It again looks like another wet weekend forecast for the semi and finals of the City. This is where it gets tough with two back to back 36 hole matches (no carts). This is where mental and physical fatigue will play a major role in the outcome.
Having made the semi finals 7 times over the past 25 years, my advice to those 4 players is this:
Winning the San Francisco City is a huge honor and something you’ll treasure for the rest of your life. You may win bigger events in your career, but you will never forget how special winning the San Francisco City will always be!!
I just got this from George Gandranata about his exciting quarter-final match- I thought you’d enjoy reading his insight about his match with Kevin Wentworth who made a hole-in-one on the 8th hole (congrats on that amazing feat Kevin)
As far as the quarterfinal match, Kevin and I played really well on a lot of the holes and we kept trading punches throughout the match. We both hit our drive real well and got up and downs a lot when we missed the greens. But, he made a few mistakes that I was able to take advantage of.
We parred the first 4 holes and he bogeyed number 5 (1 up for me) and then he had a hole in one on 8 (one bounce and disappeared, I was actually excited for having been able to witness it) and he made birdie on 9 (1 up for Kevin). I won hole 10 with par after Kevin’s errand tee shot and 3rd shot. I also won 11 after getting up and down from the right sandtrap. I birdied 12 to go one up after making a 15 footer (2 up for me). I, then, birdied 14 to go 3 up after making a 10 foot birdie putt. It started getting interesting from there. We both missed the green right on 15 with the pin on the right (He made par) and then he birdied 16 from the right side of the fairway (have to hit under the tree). We both parred 17 and then we both hit bad tee shot on 18 and we both bogeyed the hole (won 1 up).
I played well for 14 holes but and then I got too aggressive on 15 but in the end I was fortunate that I had big enough lead to hold him until 18.
GOOD LUCK TO ALL THOSE LEFT IN THE EVENT!!
Yesterday was perhaps the worst conditions I’ve seen at Harding Park. Every fairway on the front nine was a marsh, basically unplayable. It must have taken us three hours to play the front nine as every player had to search for high ground, drop twice into another plugged lie and then usually place the ball.
After spending the week in NY cities horrible weather, I came into Saturday’s match a little unprepared. I knew that George Gandranata was going to make few mistakes, if any during the match. Darryl Donovan and I were discussing George and both agreed that he’d probably make 1 bogey and several birdies.
As I mentioned in a previous article, the start of a match usually sets the tone and puts extra pressure on the player that fall behind. I unfortunately was the player that fell behind with bogeys on 1 & 2 to go two down. Although I rallied back with wins on 4 & 5 with a birdie and a par (this was George’s lone bogey and only green he missed all day). After getting even I was unable to convert a 3 foot par attempt to tie the tough 8th hole. After tying 9 & 10 with birdies, I was again able to draw even in the match with my 3rd birdie in 4 holes at #12.
Unfortunately for me George rolled in a 40 footer on #13 to go one up, that extended to two up as I missed another short putt for par on 14. I was unable to make a birdie on the next few holes with the match ending 2&1. In retropect, on this match I can only say that my short game once again let me down in a high pressure situation. I seem to lose my ability to have good feel with my chip shots when the pressure is cranked up. In matches when I am in control the chipping seems to work, while in this match from easy positions I was 1 for 6 in my up and in attempts.
Although I’m sure under the conditions we played, 5 bogeys and 4 birdies would have won several matches, I knew against George that I needed to be under par like I had been in my previous two matches. Match play is a pressure cooker that will expose any weakness you have in your game. The key to my match with George was in getting off to a good start and putting pressure on him. The pressure was on me, even after I drew even twice, I was unable to go up in our match and turn the momentum in my favor.
There are some great players left in the quarter finals, but I will say that if George goes down, someone will need to play very very well, and be under par. My pick to win the event is George Gandranata (although my sentimental pick is my good friend Scott Hardy).
What can we do to improve the conditions we play in….? The last few years playing Harding has been less than desirable for this great amateur event. The weekends always get hit with poor weather and the course has little to no drainage in the fairways. This is NOT intended to be a knock on Harding Park, which is a spectacular layout and ranked highly as a public course. But honestly we play this historic event in horrific conditions that I believe make the event LESS desirable to play in.
