Josh McCarthy (NCGA photo)
After Tuesday’s second round of stroke play qualifying, Toby Briggs had a half-joking message for one of his playing partners, eventual No.1 seed-to-be Josh McCarthy.
“I hope I don’t have to face you later,” Briggs told McCarthy.
Ironically, it’s exactly what will happen on Friday at Spyglass Hill. And it will be for all the marbles.
McCarthy, a senior at Pepperdine University, earned his ticket to the 36-hole final via a 2-and-1 semifinals win over No.13 Chase Sienkiewicz. The No.6 seeded Briggs, a junior at University of San Francisco, moved on with a 2-and-1 win over No.26 Nicholas Caputo.
The two will now play for what is considered the NCGA’s biggest prize. Past winners of the Amateur Match Play Championship include Lawson Little Jr., Roger Maltbie and Kevin Sutherland.
“I’m very excited,” said McCarthy, a former Junior Tour of Northern California Player of the Year and the highest-ranked player in the field (No. 97 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking). “This week is a grind, but it should be a grind. It’s an NCGA major.”
Having had to toil to beat No.9 Ian Dahl in the morning quarterfinals, The 22-year-old McCarthy fell 2-down to Sienkiewicz early on. But he’d never get rattled. Following a win on the 6th hole to cut the deficit to one hole, McCartjhy won both holes 8 and 9 to take a 1-up lead. From there, he never looked back.
Thanks to another par win on No.12 and a birdie win on No.13, his lead grew to 3-up. Sienkiewicz, a freshman at Univerisity of Arizona, did win the 15th with a par to cut into the lead, but the pair went on to halve the final three holes. On the 17th. which is playing as a par-3 due to construction on the regular green, McCarthy sealed the deal with a great up and down from about 20 yards off the putting surface.
“Chase played great. He put a lot of pressure on me early,” said McCarthy, who reached the semis of this year’s California Amateur Championship. “I just tried to stay patient and waited for my own moments to hit great shots.”
Having to be even more patient was Briggs. The 19-year-old native of England, who never had teed off at Spyglass Hill prior to this week, has suffered from blisters since Tuesday’s second round.
Briggs would start his day by arriving at the course just 30 minutes before his tee time. Without much warm up time, he quickly fell 4-down to Brian Ma through the first eight holes in the quarterfinals. Briggs would go on to shoot a back-nine 31,closing with a par on the 18th to a Ma bogey, to move on, 1-up.
Later, in his match versus Caputo, Briggs was able to keep things tied until the 12th hole, when Caputo, who plays out of Chico State, made a bogey. The two would halve the next three holes until another pivotal moment occurred on the par-4 16th. There, Briggs looked to be in trouble near the tree that guards the right portion of the fairway. He’d knock a beautiful approach to within 10 feet of the flagstick, however, to put himself in prime position for a par. Caputo, meanwhile, pulled his second shot into the greenside bunker. On his bunker shot, Caputo skulled it through the green.
Holding a 2-up lead, Briggs would make a sand save on the 17th to match pars with Caputo and close out the match.
“I think we were both starting to tire there at the end,” said Briggs, who was recruited to come to USF. “I just wanted to make sure that my bad shots weren’t dreadful.”
With the potential for another 36 holes on the docket, Briggs had planned to rest his feet. He was also hoping to get some help on the bag from a caddie, perhaps his friend Jalen.
“I’m just taking this one day at a time, one hole at a time,” Briggs said. “Everyone I’ve played has been superb. I just need to get my feet able to handle it.”
ABOUT THE NCGA Match Play
The oldest of the NCGA’s major events, the Amateur
Match Play Championship, dates back to 1903 when
was first played at San Rafael GC. Varying formats
been used over the 100+ years of competition but
the tournament is 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying,
followed by a 32-person seeded match play bracket.
Pre-qualifying required for non-exempt players.
must have a handicap index of 5.4 or less.
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