Stephen Hale (SCGA photo)
Former Cal-Berkeley standout Stephen Hale took home medalist honors as the medal play portion of the California Amateur concluded on Tuesday.
Hale, who opened with the 6-under 66 on the North Course yesterday and shot 71 on the more difficult South today, will be the No.1 seed when match play begins Wednesday at Torrey Pines GC.
Hale, who attempted a professional career but then regained his amateur status, finished stroke play qualifying with a 36-hole total of 7-under par 137.
Hale told AmateurGolf.com that the round on the South Course "was a bit of a struggle early" but that he grinded out the round without thinking about whether he could come out on top of qualifying.
"I had no thoughts about [being] medalist all day," said Hale. "I just wanted to get into the match play round and give myself a chance. It's a huge bonus to be the medalist."
Five players, including NorCal’s Mikey Slesinski, defending NCGA Amateur champion Josh McCarthy and Matt Cohn, along with Southern Cal golfers Anthony Truong (Irvine) and Torrey Edwards (Long Beach), finished tied for second at 138.
And the odds of a Southern California player winning got a little better going into match play; 22 of the qualifiers are from Southern California, while only 10 NorCal players made the cut, which came at 2-under 142.
ROUND ONE SUMMARY
On a perfect day for scoring, the medal play portion of the 109th California Amateur teed off today at both the North and South Courses of Torrey Pines.
And one of them, if he wins, might add a second R to his first name.
That would be Torey Edwards, of Long Beach, a former mini-tour journeyman who blistered his way around the host course of the U.S. Open with a 6-under 66.
Edwards, who won the 2019 Long Beach City Championship and owns the course record of 58 at Long Beach's Recreation Park, is in great shape heading over to the North tomorrow, as the South is considered 2-3 shots harder than the North.
After three straight pars to start and a birdie on a hole we featured in our preview (the cliffside fourth) Edwards found some magic as he turned to the back nine. He went 4-under on Nos. 8-10 thanks to a birdie on No. 8 (a par-3), an eagle on the par-5 9th, and another birdie at the 10th to start his back nine.
Although he took a bogey on No. 12, anyone that has played the South can tell you that it plays almost like a par-5 and he didn't give anything back to the field there. Bouncing back with a birdie on the par-5 13th and adding another to finish on the 18th led to the low score of the day by two shots on the South for Edwards.
He played the par-5 holes in 4-under, only failing to make birdie on No. 6 but making that up with his eagle on No. 9. They are the secret to scoring on the South, especially for long hitters on warm days like today.
Edwards was humble in describing his length when describing his eagle on No. 9.
"I used to be very long," said Edwards over email. "Now all these youngsters kill it. I still consider myself one of the longer hitters. I hit Driver, 3 wood from 280 on 9. It stopped 7 feet away and I was able to make that."
Edwards went on to say that he was very pleased to shoot 66 on a course as hard as the South, and beyond the length credited the position he was in off the tee with his ability to attack flags.
"It’s a long ball hitters golf course but very tough to score on from the rough," he explained. "i was able to put the ball in positions that allowed me to be aggressive into the greens."
Just as Tiger Woods dominated the South for years with his length and iron prowess (and he could putt a little), a player like Edwards will be tough to beat in match play.
Edwards is not alone at 6-under, however.
Stephen Hale of Bakersfield, a former Cal Berkeley golfer, went to work early on the North Course. Teeing off at 7:05, Hale attacked the vulnerable North Course with a quick birdie on the first hole. But the dogleg left fourth grabbed a shot back from him, but that was all it could do to fight back as Hale birdied back-to-back on Nos. 6 and 7 (both par-4s).
Hale, another reinstated amateur who toiled for a while on the mini tours -- playing as far away as Ecuador -- birdied consecutive holes again at the par-5 9th and 10th holes, and did it one more time on Nos. 16 and 17.
"I took advantage of the par 5s and wedge [approach shots]," Hale told AmateurGolf.com via text.
"I didn’t do anything crazy just struck it nice and kept it in the right spots," he continued. "The course was in great shape and the SCGA did a great job setting it up. You can get to a lot of the pins but if you are a little off it leaves you in tricky spots."
In assessing the round shot by his co-leader Edwards on the South, Hale was pretty straightforward.
"I have to think Torey’s round on the South was awesome."
As for the depth of the field, consider this-- a full 40-plus players (almost a third of those who teed off) posted a red number today.
The second round goes off tomorrow, with players flipping courses. No spectators will be allowed again, but starting with Wednesday's round-of-32 in match play the public can enjoy the gorgeous views of Torrey Pines.
Or is it Torey Pines?
ABOUT THE California Amateur
The Championship is open to amateur golfers
who have established current indexes of 4.4
and are members in good standing of the
Southern California Golf Association, the
Northern California Golf Association, or the
Public Links Golf Association of Southern
California. Nonexempt players must qualify. An
entrant may play in only one qualifying event,
belongs to clubs in both Southern California
and Northern California. The 18-hole
rounds will determine the qualifiers.
The championship field will play 36 holes of
qualifying at a Northern or Southern California
Location, with the low 32 golfers from that
combined field moving on to match play (with
playoff, if necessary, to determine the final
Two rounds each of 18-hole match play will
follow on Thursday and Friday and the 36-hole
final match will be on Saturday.
The location will rotate yearly between
Northern and Southern California locations.
View Complete Tournament Information