Beck, Wilson claim George C. Thomas titles at L.A. Country Club
2022 GCTI Mid-Amateur champion Evan Beck (LACC photo)
2022 GCTI Mid-Amateur champion Evan Beck (LACC photo)

A year removed from the tournament's largest margin of victory, two recently reinstated amateurs found themselves locked at the top of the George C. Thomas Invitational leaderboard.

It was Evan Beck of Virginia Beach, Va. outlasting Michael Jensen of San Francisco, Calif. on Saturday afternoon at The Los Angeles Country Club, securing the Mid-Amateur title and continuing a hot run since rejoining the amateur circuit.

Beck bagged victories at the Eastern Amateur, Virginia State Open, and Virginia Mid-Amateur, among others in a successful 2021. This year, he finished runner-up to Stewart Hagested at the 2022 George L. Coleman Invitational. At Seminole, on the shores of the Atlantic, Beck made just one birdie on the last day and came up two shy of the two-time U.S. Mid-Amateur champion. Two months later on the opposite coast, just miles from the Pacific, Beck made six birdies in his final round.

“It’s been a lot of fun to compete and be in contention a fair amount,” Beck said. “I’ve met a lot of great guys and seen a lot of old friends playing in these tournaments, as well, which has been awesome.”

A 2-under 68, including a bogey-free back-nine 32, helped catch Jensen in the clubhouse to send the pair back out to the upcoming U.S. Open host for a 3-hole aggregate playoff.

“It’s always nice to win, especially at a historic venue like LACC,” Beck said. “The course is spectacular and it’s going to be really cool to see it next June as the U.S. Open venue.”

It was Hagested who blitzed the field on the North Course last June, winning by nine to one-up Mike McCoy's eight-stroke performance in 2013. McCoy took seventh in the Senior Division this time around, while Hagested traded a title defense for a chance to compete at the Northeast Amateur.

Jensen's return from the professional ranks began a couple of years earlier than Beck, in 2019 when he reached match play at the U.S. Mid-Amateur. Two years later, he won the Stocker Cup in a playoff over Jason Anthony. And at TPC Harding Park in April, he ousted Kyle Dougherty in a 36-hole match-play final for a much-sought-after San Francisco City crown.

He came out on the other side of Saturday's playoff, though, finishing four behind Beck who played holes 1, 2, and 9 at even par. Still, Jensen valiantly rebounded from a tough second round where his 77 turned a two-shot first-round lead into a potentially disappointing showing. His eagle at the par-5 1st, just like Thursday, kickstarted his day en route to a 5-under-par 65.

Day two leader Jeronimo Esteve made four bogeys in his closing seven holes, narrowly missing a chance at the playoff. He finished the 54-hole event at even par, settling for solo third place two ahead of John Sawin and Ben Hayes.

George C. Thomas Invitational Senior Division champion Jeff Wilson. (LACC photo)

Wilson adds to storied resume with two-shot win in Senior Division

Jeff Wilson's seemingly endless list of golf accomplishments is one line longer, one story greater.

A final-round 70 on the esteemed and soon-to-be professionally-tested North Course secured a two-shot win in the tournament's Senior Division. The victory is a meaningful one, as it represents the first success story following a major setback.

"I really hadn't been playing very well since my shoulder surgery where they replaced my entire rotator cuff," Wilson said. "So to win in a pretty strong field, makes me feel pretty good."

The Fairfield, Calif. resident had recently joined Valley Club of Montecito — a decorated Alister MacKenzie track in the foothills of Santa Barbara County. Typical of MacKenzie design, hidden bunkers lie in wait if traveling the opposite direction down a fairway. Having hooked his tee shot onto a different hole, Wilson unknowingly drove his golf cart into one of those disguised sand traps. The damage, among the bumps and bruises, was a broken shoulder in two places.

A December 2020 operation left him unable to play golf until the middle part of 2021 — just in time to quickly prep for a trip to Omaha Country Club for his sixth U.S. Senior Open and 38th USGA championship.

"The only reason I was in a cart that day was because my foot was bothering me," Wilson said.

Wilson, who is one of only two players to ever finish as low-amateur at both the U.S. Open and U.S. Senior Open, shared the first-round lead at 1-under-par 69 with Don DuBois. A tough finish on Friday, going four over his last four, left him two back of the lead heading to the final round. An elusive birdie at the par-5 opening hole was an important way to get things back on the right track.

"This week, I managed myself pretty well, and I putted pretty well. That's a good recipe here," Wilson said.

Wilson's collegiate teammate Mark Sear, the 2019 Senior winner and a member at LACC, drained a 50-plus footer for birdie on the 18th green. With no hole-by-hole live scoring, many spectators and competitors, including Wilson, thought the putt sent the two former University of the Pacific Tigers into a playoff. But Sear had unfortunately made double-bogey on the par-4 17th, meaning his putt instead secured a tie for second place with Robert Gerwin II.

Gerwin had a slim 36-hole lead, but failed to make a birdie until the 17th hole on Saturday. The Cincinnati, Ohio resident tied for second in 2012 in the Mid-Amateur division, as well.

Results: George C. Thomas Invitational
1VAEvan BeckVirginia Beach, VA30070-72-68=210
2CAMichael JensenSan Francisco, CA20068-77-65=210
3FLJeronimo EsteveWindermere, FL10070-66-75=211
T4CAJohn SawinSan Francisco, CA10075-69-69=213
T4FLBen HayesJacksonville, FL10070-70-73=213

View full results for George C. Thomas Invitational

ABOUT THE George C. Thomas Invitational

54-hole stroke play invitational with Mid-Am and Senior divisions is named for George C. Thomas, Jr., the legendary golf course architect who designed the courses for Bel-Air Country Club, The Los Angeles Country Club, Riviera Country Club and others in the 1920s. Thomas was a prominent rose breeder on the East Coast before gaining fame as a golf course designer. Los Angeles Country Club was the host of the 2017 Walker Cup.

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