Man behind the mask - Weston Payne shows his smile (briefly)
after his post-round interview
Rain at weddings is said to be good luck. But for the first round at a new host venue for one of our most important events?
We prefer sunshine.
And that's exactly what we got for our maiden voyage around the wonderful Baylands Golf Links in Palo Alto. That California sunshine, combined with perfect greens, a very fair setup, and five reachable par-5s opened the door for a special round.
"Looking at the course, there's five par-5s and a fairly reachable par-4," said Payne. "I took care of all of those holes -- birdied all six of them -- and added a few more birdies."
The commercial real estate broker made it sound easy. But the difference between a flawless 9-under round and the other 11 rounds in the 60's today is that Payne never took his foot off the gas pedal. All the way to a key up-and-down for a final birdie on No. 9, his last.
He's a reinstated amateur who is not afraid to go low, as evidenced by his second round of 64 at Del Monte in December at the AG Christmas Classic. (He made up five strokes on leader Joshua Lim forcing a playoff, but was thwarted by a tree on the first playoff hole.)
This time, Payne is the man being chased.
Former Univ. of the Pacific golfer Beau Forest and Ethan Ashbrook -- one of the St. Mary's Univ. golf team members using the tournament as a spring season warmup and qualifier -- are three back at 66, while Shane Muldowney of UC Davis and defending champion Blake Hathcoat are at 5-under 67.
Muldowney had a highlight real shot at No. 2, his 11th hole, holing out for eagle on the par-4 with a sand wedge from 95 yards. He reached 7-under on the day with another birdie on the next hole, before giving up a couple of shots back coming in.
SENIOR and NET DIVSIONS
"Young senior" Dan O'Connor, 54, is out to a 5-shot lead over Jay Weiss in the Senior division with a 6-under 66, that included eight magical trips to birdie land. The Olympic Club member has been working on his game, and it's paying off. He credited a hot putter, and a new "mini Matthew Wolff" swing trigger.
"One of my problems has been getting too static over the ball,” said O’Connor, an Irishman that now calls San Francisco home. “My coach at the Olympic Club, Richard Sheridan, gave me a great key, to do a little pivot to the left side before taking it back. It's really freed me up.”
Sweet-swinging Jim Knoll of Sunnyvale paces the Super-Seniors after an even par 72. Michael Wishart birdied the last three holes to shoot 74, while Tom O'Grady, Tom Lyons, and Rocky Wolf all shot 77. Nobody broke their age today, but on Sunday, the potential is there. Just saying.
Roman Slepica, an 8-handicap player from Oakland who plays out of Metropolitan Golf Links leads the Net division at 77.
The final round is Sunday, January 10. Due to local Covid-19 protocols, no spectators or caddies are permitted. But you may follow the action by downloading the Golf Genius app and using the links on the AmateurGolf.com Tour page.
ABOUT THE AGC Silicon Valley Amateur
The Silicon Valley Amateur is the first
tournament to have, on its past winner's list, a
champion. That would be Collin Morikawa, who won
2016 title. Just over 4 years later, he won the PGA
Championship just up the road at TPC Harding Park
2021 marked the announcement of Baylands Golf
Links as the tournament's new host venue. And wow,
did players enjoy it. It's
location in Palo Alto is fitting -- as the original garage
where Hewlett Packard was founded is located there,
and today's biggest tech companies dot the area
like the Canadian Geese on the fairways and
near Baylands in the winter. Like
Corica Park in Alameda, Baylands was recently
completely redesigned as a new course from the dirt
up, under the hand of architect Forrest Richardson,
the results are stunning.
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