McElyea/Gandranata to meet in the SF City Finals

On a day that felt like Spring is near, the City Championship is now down to the finals, and what a final match it will be!!

George Gandranata today put on a “Tiger” like clinic (Tiger on the golf course that is) through 30 holes, George made 12 birdies, 4 bogeys and one double bogey (good for about 6 under par on the day). The conditions at Harding are still less than ideal, as most tee shots are still plugging in the wet fairways and rough. George’s opponent Patrick Grimes played well despite the final score 7&6 in the 36 hole semi-final. The turning point in the match was a quick sequence of events where Patrick was unable to convert a 5 foot par putt on hole #25 of the match (the 7th hole) that would have tightened the match to only +2 for Gandranata. Unfortunately the missed putt kept the match at 3up in favor of Gandranata, who then chipped in for birdie from the grass bunker on the left side (a very tough shot) especially with Grimes 15 feet away for birdie. Gandranata then birdied the 9, 10th, 11th and 12th hole to close out the match.

Patrick Grimes at age 17 had a great tournament and will be a name you’ll hear again!! But today George with his 12 birdies would not be denied. His look of determination still has me believe he is the player to beat in this event. Certainly George’s NCGA amateur victory just last August will provide a great source of experience and comfort as he heads into the final match against Cory McElyea.

Cory also has serious game!! This was the first opportunity for me to see the three younger guns play, and clearly Mr. McElyea has some serious ability. He certainly has some fire in his belly as I enjoyed his enthusiastic pleads on several occasions while his ball was in flight. His length will be a major weapon in these wet and sloppy conditions. On a day when he seemed to graze the cup all day long, if the putts fall on Final Sunday…this match may rival the Ward/Venturi match which has always been considered the greatest final match in history. Word has it over 10,000 spectators where there to witness this famous match, but I gotta tell you these two phenoms are going to light up the scoreboard and with the good weather forecasted it wouldn’t surprise me if one of these players goes way deep under par to win the 2010 San Francisco Championship.

The tragedy is most golf fans won’t know about this great final played right here on our own Harding Park. It’s a chance to actually watch the action so close you can hear the players breath.

My prediction is to expect an epic match that you won’t want to miss!!

The McElyea vs. Grimberg match was another great match that constantly had come back rallies by Mr. Grimberg (a sophmore at St Mary’s) as he was 4 down in the match with 5 holes to go, he won #14 with a par, #15 with a birdie and on #16 lipped out a birdie chip that would have made things very interesting. I was very impressed with Mr. Grimberg’s composure and ability to dig deep and rally back several times in this match.

Both of these matches were similar in that birdies were winning holes and  even par golf was not good enough to earn a spot into the finals!!

I enjoyed watching these young guys compete, and believe we are in for a real treat tomorrow as McElyea and Gandranata square off for the 2010 San Francisco City Title!!

Scroll down for photos from today.  More video interviews from today and photos from tomorrow coming up in the morning!  Stay tuned.

Thanks

Randy Haag

SF City Heads to Final Weekend- 36 holes matches ahead

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:

  • Get plenty of rest starting 2 days prior to Sat, don’t over practice and wear yourself down. The game you have now is what you’ll have by Sat, being rested is way more important than the nervous energy that most will burn up with excessive pre-event practice.
  • Make sure you’re hydrated well before Sat tee time, and stay hydrated during the match. This is a HUGE mistake I see made especially by the younger players. They don’t feel thirsty so they don’t drink any water, resulting in late round collapses both mentally and physically. I force myself to drink ample amts of water during the round, if I don’t..I pay the price
  • Stay even keeled during the match whether your up or down. I remember my semi final match against Kent Yamane in 2008, Kent got off to a great start shooting an easy 66 in the morning 18 holes (I shot 69 and was three down) but I stuck to my game plan throughout the match and slowly inched closer as the match moved into the last 9 holes. I didn’t see Kent drinking any water, and it looked like he was losing his focus. Now pars were winning holes, and as I was able to turn the pressure on him when I went up in the match, all the momentum switched in my favor. I can understand that after firing a 66 you’d think you’re going to be victorious, but in a 36 holes match the last 9 holes always seems to matter most. You need to be strong and finish the match.
  • With a 36 hole match, I believe hitting greens and not stressing your short game is a key to success. Going for tight pin positions usually doesn’t payoff in a longer match. Play smart by taking safer targets and don’t give holes away by making foolish bogeys. In my Final match against Martin Trainer (who is 33 years younger than I am) the difference was I let a couple of poor shots change my strategy and focus (leading to losing 5 out of 6 holes after being 3 up on the last 18 holes) the match ended up on the 36 hole with me making back to back bogeys on the 35 & 36th holes. I had let myself get drained physically and emotionally. I had stopped eating small amounts of food….my tank was empty.
  • Eat small amts of food during the day and DON’T eat a big lunch. Maintaining a constant blood sugar level is extremely important to keeping yourself in a consistent physical, mental and emotional state for maximum performance

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!!

Randy Haag

San Francisco City results and comments

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:

  • Change the number of match play qualifiers from 64 to 32 allowing the event to be contested over 3 weeks as opposed to 4 weekends. This change would have a positive economic impact on the tournament as fewer subsidized rounds would be needed. The other major amateur events that go to 32 players for match play are NCGA Amateur and the California State Amateur.
  • The SF City is the only event I know of in the world  that plays a 36 hole semi final match followed by a 36 hole final (not even the US Amateur). By playing an 18 hole semi final match the tournament could have the qualifier the 1st weekend. The 2nd weekend have the rd of 32 on Saturday followed by two matches on Sunday (rd of 16 and quarterfinals). Then you could have an 18 hole semi final the next Sat with a 36 hole final on Sunday. This would eliminate the extra weekend and avoid back to back 36 hole days.
  • Move the event to start the second weekend in March. This would allow the weather a chance to improve and we’d be enjoying longer days. The extra daylight would help with those 7am tee times when you now are warming up on the range in the dark.
  • And my last suggestion- if the event is challenged due to financial constraints, then have a fundraising event to raise money (perhaps a Monday event at the Olympic Club, home of the 2012 US Open)

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…..?

Randy Haag

What’s in my Bag

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

San Francisco City Golf Championship – Round of 32

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.

Randy Haag