After my heartbreaking defeat on Saturday, I had lunch with committee member Bob Callan, and we discussed a few changes that I feel would greatly enhance this great amateur event. I suggested the following:
I STRONGLY believe that the result of these changes would allow the event to be played in better conditions (weather and course) and that you’d attract a better field (many players don’t enter because of the 4 weekends). I also believe a format with one 36 hole day each weekend makes more sense than going from 18 hole matches and jumping to two 36 holes the last weekend. Having a major SF City fundraiser may allow the event to raise enough money to eliminate the match play green fees that nobody would complain about not paying. If you like these proposed changes, then lets hear from you. The more support from the players we get, the better chance for change. The barrier here is the history of the event, for as long as I’ve played in this wonderful event, it’s been played in the same format. BUT times have drastically changed. In years past we didn’t always pay green fees for the matches. We played in better weather and some years actually saw our balls roll in the fairways. Change is good in this case, and I believe we can significantly improve the enjoyment of playing in the “City”!!
Please let me know what you think…..?
If you have any questions or want feedback on my equipment, let me know. I spent a lot of time making sure everything fit perfectly, and it has really paid off.
|Driver:||TaylorMade R9 w/ Fujikura Motore F1 75 S Graphite Shaft|
|3 Wood:||TaylorMade Burner w/ Aldila S75 Graphite Shaft|
|Irons (4-PW):||TaylorMade R7 w/ True Temper S300 Steel Shaft|
|Hybrid 1:||TaylorMade 19 degree w/ Aldila VOODOO SVS8 Graphite Shaft|
|Hybrid 2:||TaylorMade 22 degree w/ Aldila VOODOO SVS8 Graphite Shaft|
|Gap Wedge:||TaylorMade RAC 10 degree bounce – 54 Degrees|
|Lob Wedge:||TaylorMade RAC 6 degree bounce – 60 Degrees|
|Putter:||STX rubber faced sidesaddle putter|
|Grip:||Lamkin sting free|
|Golf Shoes:||Footjoy & Addidas|
|Ball:||Titleist Pro V1x-332 going to the new TaylorMade Penta TP|
Today was another day of firsts for me at the SF City. I have never before played behind two brothers battling in a match. Unfortunately the official results just show Galletti as the winner…? I would love to know if 14 year lefty Nicolo defeated his older brother Roberto in what looked to be a very close and intense match. Recently I’ve had the pleasure to be paired with both of them twice, once in the final round of the Amateur Golf.com Christmas Classic at Del Monte in December, and then again recently the final day at the Amateur Golf.com Wine County amateur at Stonetree GC.
What I can tell you is both these guys can play, but can you imagine being over 20 years old and playing your 14 year old brother? As we patiently waited the back nine on every shot, it seemed like the Galletti brothers were grinding over 2 foot putts. Don’t get me wrong; with the rain soaked greens on the back nine, even a one foot putt was not to be taken for granted.
The other first was in over 30 years playing in the SF City, I’ve never been asked twice for our group to speed up the pace of play, only to finish #9 and have a three group back up on #10. I can understand putting regular play out in front of us on #1 before we start at 7:30, but to jam up the back nine as we make the turn was something new to me. Fortunately, the wait didn’t affect my play as after turning the front two up, I went birdie, birdie, eagle on 10-12 (although 10 was a conceded 10 footer). When my match ended on the 15th hole, we had already been on the course for 4 hours and 50 minutes.
Match play was meant to be played at a brisk pace, and personally I feel something needs to be reviewed if rounds are taking up to or exceeding 5 hours, especially in the rain. It would be my suggestion to the Harding Park management and tournament officials, to not jam the 10th tee with play, so that those players making the turn can continue the even flow of their matches. Maybe it’s just that I’ve always been a fast player and somewhat impatient, especially now at age 51.
Today, my worthy opponent Scott Roak probably didn’t play his best game or even his average game, but he is a fine gentleman and fierce competitor and I enjoyed being in his group with his dad, Bob for two days. This is again, what I love about amateur golf and the competition; you’ll meet a lot of great new people!
I must admit that early this morning while warming up at the Olympic Club driving range I was a bit concerned with how I was hitting the ball (although usually I am just getting my body loose). This morning I was hitting all my warm up shots a little heavy, and my driver was flying all over the place. This carried over to my first tee shot of the match, a snap hook off the 1st tee that resembled my 1st two tee shots off #1 last year when I played in the British Senior Open at Sunningdale. Like many of the greatest players in the game have always said, that first tee shot off #1 comes with butterflies, I know they’ll be there, and I look forward to them.
Fortunately I was able to snap hook a 6 iron from behind the left trees onto the back fringe and make par. Losing the first hole is never a way to start a match. After the quick hook on #1 I was able to get my driver going for the rest of the round.
The other interesting thing that happened today was my longtime best ball partner and dear friend, Darryl Donovan called me at 7:15 while I was on the range, to tell me he was on the 101 at a complete stop. The CHP had closed the 101 in south San Jose due to some downed power lines. Unfortunately for Darryl, he had to somehow get off the freeway and speed the rest of the way, arriving 5 minutes before our starting time. This glitch did not bode well for Darryl as he fell 6 down after 9 holes to George Gandranata.
