The Billy Bell Cup is a fantastic way to start paying golf after the COVID-19 delay. The event concluded on Friday with 4 different teams winning their divisions.
The Senior division had arguably all the best senior players in Northern California, including perhaps the best senior amateur in the world in Jeff Wilson (2018 USGA Senior Am Champion, 2018 California Senior Am champion).
The first round ended with the Wilson/Barsotti team leading by one after a 66 on a perfect day, especially the smooth and amazing greens at Del Rio CC. Having shot a solid 67 with partner and long time friend Joey Ferrari we ended up in 2nd position and paired with the strong team of Wilson/Barsotti for day two.
Not that the other teams behind us were out of it, but with very tough pin positions, making birdies hard to come by. Joey and I started out with dreadful bogeys #1 and #3 with two three putts. The match went back and forth until we made a par on the 13th hole to go up by one. Both teams birdied the par five 15th hole and headed to the tough uphill 16th hole. Jeff Wilson decided to launch a driver well up the upslope of the hill and with a tough lie and angle he hit a stelar shot to 10 feet and converted to pull even with us.
What happened on the 17th hole is what can happen when you’re tied for or in the lead with the extra pressure. After everyone had missed the green on this tough 189 yard downhill par three, I hit a shot pin high but well right on the fringe. My first putt was decent leaving me a 3 foot par putt that slid left to right. With Joey away and putting for par from about 20 feet, I decided to go first and knock in the putt with Joey still in the hole (for less pressure). When I get over my putts and as I take the putter back is when I make the final decision on eyes open or closed. In this instance I went eyes closed and shoved the putt badly right. Instead of just marking my 1 foot par putt, I just walked up and missed that as well. I never did hole out on this important hole.
Joey then with a tough downhill 20 footer left his first putt 3 feet short, and like me missed the downhill slider to card us a team double bogey. Fortunately for us, Jeff and Todd also made a team bogey, leaving us one back with 18 left to play.
On the short 18th hole the Wilson/Barsotti team hit poor tee shots, with my partner down the middle and just short of the green we had a good chance to get that one stroke back. Both Wilson and Barsotti missed the green, and with an amazing chip to one foot, Joey gave us a great chance, and it looked like we may have a two shot swing and a chance to win outright on 18.
Wilson out of the bunker hit a quality shot to 5 feet above the hole. Barsotti hit a chip that ran off the front of the green. Todd then calmly rolled in the 20 footer from off the green to save a par for his team. After Joey knocked in the one foot birdie put we were all tied and heading to sudden death.
We went to the #1 hole on the Bluffs course a par five of about 520 yards. I was the only one to hit the fairway and had 230 left to the far left tucked pin. After pulling my shot left, I was left with a very difficult over the bunker shot which I clunked into the bunker. With Joey making bogey, the only chance we had would be a up and in from the bunker and a miss from Wilson from 10 feet for birdie. My bunker shot rolled 5 feet past the pin leaving me with a tough sliding left to right putt that would need to be holed if Wilson didn’t end the playoff with his own birdie putt. With Barsotti already in for 5, Wilson hit a gentle putt that just grazed the top of the cup leaving the door open for me to extend the playoff.
My two pals Mike Staskus and Jason Anthony were watching the playoff and predicted to Joey that I would miss the putt (Jason) and Mike said 50/50. When you have a putt that ends your run, the pressure is quite extreme. All you can do is breathe and in my case try to determine what method I’ll use, eyes open or closed. With eyes closed I was delighted to see my ball rolling purely into the center of the cup giving us new life after a very poorly played hole.
On the second playoff hole a par three playing only 129 yards both Joey and I had short birdie putts of 18 and 15 feet. After the Wilson/Barsotti team made par, my wonderful partner rolled in the winning putt to secure our second title in this really fun and well run event.
I guess I can now say that I’ve won my last two tournaments, with the Florida Azalea win coming in March. But what’s up ahead is going to be the big test. I’m entered to play in the NCGA Stroke play at Poppy Hills in mid July against all the kids and mid ams, walking only for three days in a row, and then later in July I was kindly given an exemption to compete in the California State Amateur at the wonderful Torrey Pines golf course the site of the 2021 USGA Open.
I have a lot of physical improvements to make to have any chance of being competitive. I don’t expect to win either event, my goals are to make the top 15 in the NCGA Stroke play, and make match play in the State Am (top 32 out of 156 players make match play). So it time to amp up the reps on all fronts, and stay off the devilish sugar cravings that plague me:)
Stay tuned for how I’m going to get fit in 3 weeks to compete at the highest level possible at age 61.
ABOUT THE BILLY BELL CUP
Started in 2017, this 36-hole four-ball stroke play event is named in the honor of one of the West’s most prolific golf course architects, William Bell, who designed DRCC’s original eighteen holes, Oak and Bluff in 1947. There will be three flights: Open (18 years and older), Senior-Amateur (55 years and older) and Super Senior (65 years and older). Open to mid- amateurs within an index 7.4 or lower and seniors with an index 9.4 or lower. Maximum of 60 teams, 20 per flight.