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Northern California Senior: Funk holds off Wilson in playoff
NCGA Senior champion Robert Funk
NCGA Senior champion Robert Funk

On the eve of the final round of the NCGA Senior Championship, second-round leader Robert Funk spent some of his time chatting with his wife, who was back home in Canyon Lakes.

The conversation focused on Funk’s lead, but also that the 57-year-old hadn’t tasted victory for over two years.

“I told her I’m coming home a winner, or I’m not coming home,” Funk said.

Funk, a member at SoCal-based Bear Creek Golf Club but also an NCGA member through AmateurGolf.com, will indeed be bringing home a title. This time, his first NCGA title. He’d defeat Jeff Wilson on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, winning the first hole (par-4 10th) with a par after Wilson was unable to get up-and-down after his approach shot rolled down into the teeing area of the adjacent 11th hole.

“I’m very excited to win,” said Funk, who finished the championship with a three-day total of 1-under 212. “I haven’t had any major wins in the last two years. It’s validation for me.”

A multiple winner of SCGA events, Funk and Wilson, a member at Green Valley CC, had tangled on the course before. Both of the times Funk has won the SCGA Mid-Amateur, he has dueled with Wilson. The two have also seen each other shine in USGA events. In 2017, Funk was the low amateur at the U.S. Senior Open. A year later, Wilson won the U.S. Senior Amateur.

“Every time I see Jeff, I know I have a chance at competing,” said Funk, who is a third cousin of former PGA Tour star Fred Funk.

This time around, it looked like Wilson was going to turn the tables on Funk. With a clutch birdie on the par-3 11th, Wilson tied Funk. Not much later, following a Wilson birdie on the 14th, Funk, who had led each of the first two rounds, suddenly trailed.

“I knew I just had to keep making birdies. Jeff is such a great player,” Funk said.

Funk, a recovering alcoholic who once completely turned his life around, ended up making a move but by making par. Wilson would stumble with two crucial bogeys on both the 15th and 17th holes. On the 18th, the two were tied. Wilson had a chance to win it but he’d narrowly miss.

“I hung in there about as well as I could today,” said Wilson, who had made up a four-stroke deficit to start the day with a 71. “Robert deserved to win. He played better than I did. If I would’ve won today, it would’ve been a robbery.”

For Funk, the win was also a bit of a redemption in another way. In 2018, he’d lose to eventual winner Jim Knoll after Knoll made a birdie on the 18th.

“I was just trying to not blow up. I didn’t make a lot of putts today,” Funk said. ” Compared to the first two rounds, I wasn’t hitting the ball as well nor putting as well.”

Three players–Jeff Britton, John Pate and Mark Morgan—tied for third at 220.

View results for NCGA Senior

ABOUT THE NCGA Senior

First played in 1962, the NCGA Senior Championship is the association’s premier event for players aged 55 and over. The championship will be 54-holes of stroke play (18 holes per day). After 36 holes, the field will be cut to the low 30 individuals and ties. Pre- qualifying required for non-exempt players. Players must have a handicap index of 7.4 or less.

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