Blakely's Practice Pays Off In 83rd SCGA Amateur
"Practice makes perfect," so the adage goes.
For Mark Blakely, the SCGA's 1982 champion, an hour in the practice bunker at Stockdale CC may have been just the edge he needed to win the championship.
After the third round, the 22-year-old golfer from Temple City spent more than an hour practicing sand shots, although he hadn't hit a bunker in the first 54 holes.
For another 17, he avoided the nemesis of most golfers. Then on the 221-yard final hole, with a one-stroke lead over Duffy Waldorf, who had finished earlier with a course-record 64, Blakely put his tee shot in the bunker guarding the left front of the green.
He had to get up and down to protect his slim lead.
As the gallery of more than 200 watched, Blakely walked into the bunker, set his line and floated his shot out about a foot beyond the pin.
A few minutes later, he rolled the put in and raised his left hand in triumph while taking the congratulations of the other members of his foursome — Mitch Voges of Valencia, Rob Geiberger of Montecito and Paul O'Shea of Irvine Coast.
Blakely's practice had paid off. He won the 83rd SCGA Amateur Championship by a single stroke with rounds of 73-68-70-73—284.
While Blakely was playing a planned conservative game in the final round, Waldorf was shooting for the moon.
The UCLA student, who looks more like a football lineman than a golfer, started the final round 10 strokes off Blakely's pace.
"My last two rounds had been really bad," Waldorf explained after finishing the tournament. "I had been putting pretty poorly. But, today I didn't, and once I got rolling, I couldn't stop."
Waldorf started the final round poorly, bogeying the first, fourth and fifth holes. He was 13 strokes behind the leader at that pint. But, he caught fire at No. 8 with an eagle-3, following his driver with a 6-iron and a 20-foot putt.
Coming home, he was hotter than the 96-degree weather in Bakersfield. He birdied every hole except Nos. 14 and 16 of the back nine, where he had pars.
"The key was keeping the ball in play and keeping it near the pin," Waldorf explained. "Once I got it rolling, it just kept rolling. It's a great feeling."
When he finished, he had a long wait for the final group with Mark Blakely — the 54-hole leader. It seemed much longer than 30 minutes.
Blakely followed his game plan, though he knew that he must make pars or better the last three holes to preserve his one-stroke lead after a birdie on No. 15.
The birdie steadied him, though Blakely admitted it was a little harder to concentrate after an official told him of Waldorf's record round and the one-stroke deficit.
Blakely missed close birdie putts on Nos. 16 and 17, where he saved pars. This led to the drama at the finishing hole.
The new champion started the day at 211 after 54 holes, and his attention was on Paul O'Shea, with a 212, and Mitch Voges and Rob Geiberger, who had 214s.
Blakely had charted the course with accurate yardages for all holes from sprinkler heads to the greens. He referred to his notes often.
"I really relied on my note book," he explained. "Knowing the exact yardage, instead of having to guess, probably saved me eight or 10 strokes over the weekend. And it helped me concentrate on my game," he continued.
He believed that a par round the final day would probably win for him, and he played for it. The 337-yard, dogleg left No. 9 and the 297-yard 13th are examples.
On both holes, his challengers — Geiberger, O'Shea and Voges — cut the dogleg by hitting drivers over the trees. Blakely hit an iron, followed the fairway and took pars.
Geiberger — 18-year-old-son of touring pro Al Geiberger — got an eagle on No. 9 to pull even with Blakely, but carded bogie on No. 11 to Blakely's par. At No. 12, Blakely made a birdie to Geiberger's par and the brief challenge was over.
Geiberger commented, "I took some chances, but Mark played some really good golf."
Cutting the corners did not help the other challengers overcome Blakely.
Blakely finished four rounds with a 284 total, even par for the 6,332-yard Stockdale course. It was his second tournament win in two weeks, as he had won the Los Angles County Men's Championship earlier. He was the L.A. City winner in 1980.
Alton Duhon, Griffith Park GC; Bill Viele, Quail Lake; and Mark Stevens, Calabasas Park; posted opening round, two-under-par 69s on Friday morning, but only Duhon remained among the leaders when the afternoon round was posted.
He had a 73 in the second round for a 142 total to trail Blakely and Voges by one stroke. Blakely had a 73-68—141 and Voges a 70-71—141.
Viele's 77 second round gave him a 146, while Stevens posted an 80 to finish at 149.