The event is now down to 16 players, of which 9 I know. There is some extreme talent left with George Gandranata (2009 NCGA Champ and #2 in NCGA points), Geoff Gonzalez (2009 State Amateur Champ and 5th in NCGA points), Scott Hardy (2-time US Mid Amateur semi-finalist), Ricky Stockton (3rd in 2009 NCGA points), and I guess I’d have to put myself in the mix (NCGA 2009 Player of the year) and the only past champ left in the tournament (1999).
After getting a preview of George Gandranata’s game today, I know I am going to have my hands full next Saturday. George makes very few mistakes, and we’ve already had an epic battle in the semi finals of the NCGA amateur last Aug that ended victoriously for George on the 19th hole. I will need to play at my highest level to have a chance at victory against George. But regardless of the outcome, I know I will enjoy our match!
With rain forecast thru the week, it looks like another very wet weekend up ahead of us and unfortunately Harding with no drainage in the fairways will be close to unplayable. But the “City” will go on, and in two weeks the 2010 SF City Champ will have survived one of the games toughest events to win. The back to back 36 holes in the semis and finals will test those that survive to the max as mental and physical fatigue will play a major role in the final outcome
The very best of luck to the remaining 15 players and stay tuned for more golf action this coming week.
Harding Park was in much better shape for the start of the 2010 City Championship today. Many of the uncut fairways had a nice trim, making the round a lot more enjoyable than the mud fest of last week’s qualifying rounds. Unfortunately the good weather is about to end as rain is the forecast for many days to come.
My round got off to a solid start with 5 consecutive pars with the lone bogey of the day coming at #6. My worthy opponent was a fine young man from Pleasanton, Justin Shotwell, along with his dad on the bag. I’m sure Justin was disappointed with how he played but I could tell he is a fine player and has a lot of great golf ahead of him.
My putter finally started cooperating on #10 where I made a sliding 12 footer for birdie, followed by an 8 footer at #12 and then 12 feet again for birdie on #13 to close out the match. During the off days I worked on keeping my body and head still while putting, which haunted me during the qualifying rounds. The effort seems to be paying off early.
As the day progressed the temperature dropped as the wind picked up, which made me appreciative that I was able to avoid 14-18. My intent was to have many photos of the matches today, but tomorrow I should be able to post some players wearing their rain gear fighting the elements at Harding.
At this time the only results I am aware of are: Scott Hardy def Nick Sako 7&5, Patrick Grimes def Bruce Hanavan 5&4 and Andrew Biggadike def Dwight Eschliman 5&4
I was told by the tournament director that during the match play portion we’d have live scoring. Perhaps that will begin later, or I may be looking in the wrong place.
It’s remarkable how many young players make match play in this event, as it seems like over half the field is High School or College aged. This was not always the case. Twenty years ago you’d maybe have one or two High School players and a handful of college players. Most of us would know most all of the competitors that would qualify for match. Lately it seems I only recognize less than half the names of the players that advance to match play. This is a testament to how the game has grown over the years. There are now thousands of good scratch tournament players in California alone, which makes all the amateur events extremely competitive.
In years past it was unthinkable that a teenager could possibly win the City Championship, while now…not only have two teenagers won back to back years (Martin Trainer in 08’ and Carlos Briones in 09’) it wouldn’t surprise me if the trend continues. I can assure you whatever intimidation factor the best players may have had in the past…those days are gone!
What I personally love about this great game, especially in match play, is that your ball doesn’t know how old you are OR how young and inexperienced you may be. The key to match play has always to play your own game and play to your strengths.
Thanks to all of you for following this blog, I hope to keep improving the content, photos and soon video to make this a fun and enjoyable site to keep an eye on.
I have to admit I’ve always been a big fan of Tiger Woods. I first met young Eldridge when he was 16 years old (before he was really called Tiger) after seeing him hoist a 6 iron from 200 yards out at the 2nd hole at Pebble where the ball sailed up like a 9 iron into the fog, and came straight down into the middle of the green, I then knew he was a cut above the top amateur talent. After hearing about every Tiger joke/slander finally the barrage of Tiger talk has settled down. Although it’s hard for me to feel sorry for a guy that’s bagged a cool BILLION playing golf, I think it’s time that he faces the drummer and acts like a mature adult and faces his audience. Yeah some say Tiger is the game, others say he’s not bigger than the game, but the bottom line is Pro golf suffers without him. I’m not convinced that amateur golf suffers without him though, we as amateurs aren’t paid for TV ratings and for wearing Nike logos. We play because we love the game, and love to compete.
