-- Courtesy NCGA
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (June 19, 2012) – For the past 20 years the NCGA Master Division Championship has eluded Jim Knoll’s grasp. Having finished runner-up four times in the event, Knoll finally broke through and captured his first win firing a 36-hole total of 141, 3-under par. His total was good enough to take a four-shot victory over the nearest competition as Nick Ushijima and Gary Vanier tied for second at 1-over par, 145.
Interestingly enough Knoll’s window of opportunity passed him at one point as the event only accommodated players ages 40 to 54, before the rule was changed after the 2008 tournament season, making him ineligible in 2007 and 2008. Now, just six weeks shy of his 60th birthday, Knoll has become the oldest ever to win the Master Division Championship and first senior player.
“For a while when I turned 54, I never thought I’d be able to play this event again,” he said. “As luck would have it, I made some pars today and snuck in there to win.”
Knoll’s round was an interesting one. Amazingly he made no birdies on the day, yet he did make eagle on the par-5 ninth and only had one blemish, a bogey on the fifth, to go along with 16 pars. His eagle on the ninth proved to be extremely important as he came into the hole tied with first round leader with first round leader Jeff Hoffman, who was 2-over for the day at the time. Knoll piped his drive down the middle of the short par-5 leaving him with a 6-iron left in, which he hit to 15 feet and sank the eagle putt. Hoffman on the other hand struggled on the hole and ended up making a bogey-6, a three shot difference.
“That was a huge swing for me, just to be able to gain momentum and go into the back nine making all pars,” said Knoll.
The Sunnyvale resident has been arguably the hottest NCGA player around having won his fourth NCGA major in the past 15 months and first of 2012. Knoll’s not sure how to explain his recent success as of late, but acknowledges a lot of it has had to do with good ball-striking and putting.
“Maybe this win will spur me on and I’ll be able to compete in the upcoming NCGA majors,” he said.
Runner-up finishers Ushijima and Vanier posted scores of 71 and 72 respectively. Ushijima, who started the day in a tie for 10th place, looked as if he was going to be moving down the leaderboard and not up it as he started with a bogey on the first hole and a double-bogey on the fifth hole. However, after a slow start, the Hillsborough resident went 4-under his final 13 holes with birdies on Nos. six, nine, 14 and 16. Vanier, who started the day in a tie for fifth place, shot even-par with four bogeys and four birdies. His birdies came on holes eight, 10, 16 and 18.
First round leader Jeff Hoffman of Folsom dropped to a tie for fifth place, following yesterday’s 3-under par 69 with a 5-over par 77. Defending champion Darin Lake withdrew after yesterday’s first round score of 7-under 79.