Champions Amol Mahal and Kesareee Rojanapeansatith
AmateurGolf.com photo by Jim Young
of San Mateo and former USF golfer Kesaree (Pearl) Rojanapeansatith
won the men’s and women’s divisions of the 105th playing of the San Francisco City Golf Championships on a glorious fall afternoon at TPC Harding Park.
Mahal, a product of Aragon High School who played collegiately at UC Santa Barbara, defeated Justin Polk
of Santa Clara on the 38th hole of a thrilling final while Rojanapeansatith, a native of Thailand who now lives in San Francisco, downed 16-year-old Kylee Choi
of Murrieta, 2 up.
Men's Championship Division
Mahal, the second overall seed in the tournament, found himself two down at the break after Polk birdied the 17th hole and won the 18th with a par. The two-up advantage was the largest either player had in the tightly contested match where the players were never separated by more than one hole for 35 of 38 holes.
Polk could have made things a little more uncomfortable for Mahal if not for the 28-year old's wizardry around the greens.
Facing a two-hole deficit after 19 holes, Mahal hit his tee shot on the par-4 second hole (20th) into the rough of the adjacent fairway. He chopped his second shot out of the trees then pitched his third to five feet and made the putt to halve the hole to remain just two down.
"My short game kept me in the match the entire day and it's something to fall back on when your long game isn't where you want it to be," said Mahal. "Saving par there and getting a half was huge."
Mahal cut Polk’s lead to one with a par on the 21st hole and then drew even with a conceded par on the 24th hole after chipping to within a foot of the cup. Mahal's length off the tee and deft short game were on full display on the short par 4 seventh hole, when he drove to the front of the green and then nearly holed his chip shot but settled for a conceded birdie and a 1 up lead after 25 holes.
Polk slowed Mahal’s momentum with a par on the par-3 eighth hole to even the match.
The two players halved the next six holes before Mahal drained a 50-foot putt on the 33rd hole (15th) to take a 1 up lead.
Matt Venturi (L) and Donna Archer (R) with the champs
"That was a George Archer putt," quipped tournament committee member and former City champion Tom Culligan to Archer's wife, Donna, who watched the final 18 holes along with Matt Venturi, the son of 1964 U.S. Open champion Ken Venturi, who won the City on three occasions.
After both players birdied the short par-4 16th hole (34th), Polk hit his tee shot on the par-3 17th hole to within three feet on the hole and then made the short birdie putt to tie the match. Polk nearly aced the same hole in the morning round.
As the temperature dropped near Lake Merced, the match went to extra holes after the two players settled for bogeys on the par-4 18th.
After Mahal just missed a 10-foot birdie putt to close out the match on the first extra hole, the players marched to the 38th hole of the match, the par-4 second.
Polk seemed to be in the driver’s seat when Mahal pushed his drive to the right and into Harding Park’s unforgiving trees. However, Polk pulled his second shot to the left of the green. Mahal then pulled off the shot of the day when he punched his ball through an opening in the trees with a six-iron through to give himself a 25-foot putt for birdie.
"I had a nice opening," said Mahal, "and it was a fairly basic punch shot with a six-iron. It was a shot I've had before so I was comfortable with it."
Mahal’s birdie putt came to rest less than two feet from the hole and when Polk missed his eight-foot par putt, the San Mateo native tapped in to secure the title.
The two players were never separated by more than two holes the entire day and the match was even for 19 of the 38 holes.
"It's been in my mind to win this tournament for quite a few years but I've fallen short in the past," said Mahal, who recently came up four strokes shy of reaching Stage II of Korn Ferry Tour qualifying. "I'm excited the way my season finished and to cap it off with a win here is really special."
Women's Championship Division
Rojanapeansatith, who graduated from USF in August, twice relinquished three-hole leads in the women’s championship match against Choi but made birdies on holes 16 and 17 to win two up.
After driving to within 30 yards of the green on the par-4 16th (34th hole), Rojanapeansatith nearly holed her second shot but settled for a birdie and a 1 up lead. The par-3 17th played 118 yards into a crosswind and the native of Thailand hit a draw to 15 feet and made the birdie putt to seal the victory.
"It was a real grind for me all day," said Rojanapeansatith. "We both played really well and Kylee had a lot of good looks for birdies and pars."
Even though she played her collegiate golf at nearby USF, Rojanapeansatith had never played TPC Harding Park until she committed to the City a month ago.
"I only played Fleming (nine-hole, par-3 course) and hit balls on the range. It's a great course and is very challenging," said Rojanapeansatith, who will begin playing on the Symetra Tour shortly after the first of the year.
Men's Senior and Super Senior Divisions
Andy Gabelman Andy Gabelman (L) with Frank Pieper
of Carmel defeated Dean Park of Healdsburg to win the senior division while Frank Pieper
of Carmel downed former longtime Santa Clara men’s golf coach Rob Miller
to win the super senior title.
The accomplished duo had some fun with the perpetual trophy on the deck at Harding Park, overlooking the famous 18th hole and Lake Merced.
"We finished way before the girls and guys," said Pieper, the son of legendary California amateur golfer Ernie. "So we were thinking about stealing the trophy!"
No doubt, the two would have brought the trophy back to the club they both play out of in Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula Country Club. Pieper, in addition to winning almost every senior and super senior event in Northern California, has captured the club championship at MPCC in his early 60s, against a much younger field. For Gabelman, a more recent arrival in California from the Chicagoland area, winning such a historical title means everything.
"This is my first California senior major and it mean a lot to me," said Gabelman. "To win a prestigious longstanding amateur event on an iconic traditional golf venue with a great field is magical."
The magic will return in just four months as the tournament takes its usual place on the calendar.
ABOUT THE San Francisco City Championship
The oldest municipal tournament in the USA. Match
play event with scratch men's, senior men’s,
women's, senior women’s, and open flight divisions.
Past champions include Ken Venturi, Harvie
Ward, Juli Inkster, Bob Rosburg, George Archer, and
Dorothy Delasin. Some of the “non winners” include
Tom Watson and Johnny Miller.
36-hole match play qualifier on October
30 and 31, 2021, with
18 holes played at TPC Harding Park and 18 holes at
Lincoln Park Golf
Course for a combined 36-hole qualifying score.
There are 156 players in the qualifying round with
64 players advancing to match play. Match play
starts November 6, 2021. All
match play for the Championship Flight held at
TPC Harding Park.
View Complete Tournament Information