Community Sports

Thursday, Jul 25 2013 09:20 PM

Robert Gautney: Fessler looks to defend Bakersfield Amateur title

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Former Centennial High standout Manav Shah is one of the favorites to win this weekend's Bakersfield City Amateur.

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By BY jeff evans Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

Ruffie Fessler finished a very respectable 14th in the SCGA Amateur Championship last weekend at the San Diego Country Club. This Monday, Fessler will be one of many locals who will compete in U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifying at the Bakersfield Country Club with a spot in the U.S. Amateur Championship at stake.

But before Fessler can think about Monday, he has some other business to attend too. Fessler will be defending his title in the 34th Bakersfield City Amateur Championship at Sundale Country Club this weekend.

“The U.S. Amateur is obviously very important to me because it will be my last opportunity to make it to the U.S. Amateur Championship before I turn professional,” Fessler said on Thursday. “I plan on turning professional shortly after the U.S. Amateur and then work towards PGA Q-School in Palm Springs at the end of the year. But it would be nice to win the City again.”

One of the players trying to dethrone him will be Rich Gilkey, one of three players to finish tied for second, one shot behind Fessler last year.

Last year, Gilkey held a one shot lead with one hole left – the par-5 18th. But Gilkey made a costly bogey while Fessler made birdie to win.

“I’ll give it another shot again this year,” Gilkey said on Thursday. “You can’t dwell on things like that. I had a chance to win and didn’t but that’s all you can ask for is to have a chance.” Gilkey knows the course well, having worked there for many years during high school and college.

Last year, Fessler, who completed his eligibility at Fresno State this spring with an invitation to compete in the NCAA Western Regional, shot a 5-under-par 67 to lead outright and held on with a 73 in the final round for a 4-under-par 140 total. He thinks the winning score will be much lower this time.

“It’s a stronger field,” said Fessler. “I brought a couple of my friends from up north to play in it and Manav Shah is playing this year, so those guys right there make it a tougher field. It might get to eight or nine under.”

Fessler said afterwards he felt bad for Gilkey because he knew how much Gilkey wanted to win the City title, saying that Gilkey played great the whole round except for that last hole.

“I expect both of those guys (Fessler and Gilkey) to be right in the hunt again this year,” says Sundale Head pro Dave Bolar. “They are both terrific players who know this course well and when they are on their game, they can go low. But there are probably 10 guys who could shoot in the 60’s both days.”

Besides Fessler, the only other players in the field who have won a City title are Scott Anderson (2003) and Dan Hogan (1993 and 2000), both of whom are also in the Seniors Flight for players 50-and-over.

“It’s a nice field,” says Bolar. “We have a good mix of some older and middle-aged guys who can still play with a good group of younger college and high school players.” Bolar says about 75 players will compete in the championship flight.

Two players to watch include Shah, the former Centennial High star and UCLA sophomore and Fresno State bound Neil Bautista. Both competed in the SCGA Amateur last weekend. Shah was second after the opening round with a 69 and was equal fourth after 36 holes before fading to 27th. Bautista missed the cut, but won the North of the River Championship last month at Haggerty-North Kern with a 7-under-par 65 in the final round.

The tournament will also be Bolar’s last as the host pro as he will be will be moving to Stockdale Country Club within the next 30 days or so.

“I will definitely miss this tournament,” said Bolar. “When I took it over for Jim 17 years ago (long time pro Kiger who left for Rio Bravo), players wondered how the tournament would be. I think we continued to have a great event and give the players a fair and challenging golf course each summer and I’m sure whoever takes over will continue the tradition. It’s a great event. I believe the best in town.”

Bolar has been at the course for 26 years.

The final group will tee off around noon on Sunday and the public is welcome. There is no charge for admission. Proceeds from the event benefit Child Abuse Prevention (Bakersfield Exchange Club).

Fessler 14th in SCGA Amateur

Ruffie Fessler had a final round best 5-under 67 to vault to a 14th place finish in the SCGA Amateur Championship at the San Diego CC this past weekend. Fessler finished at 1-over 289 for 72 holes.

Manav Shah, a UCLA sophomore, shot an opening 69 and a second round 73 and was equal fourth after 36 holes, but he carded rounds of 77-79 to finish tied for 27th.

Beau Hossler from Mission Viejo won the tournament with rounds of 70-69-71-70 for an 8-under total. He won by three shots over Xander Schauffele from San Diego. Schauffele also finished second last year to Bakersfield Bhavik Patel.

Neil Bautista, who will be entering Fresno State this fall, shot 79-81 and missed the 36-hole cut which was at 7-over 151.

U.S. Amateur Sectional at BCC

At least two, possibly three players will earn a spot into the U.S. Amateur Championship in August when the Bakersfield Country Club hosts a sectional qualifying tournament on Monday.

According to the USGA website, 17 local players will be competing. The U.S. Amateur Championship will be August 12-18 at The Country Club of Brookline in Brookline, MA.

Fernandez, Balfanz, Hogan, Hoff compete in Long Beach Open

Former Stockdale High star and current Irvine junior Pete Fernandez, Jr. is playing in the Long Beach Open this week. Fernandez earned an invitation by winning the Long Beach City Amateur Championship earlier this month.

The $165,000 professional tournament attracts a solid field that will also include local professionals John Balfanz, Bryan Hogan and Danny Hoff.

Hoff won the 2009 Bakersfield City Amateur, Hogan is a two-time kern County Amateur champion and Balfanz won four City titles and three County titles. Fernandez is one of six amateurs in a field that will include former PGA Tour eccentric Mac O’Grady. I’m not sure if O’Grady will be playing right or left-handed or both!

Patel in Boise this week

It’s been a rough stretch for local pro Bhavik Patel. After two top 20 finishes in the middle of June, Patel has finished 54th, 37th and missed the cut in his last three tournaments on the Web.com Tour. Patel shot 75-68 last week in Overland Park, Kansas and missed the cut by two shots.

Patel will look to get back on track as he participates in the Boise Open in Idaho this week (Thursday thru Sunday). Patel is 34th on the money list with eight events remaining until the Web.com Tour Championship in late September.

The top 25 on the money list after the tour championship will earn playing cards for the 2014 PGA Tour season.

Chip shots

Meggan Bunker will be in Arizona on Sunday for a second audition for The Golf Channel’s “Big Break”. If chosen, Bunker will embark to a destination unknown to compete for cash, prizes and a spot in an LPGA Tour event. Bunker will the compete in the PGA Assistant’s Championship qualifier on Monday. Good Luck Meggan!

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!

Tee to Green appears weekly at Bakersfield.com/sports. You can reach Gautney at gautney@att.net

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