by Elizabeth Kricfalusi
, for amateurgolf.com
“Pray for sunshine!” has become the unofficial battle cry for the remainder of the San Francisco City Golf Championship that kicks off the first round of match play this weekend at Harding Park. After the steady rains that pummeled the Men’s qualifying rounds last Saturday and the frigid conditions for Wednesday’s Senior’s qualifiers, Tournament Director Judith Powell talked about the impact these kinds of conditions can have on the players.
“It kind of points out the humbling quality of golf,” she said. “It reminds you that on any given day somebody could be really good and even, at times, the greatest thing going and having a great year. But it just depends on that particular Saturday and how the weather goes that it might not be my day. And I think that that’s something that all golfers kind of like to remember. It makes you want to come out the next weekend thinking that today IS my day.”
Powell, who has been the City Championship’s Tournament Director since January 2004 and who has been golfing competitively since she was 11, went on to say that she was impressed with how the players coped with the situation, especially the senior flight.
“I was standing out there all day yesterday and, by the end of the day, my back was so frozen up. I couldn’t imagine adding 25 years to me and trying to be able to play at that level, but those guys played great. We had a 70 and three 71s… Very impressive. They played the golf course at 6500, so not that much shorter than what was played over the weekend.”
This year’s Men’s Championship field is extremely strong, according to Powell. “We’ve got a great combination of some of the top Northern California point getters and the NCGA point getters—people like Randy Haag and Bob Niger (last year’s runner-up). As well, we’ve got a pretty strong field of some younger kids like Taylor Hobin. And Domingo (Jojola, who tied for low score at Harding in the first round of qualifiers), he’s a great story. The members at Lake Merced were able to give him some sort of hybrid membership so he could go over there and play a lot of golf, recognizing his innate talent and that playing at a first-class facility would really take him to the next level… And then you’ve got Steve Sparolini (last year’s tournament champion) coming back and he’s a great player, so I’m really excited. It will be really good.”
Powell also talked about what makes this tournament, which is also a fundraiser for the San Francisco First Tee program for children, so popular with the competitive amateur golfers year after year. “First, I think it’s a tremendous achievement to win it.. First off, you’ve got to qualify for it… And then I think when you golf, you are pretty much aware of what a feat it is to win five matches in a row and go out there weekend after weekend after weekend… And then there’s the long, rich tradition of the people who’ve won this. To win this, you find yourself in very good company.”
She also praised what she referred to as the “everyman” quality of the tournament, and how competitive even the Open flights are. “I think what’s nice is that you might not be a 4.5 handicap, you might be a 10, but when we did the flights of 32, there were maybe three strokes deciding those flights either way, so they are very competitive in and of themselves… You know, you have that photo on your Web site
(Domingo Jojola and Iose Iulio) where you have a 43-year-old guy playing with an 18-year-old kid, and I think that shows the kind of camaraderie of golf in the truest sense.”
The Women’s Championship qualifying round will also be held on Saturday. Powell talked about how the younger players would benefit by golfing against some of what she termed “the old guard”, such as defending champion Sally Krueger and Eva Monisteri, who are both returning this year.
“It’s just a really great competitive opportunity for them to be able to play side-by-side against a Sally Krueger. Not only because she’s a great golfer, but also for a young woman to see somebody who could have played professional golf and instead chose a career as a physician. So it’s great to realize that all these options are out there in your life and to watch someone who has so gracefully and so successfully been able to do both things at the same time.”
Powell offered some advice for the players in case this weekend’s weather doesn’t improve. “If you can get somebody to caddie for you, instead of just having them carry your bags, have them fore-caddie. With golf and the elements, some days your game is going to be there and some days it isn’t. But what’s frustrating is when you hit a decent shot and, because it’s been raining and so wet out, your golf plugs and you can’t find it. So you’ve got to take a lost-ball penalty and, in match play, that can kind of turn the tide.”
She also recommended that those players who have two sets of club might want to switch from their blades to cavity-backed clubs to help prevent them from catching in the grass.
