The SCGA Mid-Amateur Championship is limited to players with Handicap Indexes of 5.4 and below, and ages 25 and older. Competitors undergo 18 holes of qualifying play in order to reach the final field of 84 players. In the Championship, players compete over 54 holes of stroke play with the top 42 players and ties advancing after 36 holes to the final round.
Tough conditions, including gusting winds, dust and a lot of sand, challenged the 84 competitors but in the end, it was Jeff Wilson who provided the biggest challenge for eventual-champion Robert Funk, as the two battled down to the wire in the 30th SCGA Mid-Amateur Championship, held this week at Bermuda Dunes CC.
Entering the day with a two-stroke lead, Funk began the third round of play with six straight pars. The Canyon Lake, Calif. resident appeared to be cruising along to his second SCGA Mid-Am title before sending his tee shot on the par 4, 390-yard 14th hole well right of the fairway.
"After a long look at it with the Rules Officials, and pulling out the string to measure, it ended up being OB by about half an inch," said Funk. "After that debacle, I wasn't sure where I was on the leaderboard."
But like any champion needs to do, Funk bounced back in a big way right away, sinking a tough seven-footer to keep the damage to a minimum, carding a double bogey on the hole after the stroke and distance penalty. Deadlocked with Wilson entering the par 4, 404-yard 15th hole, Funk drained a 30-footer for par from five feet off the green to regain the lead on the rest of the competition. He never looked back.
"Coming into the final hole, I knew I had a slight lead on [Wilson], but he hit such a good approach shot so he really challenged me to match that."
And he did just that. Wilson, who gave himself a shot for a 25-foot eagle putt on 18, was again slightly outmatched by Funk who landed his own approach shot within 20 feet of the flagstick. Both would eventually birdie the final hole, giving Funk the one-stroke victory.
The story of the week, however, was the wind, as gusts nearly reached 40mph at numerous times during the 54-hole championship. The competitors were greeted with strong winds and dusty air conditions for most of the 36 holes Monday, where the afternoon round saw an average score of 81, 9-over par. The top 42 competitors advanced to the final round of play after the cut.
Funk ended the tournament 1-over par 217, with rounds of 71, 71 and 75. Wilson finished at 218, with UC Riverside alumn Kevin Fitzgerald taking third place at 4-over par, 220. 2013 Foursomes Champion Dick Engel secured fourth place, while San Diego resident Gary Robinson and PGA TOUR caddy Corby Segal rounded out the top 5 with a tie for fifth place. With the impressive finishes, all are exempt into this year's SCGA Amateur Championship, which will this year be held at San Diego CC in July. The top 10 finishers earned exemptions into the SCGA Mid-Am next year, while Funk also earns an automatic spot into this year's California Amateur Championship at Monteray Peninsula.
"I'm really looking forward to going up North for that one," said Funk.