San Francisco City Match Play heads for Championship Weekend
18 Mar 2024
by Pete Wlodkowski of

see also: View results for San Francisco City Championship, TPC Harding Park Golf Course

Nicole Kaminski of San Jose State eyeballs her second shot on No. 1 at Harding Park
Nicole Kaminski of San Jose State eyeballs her second shot on No. 1 at Harding Park

There’s nothing like match play golf on a beautiful day in San Francisco at the country’s longest-running city championship.

Add St. Patrick’s Day to the mix, and you better be wearing green (and hitting greens) if you’re up against tournament medalist Daniel Connolly. 



With the luck of the Irish on his side – and his very Irish dad Martin of Johnny Foley’s Irish House on the bag – the  2016 champion arrived for the first match at 7:20 with the light of the morning sun breaking through the giant trees that line the first fairway. Matthew Almajano of Fremont stayed close to Connoly on the front nine in the morning match; Connolly took a 3-up lead with a birdie on the difficult 14th and closed the match out 3&2 with a couple of pars on Nos. 15 and 16.

But Connolly’s afternoon match against Grant Johnson of Walnut Creek will have to wait until next Saturday morning to see who moves on to the quarters. Johnson – a recent Gonzaga grad who works as a financial analyst in San Francisco – refused to back down all day, even when Connolly took a 1-up lead with a birdie on the par-3 17th. Johnson’s par on the signature 18th hole, which wraps around Lake Merced, tied the match. It was called for darkness after two extra holes.

Former Cal Bear Weston Payne went out strong in a 6&5 victory over Sean Etow of Aptos in the morning but found a tough customer in Nikolai Friedman of Mill Valley in the afternoon. Friedman’s first two matches went to the 18th hole, and one of them required 19 holes. So he wasn’t shocked when his 2-up lead was whittled down to square on No. 18 by Payne, who he defeated with a par on the first hole of sudden death.

Two brothers who advanced to the round of 32 were set to face each other in the afternoon if both won their matches, but it wasn’t to be. Parker Mapes, a junior at Cal Poly, advanced to the round of 16 in his match against Ethan Lien of Cupertino before getting knocked out by Giulio Zanichelli of Parma, Italy, who plays golf at the Academy of Arts in San Francisco. Mape’s younger brother Cooper – a sophomore in high school – was knocked out by a very strong opponent in Papon Sawatyanon of Cal Berkeley. He was generally pleased with his performance in the championship, even though he didn’t get far enough to play his brother.

“I beat him once,” joked the younger Mapes in describing his brother. “But normally, he gives me two [shots] a side.”


Morgan Pittman of Chico played nearly flawless golf in knocking out tournament medalist Nicola Iniakov (Prunedale) 3&2 in the quarterfinals but was defeated there by Erica Villegas of Suisun. Villegas will play Darla May Dela Torre in the first semifinal match on Saturday, while Nicola Kaminski of Los Gatos and Michelle Woo of Fremont will face off on the other side of the bracket. 


Defending champion Randy Haag of Orinda will play Scott Anderson of Bakersfield in the first semifinal match; 2021 champ Andy Gabelman of Carmel will face off against Mark Sanchez of Kentfield in a “battle of the nice guys” on the other side of the bracket. Both players are fun to play with and gracious with their opponents. They are also both playing very steady golf. Said Gabelman:

“I absolutely love this tournament - everything about it.”  


Jim Williams of Orinda will play Ray Kong of San Jose in the first semifinal match on Saturday, while Richard Petit of Menlo Park has Matt Vukicevich of Kenwood (in Sonoma’s famed wine region) in the other match. All three players had solid victories on Sunday in the quarterfinals, with none of their matches going past the 15th hole. Things might be different next weekend.


The committee is delighted to have brought back a women’s senior flight after three years with not enough entrants to make up a bracket.

Medalist Christie Atencio of Reno, who posted 82 at Presidio to finish seven shots clear of her next competitor, is the obvious favorite going into the semifinals, especially after her 6&5 victory over Robin Carew on Saturday. But anything can happen in match play, and Atencio will need to defeat 2020 runner-up Kelly Simpson of Dublin if she wants to advance to the finals. Michele Ross and Lynne Couillard meet up in the other semifinal match.


With so many flights to sift through, we’ll leave it to the reader to go through the various brackets – named for famed players like Julie Inkster and Ken Venturi, who won the championship three times. Medalist Keanu Phillips of Antioch continued his solid play at Presidio and will move on to Harding Park against Ryan Wilson in the top bracket (Venturi).