It’s really too bad that Professional Golf now dominates all the media channels while great historical events like the SF City have seen their media attention shrink to almost nothing. It was incredible that in 1984 when I played in my 1st City finals against legendary Aly Trompais, the Chronicle Sports page had featured on the cover of the sports page “Battle between Brokers for city title”. I understand why amateur golf doesn’t sell advertising or newspapers, and Tiger does. Although now what will advertisers do other than Nike that has the cliché right for Tiger “Just Do It”. I’m not knocking Tiger, and maybe I am envious of his massive success and bankroll. Hopefully after tomorrow we’ll know when he’ll be back to once again dominate the game.
My goal in writing this blog is to offer valuable information about many aspects of golf and my life long experience as a successful Amateur player.
SF CITY GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP MOVES INTO MATCH PLAY
Match play is how the game was originally meant to be played and still every major amateur event is played in a match play format – US Amateur, US Mid Amateur, British Amateur, California State Amateur, Northern California Amateur, and the SF City Championship all are match play events.
The SF City is one of the biggest and oldest amateur events anywhere and has a very rich history. The wonderful thing about golf is anyone at any skill level can find events to compete in.
Match play requires a different approach and strategy that I have certain beliefs about. Not always does the best player win in match play, and often the player who plays best towards the end of the match usually wins. It’s not like stroke play where each shot counts the same, in match play a horribly played hole results in merely a loss of that hole.
I have been quite fortunate to have played in hundreds of match play events, and have fared well (won the 3rd most matches in USGA events in the 1990’s behind Tiger and Jerry Courville) with over 25 USGA match play wins and over a hundred match play wins between the SF City, Nor Cal amateur and State Amateur. This experience still doesn’t take the butterflies away on the 1st tee or even the 18th tee…it keeps the pressure on you throughout the whole match.
With that said I now will give you my keys to winning matches in the SF City with shot by shot analysis of the front nine, and then tomorrow the back nine at Harding Park. But before I begin I’d like to make a few comments about my experience at Harding Park this afternoon. I was thrilled to see a contingent of mowers on the front nine giving the fairways a much needed trim. While on the 4th hole I met the head of the greens keepers Kevin Reavey, who told me that they haven’t been able to mow at normal intervals for the past two months due to heavy rainfall. The front nine is still very soft and moist, while the back is in much dryer and in better condition. The course will again play long which will require a strategy different than when the course is running and rolling. All yardages and sight lines are from the blue tees. Photos of each hole will be below the description of how I suggest playing it.
Hole #1 395…This straight away par 4 doesn’t require length or great accuracy off the tee. The proper target is the double trees just left of the green. The fairway is actually on the right portion of what you’ll see, but a miss left leaves a bad angle and tree trouble. The goal here in match play is to get off to a good solid start. The green slopes slightly from left to right and like many of the greens are narrow at the front of the green. The front right bunker is to be avoided, especially with a right pin. The second shot to this green plays slightly uphill which I will typically add 5 yards to the distance. It amazing how many bogies are made under the jitters of the 1st hole. Take a safe line into the green and get off to a solid start. The green is 30 yards long and near the back of the green is 24 yards wide.
Hole #2 430…This is a tough uphill par 4. With zero roll in the fairway or rough, a solid drive is important. The big tree in the distance is the proper line with a right center drive leaving the best angle to this green. The fairway bunkers on the left are to be avoided and a miss right can have you blocked out. The second shot plays 7-10 yards uphill, and with cold and windy conditions it will play even longer. Over the past 30 years, I cannot tell you how many players I’ve seen come up significantly short on this hole. With the pins back, a shot left on the front of the green will make a two putt very challenging. Yet I’ve only seen a few shots ever sail over the back of this green which is sloped from back to front and left to right. The green is 34 yards long and gets progressively wider from front to back. The back of green is 24 yards wide, while only 17 yards wide in the front third of the green. In match play, a regrettable blunder would be a short sided miss. I’ll win this hole 50% of the time with a par, so I take a very safe line into this green, and always take an extra club up the hill.
#3 165 or 183…It seems we play the back tee most of the time and again we are going uphill, so add another 5-10 yards to properly adjust. The shot to this green should be aimed at the far left tree (of 4 trees) that are in the distance behind this green. I will work the ball off this tree to a right or left pin. As with hole #1, this green gets progressively wider from front to back. Fifteen yards onto this green is where the second tier begins with 5 yards to the top of the tier and another 15 yards to the back. The first third of the green is 20 yards wide, while the back third widens to 33 yards. I again tend to error on the side of caution, knowing that a par on this hole wins often enough to warrant a conservative line. However, if my opponent has hit a shot that looks like a guaranteed birdie, I then will take dead aim into a corner. Another key to this hole is getting the ball on the right level, leaving a better chance at success. The grass around this green is very thick and uneven; a missed green here will be a challenge.
