California Mid-Am ends in sudden death playoff as Noto defeats Haag

My congratulations go out to Kevin Noto who shot an amazing 66 in the first round of the California Mid Amateur at Stevinson Ranch, taking a whopping 7 shot lead into the final round. The course played extremely tough as host George Kelley had the greens rolling at Augusta like speeds of 13-14 on the stint. The pin placements combined with the speed of the greens made putting a serious challenge during both of these beautiful days at Stevinson Ranch.

For those of you not familiar with Stevinson Ranch….it’s truly the crown jewel of the Valley, and rated I believe the 5th best public course in the country. The thing about this course is it’s VERY difficult to string two good rounds together. Last years event was quite unique as we went from perfect conditions on Sat, to a wind storm on Sunday. After a career best 65…the next day was a disaster with 50+mph winds causing all kind of problems leading to an 83 and another second place finish.

What I really love about this event at Stevinson Ranch is most of us stay at the cottages right at the course. We all congregate and either eat at the course (the food is great!!) or we  eat at one of the two places in Stevinson- the Mexican place or the Stevinson Bar and Grill. If you happen to go to the Mexican place and order George’s special, you will be shocked to see a Burrito the size of a magazine on you’re plate….my good pal Tom Hitchcock ordered one of these beasts and I must admit it was the first time I’ve ever seen food left on Tom’s plate. The food was quite good, and after dinner we hit the other “hot spot” the  Stevinson Bar and Grill.

Now this is a real bar… When we entered I noticed my lifelong pal Paul Davis sitting at the bar with Bill Sibert (all the way from MI) on Paul’s plate was the largest burger and other high fat foods I’d seen in quite some time. As more of the tournament players arrived the noise and tempo of the evening picked up!


Yes I responded to my good friend and best ball partner Darryl Donovan, who yelled over to me “hey Randy does that bell above you work” without hesitation I reached over my head and rang this silly bell. OMG……..the sound of the cheers from the bar was deafening…as I was told by the bartender that I had just bought the ENTIRE population in the bar (half of Stevinson) a DRINK….After being laughed at and ridiculed, I finally realized that this was NO JOKE as the two bartenders we’re feverishly preparing drinks for everyone in the place.

I couldn’t imagine how I could have been tricked by such dear friends…..oh yeah..they got me good!!!

I was prepared for the colossal bill, and trying to figure out what credit card still had enough credit to handle this whopper, when the bartender said “don’t worry this isn’t like we charge SF prices for drinks here” well…what does that mean. When all was tallied up I OWED………$58.00…..OMG that’s 5 drinks in SF..But here they poured 25+ drinks in a wonderful bar in Stevinson called the Stevinson Bar & Grill…..check it out!!!

Okay back to the golf, after being 8 shots back I didn’t think it was impossible to make a come back…my playing partner Jerry Ledzinski eagled the first hole and quickly shaved two shots off the lead. After the front nine though Jerry and I were still 6 and 8 shots back of Kevin. The crazy thing about Stevinson Ranch though is the back nine can produce some serious pain trying to get into the “barn” so to speak. The 15-18th holes all have water and trouble waiting for a nervous swing to cause havoc in your finish.

Jerry and I had marvelous back nines.   I made birdies at #11, #15 and #16 and Jerry at #11, #15, #17 and #18 for a very fine 32. We started the day even so after I was 2 up on the front…Jerry was 1 back of me at the finish.  He played a VERY solid round of golf and shot a beautiful 69 on the day.

After I birdies both 15 and 16 I knew I had a chance….BUT 17 and 18 have water down the left side, and historically I’ve struggled on these finishing holes.  But today was different, I was able to hit a solid shot on 16 from 225 yards out that ended up 6 feet away. After making a downhill slider, I knew the game was on!! After a solid drive on 17 to 115 yds from the pin, I launched a 54 degree sand wedge to the very back of the green, leaving a very tricky downhill 30 foot putt. After a decent lag to 4 feet I was able to save my par and head to #18. I didn’t hit a great drive on 18 and had to lay up short on my second shot. My third shot was decent but left me with 25 feet which I two putted for par for a bogey free 68 and a -2 total of 142.

Now Kevin after an amazing 66 on Sat was having some problems on the closing holes. If Kevin shoots 75 or less he wins, 76 we tie and anything higher I win for the first time….We finished a good 25 minutes ahead of them and I patiently waited. After Kevin posted a 76 I knew I was headed for a sudden death playoff. I guess it didn’t really matter what hole we played, although with Kevin’s tremendous length advantage I suppose playing 18 would give him quite an advantage. So off we went to the 18th tee of course where Kevin hit a 400 yards drive….YES 400 yards on this 575 yard par 5….he had about 170 left to the middle of the green. After seeing his drive, I needed to focus and execute myself. I took a deep breath and launched a winner myself…leaving me 209 yards to the pin.

I deliberated for quite some time on either a 4 iron or 5 iron as the wind was helping slightly. finally I chose the 4 iron and launched a beauty that hit on the front of the green and ran 35 feet past the hole. Kevin wasted no time hitting either a 7 or 8 iron that also found the green, just a few feet in front of my shot. I knew the putt from having it previously and rolled a putt that I thought was going in the hole for perhaps a winning eagle. But as we all know…the putts that look the best approaching the hole, don’t always fall in. I was left with a 2 inch tap in for birdie 4, and now had to dodge Kevin’s attempt. Kevin also rolled a beauty that just broke low also leaving inches for his birdie 4.

So off we went to the 10th hole for more excitement. After we both drove to the right, I had to negotiate a tree that was straight in front of me…after a cut 6 iron, I had some work left from the grass bunker on the left. Kevin hit his shot deep about 40 feet from the hole. Kevin putted down and short to 6 feet, while I chipped to within 10 feet. What happened next was good for Kevin and not so good for me….I missed and Kevin made a fantastic 6 footer to win the event.

My congratulations to Kevin for winning the 2010 California Mid Amateur, to Pete Wlodkowski and the whole Amateur staff, and to George Kelley and everyone at Stevinson Ranch for providing such a great venue for this event.

This is the reason I LOVE amateur golf…I got to spend the weekend with my best friends, I played a great golf course in great and tough condition, I experienced the BELL at the local bar, had some great laughs and memories that I will always remember. And best of all…..I get to do it all over again soon in my next event!!

Stay tuned for pictures from Stevinson Ranch, and coverage of something you’ll want to learn more about…TPI and how it can significantly improve your game!!

Thanks for tuning in…

Randy Haag

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