Last year’s runner-up Bob Niger, from El Dorado Hills, has already started off this season with a bang. The 44-year-old amateurgolf.com points leader, who says that he always does better in the second half of the season, has a 1st, 3rd, and 11th-place finish under his belt so far this year. However, he says he always feels a bit of self-doubt the day before any tournament, so yesterday he took a lesson to help him prepare for the event.
“Hopefully I’m on the right track because, in match play, it’s all about getting off to a good start. So hopefully we’ll get some momentum early and everything will be all right.”
Niger added that he isn’t too concerned about what the weather turns out to be.
“I don’t care what we play in quite honestly, especially in a match-play thing where you know you’re playing on the same hole, at the same time, with the guy you’re playing. So whatever conditions you’ve got, he’s got. Being one of the older guys, I think the bad weather gives some of the older guys a little bit of an edge, just from the mental point of view, where we might have played in more junky weather than some of the younger kids.”
- The match to follow may be Redwood City’s Trent Tessler vs. Brentwood’s Garret Wagner. Both players are in the top ten of the amateurgolf.com tournament points list this year after three events, as well as the top ten of the NCGA points list. Tessler qualified for the City’s match play with a two-day total of 145, three strokes ahead of Wagner. The cut was 150.
- Because there were an uneven number who made the cut, defending champion Stephen Sparolini has a bye in the first round. He will be paired on Sunday morning with the winner of Saturday’s Kevin Kobalter/Jason Stone match.
- 11-year-old Grace Na will be making her first SF City appearance in the Women’s Championship qualifying round.
The Men’s Championship round of 64 tees off at 7:30 a.m. at Harding Park. The Women’s qualifying round begins at 10:30 a.m.
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
players under the following
* The past 10 years of the San Francisco City
* 2023 San Francisco City Men’s
Match Play Qualifiers
* Top 20 men’s 2022-2023 NCGA Points
* 2023 NCGA Champions (Amateur, Mid-
* The top 3 finishers in each of the 6 AmateurGolf.com Winter
(Dec 2023-Feb 2024)
Registration for exempt players, and for non-
players with a handicap index
of 6.4 or lower
as of the date of
entry, opens on October 1 and will
open until the field limit (120 players including
reserved for exempt players)
is reached. When the field limit is reached, all
additional registrants will be entered in
pre-qualifier at Presidio Golf Club on Friday,
Once entries close, if there are any unfilled
the Men's Championship (due to
fewer than 50 exempt players registering
or withdrawals), they will be filled by Pre-
registrants in the order in which
Players entering pre-qualifying will pay an
of $165 for the pre-qualifier, and
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
9-10, 2024, with
18 holes played at TPC Harding Park and 18
Course for a combined 36-hole qualifying
There will be 156 players in the qualifying
64 players advancing to match play. When all
qualifying has been completed, the Men’s
Championship Flight will consist of 64
In the event of a playoff to qualify for
player must be present in order to retain his
to participate in the playoff.
Match play will begin on March 16, 2024. All
match play for the Championship Flight (Mar
23-24) will be held
at TPC Harding Park.
A schedule of all dates of
play can be found on the tournament website
WITHDRAWALS AND REFUND
Players needing to withdraw should do so by
out the form at sfgolfchampionship.com/contact/
the entry deadline of February 19
refund of their entry fee minus
$50. There will be no refunds after the
The use of carts is prohibited for players and
in the Men’s Championship Flight (Appendix I
SPECIAL OFFER TO SF CITY PLAYERS:
players get 50% off Strackaline Yardage Books! CLICK HERE for
ABOUT THE SAN FRANCISCO CITY
The oldest municipal tournament in the USA.
play event with scratch men's, senior men’s,
women's, senior women’s, and open flight
Past champions include Ken Venturi, Harvie
Juli Inkster, Bob Rosburg, George Archer, and
Dorothy Delasin. Some of the “non winners”
Tom Watson and Johnny Miller. Click the
for more about this wonderful event.
View Complete Tournament Information