Randy Haag (NCGA photo)
When Orinda resident Randy Haag
won the 2021 California Senior Amateur, it was like closing the circle. Prior to the victory, the NCGA Hall of Famer had won just about everything except a State Amateur.
Now, the 63-year-old Olympic Club member has two.
Haag carded a final round 3-over 73 and avoided catastrophe on the treacherous par-3 18th to hold off Scott Almquist
and Tim Hogarth
and win the 31st California Senior Amateur at Pasatiempo Golf Club by a stroke. He's the first repeat winner since Jeff Burda in 2009-10 and joins Burda and fellow NCGA Hall of Famer Jim McMurtey as the only players to go back-to-back.
"Last year's win and this year's win are so different. Last year was special because it was my first State title. To do it back-to-back, it's hard for me to believe," said Haag, who finished at 213 (72-68-73).
When Haag arrived at the 18th tee, he held a three-shot lead over Hogarth, who was playing in the same group, and was two ahead of Almquist, who was already in clubhouse at 214 after a 70. Haag's tee shot landed to the left side of the green, leaving him a lengthy birdie putt, while Hogarth knocked his tee shot to within 5 feet of the flagstick.
With the title on the line, Haag's birdie try skimmed past the cup and rolled down into a collection area. He'd take a deep breath and recollect himself, hitting his next putt to within a few feet of the pin, and would eventually make bogey. It was critical, as Hogarth applied extra pressure by making birdie.
"On 18 I couldn't figure out what club to hit. Out on this course, there are so many times that you find yourself trying to two-putt from 15 to 20 feet. That 18th green aged me three years there at the end," Haag said.
For Haag, the win capped a rollercoaster year. Back in the winter, he had two 6-inch screws inserted into a bum left ankle. At the time, his doctor told him he may be able to return to playing in April, but added "probably not very well." Haag would go on to capture his third NCGA Senior Player of the Year title.
"It hasn't been easy. My left foot moves a lot when I swing. So to compensate I'm timing my arms," Haag said.
For Hogarth, it was deja' vu all over again. At last year's championship, he also finished a stroke behind Haag.
Hogarth's chances began to fade after back-to-back bogeys on holes Nos. 15 and 16, the 16th being extremely painful after missing a short putt that would've tied Haag. On the 17th, Hogarth's approach shot hit a mound on the right side of the area of the green and bounded further right. He'd end up with a double-bogey.
"I made a bad swing, and then I ripped my third past the cup. Sooner or later, a lack of knowing what you are doing is going to catch up to you," said Hogarth, who was making his competitive debut at Pasatiempo. "In hindsight, I should've just played for a bogey."
The day started with Haag holding a one-shot lead over Hogarth and a two-shot lead over Jeff Wilson. Hogarth has won over 20 SCGA titles and in 1996 won the now-defunct U.S. Amateur Public Links. Wilson, meanwhile, in 2018 won the U.S. Senior Amateur and has been a USGA medalist nine times. Wilson fell back to a tie for fourth after a 76.
"I look up to Tim and Jeff so much. They're both national champions," Haag said. "I've never seen so much talent around the greens. "I was just trying to not make any mental mistakes."
ABOUT THE California Senior Amateur
The California Senior Amateur Championship began
in the fall of 1992, and is the state championship for
players age 55 and over. The first two tournaments
were played at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. In 1994,
the event was moved to Poppy Hills Golf Course in
Pebble Beach, and in 1995, a simultaneous NCGA vs.
SCGA team portion of the championship was added.
Starting in 2010 this 54-hole stroke play
championship will rotate to selected courses
throughout the state. Players must have an index of
7.4 or less and may attempt to qualify at any
location in the state.
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