#4 580…The line off the tee here is the group of three trees in the distance, which is the middle of the fairway. This is a generous fairway at 34 yards wide along with another 10 yards on each side. The mistake I see here in match play is when someone lays to far back. Although the second shot may look narrow, the shot calls for a straight or slightly fading ball flight. The right side is where the fairway runs and leaves the best approach into this large green. Again, this green widens as you go back with a total length of 35 yards and a generous width of 28 yards towards the back of the green. The best approach is to leave your shot slightly left of the hole, which will usually give you an uphill putt. This is a hole you should aggressively approach to make a birdie 4. I again often see shots come up short on this approach as I think players don’t allow for the cool breezy conditions. During Feb. and March, less experienced players often get frustrated when their distance is negatively affected by the weather.
#5 395…This tee shot requires you to pull the club you have the most control over. If a driver is that club, pull the driver. I prefer a metal 3 off this tee which usually still only leaves a wedge into this narrow green. Getting the yardage into this green correct is key as this green is 45 yards long and 20 yards wide near the front and slims down to 14 yards wide near the back of the green. A shot missed left of the green will leave a very difficult up and in, especially if the pin is on the left. Give yourself a good uphill opportunity here by leaving your second shot a bit short and right of the target.
#6 440…As with #2, this is a longer par 4 that requires a solid tee shot. From the tee it looks like a very narrow opening, but don’t let that affect your target line which should be at a tree in the background in the distance. I have found a shot slightly missed right is now better than a hooked tee shot. A row of trees on the right are no longer looming to catch an errant drive down the right side. The angle into this very wide target is also best from the right. With the green at 34 yards wide and 34 yards deep, you have a very large target to negotiate. Taking the left bunker on requires an additional 10 yards from the front of the green. Typically I will work the ball from the middle of the green to keep a par as the primary objective. This hole, like #2, will be won 50% of the time in match play, with a par. Regardless of how you stand in match play, the wet conditions make it imperative to accept your pars on these tougher, longer holes and attack the shorter holes to gain ground on your opponent. This particular green crowns in the middle, causing balls to run off the green on both sides making for a difficult putt if you are on the wrong side of the slope. Try to leave your second shot on the proper half of this large green to afford yourself a better chance at a birdie.
#7 335 or 140…If we are able to use this saturated fairway, I suggest taking a club that will put you just short of the fairway bunker on the left center which is 245 yards off the tee. This shot plays a good 10 yards uphill and typically into the breeze. The temp tee is approx 140 yards from the middle of the green. This green is long at 42 yards and narrow at 15 yards in the front portion and 23 yards towards the back. A back left pin requires an additional 10 yards over the left bunker from the middle of the green. This is a birdie hole and should be attacked. I play the second shot a good 5 yards longer than the distance, which over the years has proven to be quite accurate.
#8 200…This downhill par 3 really never seems to play downhill unless you can feel a good breeze behind you. Again the trouble is short left and right. The pit short left is especially tough as the lie will never be good down there. I take my shots off the middle of the green, as the green at the middle is the widest at 34 yards. The key is to hit a solid shot that gets you somewhere in the proper quadrant of this green. This is also a hole that normally will produce a good result with a par 3 in match play. With the rough conditions surrounding the greens, there is an extra premium on getting your shots on the putting surface.
#9 495…Bombs away- be aggressive off this tee as a good drive should leave you a reachable second shot into this green. I typically take a left center line down this fairway to avoid any chance of flirting with the right fairway bunkers. The key to the second shot here is to NOT short side yourself into this green. A shot in the left bunker will be a very difficult up and in, same with a right pin, right miss. This is a long green at 37 yards, and is typically quite slow putting up towards the back of the green. Be aggressive here, make a 3 or 4.
CONCLUSION…The front nine requires you to get your shots further into the green to be on the safe side. If you are miss hitting shots, the front can leave you well behind in the match. I believe taking more club will leave you with better opportunities in match play and keep you from short sided attempts at par. In match play you are playing a combination of the course FIRST, and your opponent SECOND. Of course I will I take a safer line if my opponent is in trouble. But be careful not to get away from the shots you are most comfortable with by staying committed to the shot making that got you here and keep breathing as the pressure in match play is always more intense than stroke play.
Tomorrow, more thoughts on the back nine at Harding Park if the weather cooperates.