As all play moves to Harding Park for “Championship Weekend” on March 23 and 24, sincere thanks are owed to everyone at Presidio, which battled a deluge of rain in the weeks leading up to the championship to get their course in playable condition for their portion of the championship. Everyone has been thrilled to see the weather cooperate during March, and Presidio dried out more and more each weekend we played there.


The were a few lopsided matches, some epic comebacks, and more than one match that required extra holes to settle the score. It was exactly what you would expect in the first round of the San Francisco City Championship, except for the weather. A cloudless sky greeted players in the morning, staying around all day.

Here are a few highlights from Saturday’s action:


Ryan Vaughn of San Jose staged the comeback of the day against the steady Clare Langford of Moraga, who was 3-under through 15 holes and enjoying a 2-up advantage in the match. 

“I knew he wasn’t going to make any mistakes, so I had to make birdies,” said Vaughn, who turned things around with back-to-back birdies from the trees on Nos. 15 and 16.

“What a comeback by that kid,” said Langford, paying kudos to his partner and being a good sport in defeat.

Ethan Lien of Cupertino, a junior at Monte Vista H.S., was 5-under in his match against Logan Mills of Atherton. Everything was clicking for Lien, especially the putter. “He was lights out,” said Mills. Lien, a Cal commit, made it to the round of 32 at the U.S. Junior Amateur at Bandon Dunes.


Medalist Nicole Inakov ran into a buzz saw today, as Morgan Pittman of Chico was 3-under through their match and ended her hopes, 

There were lots of fireworks in one foursome, as Maddie Chou made her first-ever ace on the third hole with an 8-iron. Chou went home smiling about the ace despite losing to Sydney Silva, 5 & 3. Perhaps channeling the magic, Darla May Dela Torres holed a sand wedge from 80 yards for eagle two on No. 7. She won her match over long-hitting Gianna Singh, 4 & 3.

Play continues tomorrow at Harding Park, with the first match teeing off at 7:20 am. Spectators are welcome.

Results: San Francisco City Championship
WinCAMikey BurklandAlamo, CA180
Runner-upCAA.J. FitzgeraldSalinas, CA120
SemifinalsCARyan VaughanSan Jose, CA80
SemifinalsCAGiulio ZanichelliSan Francisco, CA80
QuarterfinalsCAGrant JohnsonWalnut Creek, CA50

View full results for San Francisco City Championship

ABOUT THE San Francisco City Championship


*An NCGA Points Tournament*

**New Entry Procedure for 2024: Registration opens for all players on October 1. There will be 50 spots held for exempt players under the following categories:

* The past 10 years of the San Francisco City Golf Champions
* 2023 San Francisco City Men’s Championship Match Play Qualifiers
* Top 20 men’s 2022-2023 NCGA Points Lists
* 2023 NCGA Champions (Amateur, Mid- Amateur, Junior)
* The top 3 finishers in each of the 6 Winter Tour events (Dec 2023-Feb 2024)

Registration for exempt players, and for non- exempt players with a handicap index of 6.4 or lower as of the date of entry, opens on October 1 and will remain open until the field limit (120 players including spots reserved for exempt players) is reached. When the field limit is reached, all additional registrants will be entered in the pre-qualifier at Presidio Golf Club on Friday, March 8, 2024.

Once entries close, if there are any unfilled spots in the Men's Championship (due to fewer than 50 exempt players registering or withdrawals), they will be filled by Pre- Qualifier registrants in the order in which they registered.

Players entering pre-qualifying will pay an entry fee of $165 for the pre-qualifier, and those advancing from the pre-qualifier will pay the remainder of the entry fee (must be paid prior to playing).

The 36-hole match play qualifier will be held March 9-10, 2024, with 18 holes played at TPC Harding Park and 18 holes at Presidio Golf Course for a combined 36-hole qualifying score.

There will be 156 players in the qualifying round with 64 players advancing to match play. When all qualifying has been completed, the Men’s Championship Flight will consist of 64 contestants. In the event of a playoff to qualify for match play, a player must be present in order to retain his right to participate in the playoff.

Match play will begin on March 16, 2024. All match play for the Championship Flight (Mar 16-17, 23-24) will be held at TPC Harding Park.

A schedule of all dates of play can be found on the tournament website

Players needing to withdraw should do so by filling out the form at tact/. Players withdrawing before the entry deadline of February 19 will receive a refund of their entry fee minus $50. There will be no refunds after the entry deadline.

The use of carts is prohibited for players and caddies in the Men’s Championship Flight (Appendix I – Local Rule Applies)


SF City players get 50% off Strackaline Yardage Books! CLICK HERE for details

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. Click the “history” tab for more about this wonderful event.

View Complete Tournament Information

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