It didn’t take long for the brackets to get broken at this week’s annual California Amateur Championship at The Preserve Golf Club in Carmel Valley.
In Wednesday’s opening Round of 32, it ironically was No. 32 seed Tommy Stephenson
who pulled off the big upset, sending medalist and No.1 seed Christian Banke
home via a convincing 5 and 4 win.
Banke, who was coming off back-to-back course record rounds (64, then a 63) during stroke play qualifying, got a dose of his own medicine. Stephenson, a junior at Fresno State who hails from Carlsbad, jumped out to a quick 4-up lead through nine thanks to a front nine score of 30 that included six birdies. After losing the 10th hole to a Stephenson par to fall 5-down, Banke briefly recovered with a win on the 11th to cut the lead back to 4-up. Following two tied holes (Nos. 12 and 13), Stephenson closed things out, posting yet another birdie on the 14th to seal the win.
Each of the other top four seeds got through to the Round of 16, which will be held on Thursday. No. 2 seed Noah Woolsey
, who played at the University of Washington last season, moved on with a 3 and 2 win over No. 31 Finigan Tilly
. Tilly, like Woolsey a former member of the Junior Tour of Northern California, took an early 1-up lead with a win on the fourth hole. But Woolsey shook that off, winning holes 6 through 8 in succession to take a 2-up lead. After making the turn, Woolsey won No. 10 with a birdie and No. 11 with par to give himself a commanding 5-up lead.
, the No. 3 seed, moved on with a 2 and 1 win, as did No. 4 seed Wes Payne
, the runner-up at last year’s NCGA Amateur Championship.
Concord resident Bobby Bucey
, the No. 11 seed and winner of the event in 2018, got a first-round win, knocking off No. 22 Michael Slesinski
Thursday’s Round of 16 action will see a number of interesting matches including Stephenson taking on Alex Chin
. Chin, who plays at the University of San Francisco, was the NCGA’s Player of the Year in 2020. Woolsey will face Matt Cohn
, a multiple NCGA champion whose resume includes wins at the 2016 and 2019 Public Links Championships. Bucey will face Thomas Hutchison
, winner of the 2018 NCGA Amateur.
Friday’s play will see the quarterfinals and semifinals. Saturday’s play will be the 36-hole finale.
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.
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