Kevin Huff (left) will play Charlie Reiter for the California Amateur title
has made it through four rounds of match play to get to the finals of the California Amateur. But the Fresno State golfer from El Dorado hasn't played the 18th hole since Wednesday's first round of match play.
In one of the highest matches of the championship, Huff was tested Wednesday by a guy with a first name very familiar to the active membership of host club Big Canyon - Tiger. But no, it wasn't the same Tiger who famously shot something in the neighborhood of 61-62 for two rounds at Big Canyon to win a collegiate event for Stanford. This young man is named Tiger Tahvildari
. He's from Santa Ana, and favors bucket hats.
Kevin Huff (Fresno State photo)
Tahvildari birdied the risk-reward par-5 18th to force Huff to tie the match, but Huff was up for the challenge and won on the first hole of sudden death. Huff won his next three matches Thursday and Friday on either the 16th or 17th holes. In this morning's quarterfinal match, he bested one of the pre-tournament favorites from the Northern part of the state, Sam Sommerhauser
of the University of Arizona (Huff's neighbor from the Sacramento suburb of Rocklin) by a margin of 3-and-2. Sommerhauser won the 2021 Northern California Match Play, considered that association's major championship.
That quarterfinal match was no joke. Sommerhauser went out in 33 to Huff's 34, and it wasn't until No. 11 that he flipped the match from 1-down to even. Making pars on the 200-plus yard par-3's on the back nine for wins, and adding a final dagger with a birdie on the 572-yard, par-5 16th gave Huff the victory. (And Huff was 4-under when the match ended, to show you the kind of golf that is being played at this level.)
In the afternoon, Huff enjoyed the same margin over Alexander Yang of Carlsbad, again turning up the heat on the back nine after tying the front. With three birdies and pars on those tough par-3s, Huff was this time the equivalent of 5-under when the match ended on No. 16. He played a total of 32 holes on Friday, in 9-under-par.
Charlie Reiter will be Huff's opponent in Saturday's scheduled 36-hole final. It's a familiar place for Reiter, who lost to Joey Vrzich in the final of the 2020 California State Amateur at Torrey Pines
Charlie Reiter (Conner Penfold of AG photo)
Reiter, from Palm Springs, obviously likes the match play format. He plays for the University of San Diego, and earned some big stage experience in June. He competed in the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass. after qualifying in 2nd position out of 88 contestants in Final Qualifying at The Olympic Club in San Francisco
After defeating 18-year-old Tyler Kowack of San Diego 3-and-2 in the morning, it was up to Reiter to dig deep and continue the curse of the medalist against the No. 1 seed Tony Chen. Chen, who posted a pair of 68's to earn the prestigious honor, was facing a long stretch going back to 2009, the last time a medalist won the State Am, as it's still called by many.
Chen, whose full name is Kuangyu Chen, (Tony for short) gave Reiter everything he had. He briefly took the lead with a birdie on the par-5 second hole, but Reiter would get right back to square with a 2 on the par-3 third.
Reiter would take a 1-up lead to the back-nine, Thanks to a birdie on the par-3 7th hole. Following five straight halves to open the second nine, Reiter got more breathing room, taking a 2-up lead with another birdie on the par-3 15th. Chen, who was looking to become just the third foreign-born player to win the event, rebounded with an eagle 3 on the par-5 16th. But both players made pars on Nos. 17 and 18, ending the match in Reiter's favor.
Reiter has the California Amateur final match experience (and perhaps something to prove) plus recent major championship toughness to his favor. But Huff is also playing some amazing golf, and his birthday is Sunday, July 3. We'll say this one is too close to call. If you are able, come out to Big Canyon to watch and experience a gorgeous private club and two golfers who may be on TV one day.
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.
View Complete Tournament Information