On a day that didn’t resemble spring coming soon, in high winds and tough course conditions, the city final came down to a 5 footer on the 36th hole that everyone wanted to see going in (well maybe not George). Cory’s 3 consecutive par putt on the last three holes really ended up being the difference in a long hard-fought match that saw the lead change 5 times. Both players at one time held 2 up advantages, but could never further distance themselves.
The putts Cory wasn’t able to convert were not easy at all under such extreme conditions. Cory had just played about 70 holes in just under 22 hours (back to back 36 hole days) and today with the wind whipping at 25-35mph making putting even twice as difficult as normal.
What made this match so great to watch was the way it see-sawed back and forth. Going into the final 9 holes George had a 1 up advantage until he lost 10, 11, and 12 to go 2 down (a tough deficit to overcome with only 6 holes to play). On the 13th hole George left himself a challenging 2nd shot that required some serious skill, from about 185 yards out he rifled a low drawing 3 iron into the wind settling about 18 feet from the pin. Cory having an even tougher shot with over-hanging trees also hit a quality shot 30 feet from the pin. After Cory left his downhill birdie attempt short, George rolled in a beautiful right to left putt again getting him right back into the match.
The 14th hole was playing into a gale force wind, and with the tee at the back tips (about 485 yards away from the green) it seemed a par here would be a very good score. After a piped drive down the middle, George knew he couldn’t reach the green and left himself a 30 yard approach shot which he stuck a foot from the pin for a nice par. Meanwhile, Cory short sided himself in the left bunker and had to settle for a 20 ft par attempt that just missed going in. MATCH BACK TO EVEN- the 15th hole again provided some drama with both approach shots missing the green leaving George the tougher up and in. George’s chip left him a 8 foot downhill par putt, while Cory almost holed his chip shot from short left of the green. George was not able to convert his par putt, letting Cory once again to gain the advantage at 1 up with three to go.
Unfortunately, they had a good 10 minute wait on the tee that I don’t think helped Cory’s momentum. With the tees up, Cory chose a driver off the tee, which I’m not sure he’d hit again given another chance. His drive flared to the right leaving him in the column of trees on the right. Meanwhile, George hit a perfectly placed tee shot down the left side, leaving a great angle to the pin. George’s approach from 95 yards missing the green wide right, leaving a tough up and in, while Cory hit a magnificent shot under the trees that landed on the green and rolled over into the rough just over the green. After George chipped to 10 feet, Cory squeezed a chip inside George by a foot or two. George with great confidence rolled his par putt in the middle of the cup, putting immense pressure back on Cory. This is one of those situations where if you make the putt, you stay 1 up and probably win the match, or if you miss the putt, all the momentum switches and you will need to regroup quickly. Unfortunately, Cory missed the putt and I think at that point he probably lost a little confidence in his putting. The conditions were extremely challenging as well with the wind gusting to over 35mph.
Again, on 17 the wind was howling and George opened the door for Cory with a missed 4 iron into a half buried lie in the right bunker. Cory was unable to take advantage of the mistake and missed the green wide right. After Cory chipped down to about 10 feet, George once again showed us all why he is not only the 2010 SF City Champion, but also the 2009 NCGA Amateur Champion. His shot from the buried lie rolled to gimmie range, leaving Cory another HUGE putt to now stay even in the match. After setting up several times to his putt, he needed to back off as the wind was causing his ball to rock back and forth (not a penalty). After finally settling in his attempt slid low right and George once again had the lead in the match going to the final hole.
The 18th hole was playing big down wind, giving the players many options to consider on this tough finishing hole. George took a safe line towards the fairway bunkers while Cory blasted a monster drive down near Daly/Woods territory leaving approx 100 yards to the middle of the green. After George came off a 3 iron leaving himself about 60 yards to the pin, again Cory was unable to take advantage of the mistake and missed the green right. Most would think this was a bad shot, but under these conditions you’d need to be in the shoes of someone thats had that shot before….I have, and it’s a very very tough situation after the stress of 70+ holes, you’re mentally and physically fatigued, and the wind is howling 35 mph left to right. But that again was a defining moment in the match as Cory was left with a tricky short sided chip that he executed quite well. After George barely missed a 20 footer to win the match, Cory now had this 5 footer to go to sudden death and swing the momentum back to himself perhaps. You all know what happened here as I mentioned at the top of the article. I can tell you that when you fight and battle as hard as Cory did for 4 weeks after being medalist, the feeling of defeat over a missed putt is…well let’s say it feels worse than you can imagine!!
However I must give the fine young man his due…at age 18 Cory McElyea has some serious skills and displayed championship level play throughout the event. It’s extremely tough to win an event as medalist, everyone is gunning for you. Cory if you read this, just know that not many players at age 18 have made the finals of this historic event, and even though it stings like hell now…the next time you’re in a position like this, you will be better prepared to win, and feeling of accomplishment will stick with you forever!!
And finally before I mention a few last words about George, I must make mention about the City Senior final that was contested between two very fine gentlemen that I know and like very much. Herb Jensen outlasted Tony Wilmer in a match that I’m sure both of these great guys enjoyed very much- Congrats to both of you!!
Now one last comment about George, the 2010 City Champ. As those of you know that have read this blog when I mentioned George as my pick to win the event, it wasn’t because he beat me in the round of 16. It’s because George has the extra seasoning and maturing than a lot of these other fantastic young guns. George also beat me in last year’s NCGA amateur in the semi-finals on the 19th hole, which stung badly!!
George went on to defeat Casey Boyns in the final that was another close match. What George has displayed to me, is his ability to focus under extreme pressure. His pre-shot routine never changes, and he never makes decisions quickly without proper thought. Additionally, I can assure you his fine touch is a result of the work he puts into his short game. On the 8th hole today George badly missed his tee shot into the right bunker leaving a 25 yard bunker shot to a back left pin. George pulled a 9 iron and proceeded to hole the shot. Some would say lucky shot, I say skillful shot, a shot I bet George has practiced a time or two. George is yet another great SF City Camp that has perhaps some of the most storied history in amateur golf. Forever George will be included on the trophy with some big names that have made a major impact on the local and national spotlight.
More video clips and pictures will be posted over the next few days, and stayed tuned for some new and interesting interviews coming up later next week with some of the games best instructional minds!