. Open,” or simply, “the best.”

Played at Lakeside Golf Club in the shadow of Universal Studios in Hollywood, The Kelly Cup was initially contested in 1984. It is named after SCGA Hall of Famer Roger Kelly, one of the nation’s top amateurs in the 1930s and '40s.

There is a senior flight for ages 55 and older. Prizes are awarded in each flight, with all first-place ties broken by sudden-death playoff. Only the top gross 15 players and ties after 36 holes advance to the final day of stroke play to determine the Kelly Cup Champion.

Kelly was an 11-time Lakeside Club Champion and back-to-back California State Amateur Champion. In 1937 he set the record for the largest winning margin in a (36-hole) final match, 12 and 10. The same year, Kelly broke Bobby Jones' 36-hole stroke play record at the U.S. Amateur with a 142 total.

For the Kelly Cup, Lakeside’s superintendent, Robert Hertzing, preps the course as if he were hosting a major championship: thick rough, slick greens running at 13+, and pins tucked and protected. Lakeside plays to a par of 70 and with only two par 5’s (only one of which is reasonably reachable in two), it’s already resistant to scoring. The Kelly Cup setup, though, is another matter entirely. Most years there might be one golfer who manages to break par – in one of the rounds.

The winning 54-hole score virtually every year is over par, even though the field regularly boasts players who have made it deep into USGA events. This year is no exception, as USGA regulars Tim Hogarth, Tyler Crawford, Dan Sullivan, and Corby Segal are in the field. The senior field boasts 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur Champion, Louie Lee, former champion, Michael Turner, as well as Craig Steinberg, one of only three players to win four SCGA Amateur titles.

Nine-time(!) Kelly Cup Champion (and 1997 U.S. Pub Links Champ) Hogarth says it best: “It’s amazing how many of the top mid-ams in the country have played this tournament and Lakeside just doesn’t give up low scores. I believe it’s because this time of the year it’s a little windy and the small greens get really firm and fast. That combination along with some very challenging tee shots makes The Kelly Cup a very difficult tournament to break par in.”

There was some talk last year prior to the tournament that scores would come down, as the course underwent a “restoration and renovation” by Todd Eckenrode’s Origins Golf Design team. Their admirable goal (no less an authority than Dr. Alistair Mackenzie once regarded Lakeside as “one of the world’s greatest golf courses”) was to restore as much of original architect Max Behr’s design as possible – and they did. Trees were removed and greens restored as close as possible to their original sizes. Bunkers were re-shaped and some removed.

For the Kelly Cup, this meant that at least two of the elements (tiny greens and tight driving holes) that have traditionally kept scores high were no longer as much of a factor. Still, though, Lakeside held its own. While 4-handicaps were no longer shooting scores in the 90’s (as was previously the case on many occasions), the top mid-ams still had trouble breaking par. Like just about every year before it, there was just one score in the 60’s. It was a second-round 68 by eventual champion, Corby Segal, who once caddied at Lakeside and now does so on the PGA Tour for Brandon Hagy.

“It means the world to me to have my name on that trophy in the men’s grill not once, but now twice. To be forever a part of the history there is very meaningful to me.”

Starting Friday morning, 196 amateur golfers will be searching for their own meaning at Lakeside. Only one, though, will emerge victorious as The Kelly Cup Champion.


Kelly Cup Logo

Invitational tournament contested in honor of Lakeside Golf Club's finest amateur golfer, Roger Kelly, who was at the top of California amateur golf in the 1930's.

The tournament is flighted by handicap, although every player is eligible to win the overall competition. There is also a senior flight for ages 55 and older. Prizes are awarded in each flight, with all first-place ties broken by sudden-death playoff. Tim Hogarth has captured the title an amazing 9 times.

Host course Lakeside Golf Club is one of Southern California's finest with a long history of competitive golf. Celebrity contestants have included Bing Crosby (who was a club champ) and more recently Justin Timberlake.

View Complete Tournament Information

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