By Robert Gautney
What an extended weekend of local golf we had as Manav Shah stormed back from the largest first-round deficit ever to win the 34th Bakersfield City Championship, and Ruffie Fessler and Neil Bautista earning spots in the U.S. Amateur Championship!
Shah, the former Centennial High star and current UCLA player, shot an opening round of even-par 72 at Sundale CC that left him seven strokes back of Dan Hogan. Hogan, the 58-year-old ageless wonder who won the City title in 1993 and 2000 (at the age of 45) equaled the opening round record of 7-under-par 65.
That score put Hogan in the record books with Bud Ardell (1995), John Balfanz (2007) and Brian Sunker (2011). But it only took Shah nine holes to erase that seven- shot deficit as he smoked the outward nine on Sunday in 6-under 30! An inward nine of 1-under 35 left Shah with a final-round 7-under 65, just a single shot from the final round record 64 shared by Dale Keene (2002) and Brady Baguio (2006).
The comeback bettered the six-shot comeback of Bernie LeBeau in 1985. LeBeau shot a final-round 66 that year to go with an opening 4-over 76 that left him six shots back.
Jack Mulroy was the runner-up to Shah with a pair of 70s and Jeremy Choi was third at 141 (68-73). Nick Vallejo finished fourth at 142 (74-68) and four players -- Tony Denesha, Ruffie Fessler, Ryan Roodzant and Hogan, all finished tied for fifth at 1-under 143.
Rounding out the top 10 at even-par 144 were Neil Bautista, Ron Killmer, Nick Mears and Brian Wells who all tied for 9th.
For Hogan, it was a case of everything working one round and nothing the next. Hogan said his mediocre shots got close and he made some nice putts on Saturday, where as he was all over the place with his tee ball and couldn't make any putts on Sunday. But, despite the disappointing final round of 78, Hogan was still crowned the Senior Champion (6th time in 8 years) and I am sure he walked away knowing he held his own against the young bucks!
Shah's win and ensuing 30 points earned in the Michelob Ultra/Sports Authority Player of the Year Series vaulted him into second place in the standings. He trails the new leader, Denesha, who earned 18 points for his fifth place finish and also placed fifth in the NOR Championship and now has 32 points.
Trailing Shah is Bautista (28), Mulroy (27) and Killmer and Choi with 24 points. Rounding out the top 10 are Vallejo (21), Hogan (20) and Fessler and Roodzant with 18 points each.
The next event on the schedule is the Taft City Amateur at Mifflin-Buena Vista Aug. 24-25. Contact the BV pro shop if you want to play as entries are now being accepted. Entry is $100.
Mario Garcia was the Low Net Senior champion while Vance Manning won the President's Flight with a net 136. Second was Dario Gonzales at 141 and third was Art Medina at 143 in a 3-way card-off.
The tournament also marked the end of the line for Sundale pro Dave Bolar, who has been at the club since 1982 and has been the host of the event for the past 16 years as the head pro. Bolar will be moving to Stockdale CC in the near future.
"It's been a great run and I hope whomever takes it over will continue the great tradition," said Bolar of his pending exit. "It's a great tournament, we help out charity and I think those that play in it look forward to it every year."
Good luck at Stockdale Dave. Job well done!
While Fessler and Bautista may have been disappointed that they didn't win the City tournament, they quickly rebounded the following day at the Bakersfield Country Club.
Playing 36 holes in the U.S. Amateur Sectional, both players had solid opening rounds -- Bautista a 2-under 70 and Fessler a 1-under 71.
Bautista was tied with Roodzant for the lead while Fessler was the only other player under par in the 76-player field. But there were only three qualifying spots up for grabs and a chance to play the historic Country Club of Brookline in Massachusetts in the U.S. Amateur Championship Aug. 12-18.
Fessler shot 70 for a 3-under 141 total and Bautista shot 72 for a 2-under 142 total and then both waited their fortunes.
Only one player managed to come in lower, Takeshi Eno of Japan, who shot a final round 68 (the best of the tournament) and was the medalist at 4-under 140.
Just missing out on the fun was Choi, who shot a final round 69 and finished fifth at 145. He won a 7-way playoff for the second alternate spot. Included in that playoff were local players M.J. Morin and Roodzant. Just missing the playoff was local player Nick Mears at 146.
So, it's off to Brookline, Mass., for Fessler and Bautista as they try to put Bakersfield on the map just like Bhavik Patel did in 2009 when he went all the way to the semi-final round of match-play before his national championship aspirations ended.
Let's hope they play well enough to make the 64-player match-play field. It was cool watching Patel on TV in 2009 (and 2010) and it would be another can't miss should either or both players advance to match-play.
A final word of note on the U.S. Amateur. Shah finished fourth in the Sectional at Fairbanks Ranch CC on July 15 and is the first alternate.
Shah shot 69-75 for a 144 total. Jack Berry from Santa Barbara and Xander Schauffele of San Diego were co-medalists at 139 while Sean Yu of Beaumont was the third and final qualifier at 140. You don't wish bad luck on anyone but it would be cool if Shah could somehow join Fessler and Bautista at Brookline!
Fernandez 14th (Low Am) at Long Beach Open
Former Stockdale High star and current UC Irvine player Pete Fernandez, Jr., was the low amateur in the Long Beach Open this past weekend when he shot 69-66-71-70 for a 12-under 276 total.
Fernandez finished equal 14th overall and was seven shots behind the winner -- Berry Henson from Rancho Mirage. Henson shot 66-64-69-70 and earned $30,000. Fernandez' spot was worth $2,030 for the professionals that tied him.
Former Taft College star and 1994 Kern County Amateur champion Craig Barlow was T-20 at 277 and earned $1,270 as he tries to keep his game afloat waiting for the PGA Senior Tour.
Other players with local ties who competed were Tyler Hurst who shot 216 for three rounds and missed the final round cut and Danny Hoff who also missed the cut after shooting 217. Hurst earned $756.50 and Hoff $754.
Patel misses another cut
Bhavik Patel is going to make it tough on himself. The local professional missed his second straight cut on the Web.com Tour last week in the Boise Open.
Patel is now 38th on the money list with $87,510, but that is $32,000 behind Alexander Rocha who occupies the 25th spot at $117,463. The top 25 after the end of the Web.com Tour season earn playing status on the 2014 PGA Tour.
Patel is in the field for the Mylan Classic on the Southporte CC golf course in Canonsburg, Pa. this week and a top 10 (or better) would do wonders to get Patel back in the hunt for a top 25 quest. Including this week, there are seven events left before the season ending Tour Championship at the end of September.
Manav Shah is in the field for the SCGA Match-Play Championship at the Annandale CC in Pasadena Aug. 5-7. Opening round matches will not be known until after the open qualifying which was Thursday (August1) at Brookside GC in Pasadena.
Two other players have a chance to make it into the field. Jim Seymour in the Seniors Division and Christian Sanders in the Championship Division as both players competed in the open qualifying.
Entries for Taft City Amateur
Entries for the Taft City Amateur which will be played Aug. 24-25 at the Mifflin-Buena Vista golf course in Taft are now being accepted through the Thursday prior to the event.
Entry is $100 and there will be a championship and a handicapped flight. Call the BV pro shop at 661-398-9720 to enter or to get more information.
Updated information (stats, etc.) on local players that are now competing in professional and college golf is always encouraged by Tee to Green as are golf related stories and information you believe that the readers would want to know about. Send the info to the email address listed below and don't forget about those holes-in-one! And thanks in advance!