Eight months after the San Francisco City Championship was postponed due to Covid-19, the tournament extended its tradition as the longest continually-held match play championship. And while playing 36-holes of match play golf on Saturday and Sunday in the Men's Championship may seem like a tall order, the players wouldn't have it any other way.
On Sunday, all divisions will be competing for trophies and their place in tournament lore. But Saturday, especially in the championship division -- with a morning and afternoon opponent to fight to stay alive -- can be tough on the nerves.
Playing the host course of the 2020 PGA Championship (won by Collin Morikawa) on a gorgeous San Francisco day put things into perspective for senior division finalist Andy Gabelman
of Carmel. Winning is always nice, but something about the spirit of the game (and match play) that Gabelman found against Dennis Martin
of Los Angeles made things more fun. Martin, 56, who only became serious about golf 13 years ago, was the fourth-oldest player in the field at this year's U.S. Amateur at Oakmont. His run to the semis was another solid finish.
"This is what the tournament is all about," said Gabelman during his two-hour drive back to Carmel. "Playing against a nice guy who is also a very good player."
Gabelman trailed Martin through seven holes, before winning the par-3 8th to square things up. With both players looking at eagle putts on the par-5 9th, they tied the hole with birdies before Gabelman won Nos. 10 and 11 to go 2-up.
Gabelman, a seasoned competitor with 10 USGA appearances under his belt, hit a sand wedge to 3-feet and made birdie on No. 15, and stayed with his game plan on 16, opting for 3-wood as opposed to the famous driver that Morikawa hit there during his PGA win. Another sand wedge resulted in a birdie, for a 4-and-3 victory over Martin.
Gabelman will play Dean Park of Healdsburg, another golfer with a long commute -- his from the opposite direction of Gabelman. Healdsburg, nestled in the Russian River Valley, is known for its vintage wine and gorgeous scenery. Park defeated a tough opponent in Steve Schroeder to make the finals. Schroeder played in back-to-back U.S. Opens as a professional in 1989 and 1990 and more recently as an amateur advanced to the finals of the 2014 San Francisco City.
In the morning quarterfinals, No. 8 seed Andrew McDonald
(the 49th seed) won his quarterfinal match against No. 49 seed Garett Wagner
, by default. He wouldn't have it so easy in the afternoon semifinal, losing on the first extra hole after the two fought hard all day.
The opposite side of the bracket saw a heavyweight quarterfinal match between two mid-ams: No. 2 seed Amol Mahal
, who played collegiately at UC Santa Barbara, and veteran mid-amateur Jason Anthony
. Mahal defeated the 2018 champion 2-up before winning by a much easier margin (7-and-5) against Drew Bender.
"The San Francisco City is such an amazing tournament," said Anthony, who reached the semifinals of the prestigious Crump Cup in September and lost in a playoff at the Stocker Cup just last month in Carmel. "It's the only other tournament besides the USGA championships that I know of that has a match play field of 64 players. To win six matches to take home the trophy is truly an accomplishment."
Polk and Mahal should have a nice gallery walking the course with them tomorrow as they compete in the scheduled 36-hole final. If you've never been out to watch, we suggest checking it out.
Top-seed Kylee Choi
will meet No. 11 seed Kesaree Rojanapeansatith
in Sunday's final. Both players were big winners on Saturday.
"The City" is a longstanding San Francisco tradition
Choi, ranked 33rd nationally by the AJGA, has been commuting to San Francisco from her home in Murrieta the last two weekends. The southern California native admittedly wasn't very familiar with the San Francisco City Championship but her appreciation of the tournament continues to grow with each trip up and down Interstate 5.
"This is a very fun tournament especially because I love match play, but I was not familiar with The City championship," said Choi. "My parents found this tournament on AmateurGolf.com and decided to play since TPC Harding is also a very nice course, and it would be a great learning experience as well."
SUPER SENIOR DIVISION
of Carmel will face Rob Miller in Sunday's final match after defeating Mike Parnow in today's semifinals, 1-up. Pieper has won four Northern California Golf Association titles, including the NCGA Super Senior Championship in 2019.
Miller, who defeated 75-year-old Ron Johnson in today's semifinal match, served as head men's golf coach for 15 years before retiring at the end of the 2020 season.
In addition to the Championship, Senior, Super Senior, and Women's titles, another seven trophies will be played for tomorrow. The "City" has traditionally offered a bracket for anyone that gets their entry in on time, with divisions named for Bay Area legends like Ken Venturi, Harvey Ward, and Julie Inkster.