After playing 139 holes over 5 days John Catlin has been crowned the 107th NCGA Champion by defeating a tough opponent in Scott Hardy.
Let me tell you how tough this event is to win, IT’S REALLY HARD PERIOD! The main reason is the immense fatigue that sets in after playing so many consecutive days of playing and walking 36 holes. Even after playing two 18 hole rounds in stroke play and then 36 holes of matches on day three, the next morning my legs and body had little time to recover and be even up to 70% of where I started on Monday.
The past 9 winners have been younger players, which the event is clearly designed to favor. I guess if I had a suggestion for the NCGA it would be to add one day and eliminate one of the 36 hole days to allow for a mid amateur player (over 25) a chance to recharge their batteries. Even the US Amateur doesn’t have that many days of consecutive 36 hole days. The match play portion goes 18 hole match day one down to 32, then two matches from 32 to 16 and 16 to 8, the next day the quarter finals followed by another 18 hole day for the semi finals leading to a final 36 hole final match. This format allows an older player a chance (not that an older player has won recently) but at least you know going into the event that you have a week of competition.
Since I did lose in the quarterfinals to Matthew Hansen on Thursday morning I’ve been quite busy seeing my son off to school Thursday afternoon, followed by an epidural to help reduce the intense swelling in my lower back. For those of you that have had an epidural know how great they can be, AFTER getting through the injections into your lower back. After the spasm I experienced during the NCGA I knew my back was in a state of high inflammation and that in order to compete in the upcoming US Amateur, I’d need to get the swelling down. So far so good, but a long way to go still until I’ll know how it will all feel once I start swinging a club again.
My best preparation for the Amateur is going to be rest and more of a mental approach in getting ready for the tough challenge an amateur course will present. It’s not the length that I’m concerned about, it’s how i’ll physically feel and what kind of range of motion I’ll have.
My preparation will be different than probably all the other competitors which I’ll share with you now. It’s kind of like the Phil Mickelson plan, practice round at the Home course on Thursday, two hours of practice on Friday, followed by a practice round at Chambers Bay early on Sat. On Sunday I’ll maybe play nine holes on the nine that I play first on Monday, but the whole design here is to be fresh and well rested going into the event.
I always marvel at the kids that play over the weekend both days followed by 300 range balls and 2 hours of putting practice. They burn themselves out with so much activity so close to a tee time where you need your maximum feel and calm. I 100% agree with the Phil process of doing more mental work on how to play the holes as opposed to physically burning yourself out.
I’ve always thought you’ll need to play with the swing and game you came to town with and only minor tweaks will help. you can freak yourself out if you aren’t hitting it perfectly on the range. I almost would prefer to have a marginal practice round and just get a feel for the sight lines and speed of the greens. I guess we’ll see what happens and I hope to provide some in-depth coverage of this great event. More next week as we build up to the start of the 2010 US Amateur!!
PEBBLE BEACH – John Catlin’s trips to Pebble Beach in August each of the last two years produced wildly different results.
The 19-year-old Carmichael resident last played at Spyglass a year ago in the NCGA Junior, making the cut but then finishing in last place with a final-round 83. A year later, he found himself atop the region with a 3 and 2 victory in Northern California’s most prestigious amateur event, the NCGA Amateur Match Play. In doing so, he defeated one of the top mid-amateurs in the state in St. Mary’s Golf Coach Scott Hardy.
The scheduled 36-hole final got off to a roller-coaster start as there were no halved holes within the opening six. Hardy finally established and held a 1-up lead with a kick-in birdie on the par-5 seventh, a lead he would hold for the next 18 holes.
“I just tried to keep hitting good shots,” the champion said. “He’s (Hardy) got such an incredible short game…I knew I’d start to make some putts.”
If the best coaches and teachers lead by example, then, as demonstrated today, the 34-year-old Hardy ranks with the best of coaches. His almost Houdini-esque ability to escape trouble produced par-saving bunker shots, chips and an array of holed five-footers that maintained a lead that bounced between 1 and 2-up throughout most of the day, though the morning 18 ended all square.
But Catlin possesses a solid, whiplash action that produces a ball flight and straight path that Tiger Woods would kill for right now. And the constant avoidance of the big mistake allowed the 2009 Jesuit High graduate to keep the match close. “I’ve always been a straight driver. I felt solid all week on these fairways,” he said.
That consistency, and the grind of a 36-hole match started to take their toll toward the middle of the final 18 holes. Catlin bombed a 25-footer for birdie on the 27th hole, Spyglass’ 9th, and followed that with another long putt on the 28th hole that sparked some momentum and a 2-up lead. “After I made that putt on 10 I thought I had it,” the New Mexico Lobo said. “But I had to stay present and not think about the trophy. Scott’s too good to let up. He put a lot of pressure on me.”
The 28th hole perhaps best exemplified the spirit of the match. After Catlin nuked a drive practically to the 100-yard marker (like most young players, Catlin possessed an almost preternatural confidence in the driver), Hardy drove it wide left nearly into Spyglass’s parallel 9th fairway. After punching out into the 9th fairway, he then hit his third shot over the trees to within five feet of the cup – an absurdly difficult recovery shot. Catlin then answered with a 25-foot birdie putt, producing what CBS basketball announcer Bill Raftery might have labeled a “dagger” moment.
Catlin played 139 holes over the course of two rounds of stroke-play qualifying and five rounds of match play (with the final accounting for 34 holes). Perhaps the demands the championship places on endurance explains why the North Ridge member’s win extends a nine-year stretch of victories by college golfers (the last mid-amateur to win was PGA Tour champion Matt Bettencourt back in 2001). The win also stopped Hardy’s quest to add a sixth NCGA trophy to his case. The Amateur is the only title to elude him of the events he is eligible.
So how did Catlin dramatically improve from the bottom of the junior leaderboard to the top of the Northern California amateur game in one year at the same venue?
“Playing college golf,” he said. “It made me a better player. After playing against Oklahoma State, TCU and USC this course doesn’t seem nearly as hard.”
Catlin heads back to Albuquerque to begin his sophomore season with a major NCGA feather in his cap.