Brad Was As Sharp As A Tack
"The game isn't over until it's over." Yogi Berra's immortal words were never truer than at the 1984 Southern California Amateur Championship at San Gabriel Country Club.
The scorecard says that Brad Greer won the 85th SCGA Amateur by parring the 72nd and final hole as Sam Randolph saw the title slip from his grasp on the last hole for the second year in a row.
But the numbers tell only a small part of the story. The bizarre finish left golfers and spectators shaking their heads in disbelief.
As he stood in the center of the 18th fairway, Greer knew he was in trouble. One shot down on the 72nd hole with Randolph, the tournament leader, 20 yards in front of him, the 22-year-old Greer, who plays out of Mission Viejo CC, faced an approach shot of 176 yards to the tightly bunkered 18th green.
"I knew I had to get it close," said Greer later. "I couldn't worry about what Sam was going to do." Greer rose to the challenge by drilling a five iron to within three and one-half feet of the cup.
Now the pressure shifted to Randolph, the USC All-American whose father is head professional at La Cumbre CC in Santa Barbara. Randolph had begun the final round two shots behind Greer, but had fashioned a brilliant round with an eagle, a birdie, and 15 pars to take a one-shot lead into the final hole.
After he saw Greer's shot cover the pin, Randolph had a choice. "I either had to hit a hard eight or and easy seven," he explained later. Randolph selected the eight but left the 155-yard shot buried in a bunker guarding the left side of the green, giving himself a virtually impossible shot.
Hampered by an awkward stance and the buried ball, Randolph's explosion shot scooted across the green into the fringe. "I figured that Brad was sure to make birdie," said Randolph later, "so all of a sudden I was putting just to force a playoff." Randolph charged his 20-foot putt, but it slid by and stopped three feet past the cup.
But Greer, now putting for the title, pulled his birdie attempt to the left, disconsolately tapped in his par putt, and headed for the first playoff hole. "I thought I blew it," he said later.
And he might have been prophetic, except that Randolph pulled his 42-inch putt to the left to make Greer the 62nd man to wear the SCGA Amateur crown.
Greer shot rounds of 69-72-73-71 to finish at 285, one-over-par on the tough 6,467-yard, par-71 San Gabriel CC course. Randolph shot 70-73-73-70 to finish at 286.
Pat Duncan of Rancho Santa Fe CC birdied three of the last seven holes to finish third at 287, two shots behind Greer and a stroke behind Randolph. Cris Brown of Santa Ana CC finished another shot back at 288.
The improbable finish obscured, but couldn't obliterate, the final round's drama. Greer and Randolph went at each other head-to-head in the final threesome of the day, while three other golfers — Duncan, Brown, and Lee Davis of Los Angeles CC — began the day within striking distance.
Greer scrambled on the front nine, posting three birdies, three pars, and three bogies. He sank a 15-foot putt to birdie the first hole, birdied the sixth hole, and chipped in with a nine iron to birdie the 405-yard, par 4 eighth hole.
But following that dramatic shot, Greer bogied the 183-yard, par-3 ninth hole after bunkering his tee shot, and three-putted the 10th green.
Randolph, meanwhile, was rock steady. He birdied the 440-yard, par-4 seventh hole (the number one stroke hole), added eight pars on the front nine, and parred the 10th hole to pull even with Greer for the lead.
Brown, who has won several club championships at Santa Ana CC but has never figured in a major tournament, started the day tied with Randolph and quietly staying in contention.
Playing in the threesome ahead of the leaders, Brown had a birdie and two bogies en route to a one-over-par 37 on the front nine. And when he birdied the 178-yard, par-three 12th, Brown was suddenly just one shot off the lead.
But the 467-yard, par-five 13th hole proved to be pivotal. Brown flirted with the omnipresent trees on both his drive and approach, and his third shot pulled up 60 feet short of the hole.
Evoking shades of Ben Crenshaw at Augusta, Brown rolled his putt through two time zones and left it inches away for a tap-in par.
Greer and Randolph, meanwhile, were down the middle of the fairway awaiting their approach shots. Randolph crushed a three iron that landed on the front of the green and rolled 50 feet, breaking to within two feet of the hole. Greer followed with a four iron that slid off the green hole high to the left.
Putting from the fringe, Greer came up just short and tapped in for his birdie. But Randolph sank his two-foot putt for an eagle, which gave him a one-shot lead over Greer and put him three up on Brown.
The margin proved to be short-lived. After both players parred the 14th, Greer evened what had now virtually become match play by birdieing the 326-yard, par-four 15th with a 15-foot putt. Both players parred the treacherous 420-yard, par-four 16th.
On the 450-yard, par-four 17th, Randolph took a one-shot lead when Greer flew a four-iron approach shot over the green and couldn't get up and down for par. That set the stage for the bizarre finish.
Other players threatened briefly, but fell back. Patrick Duncan began the day tied with Randolph two shots off the lead. But the Rancho Santa Fe CC and San Diego City Amateur champion bogied two of the first three holes and the par-three 11th to slip four shots off the lead.
Duncan eventually rallied with birdies on 12, 15, and 18 to finish the tournament in third place, two shots behind Greer, one behind Randolph, and one shot ahead of Cris Brown.
Lee Davis, the 1975 SCGA Amateur champion, began the final round three shots off the lead, but struggled to a three-over-par 74 and finished fifth.
Greer's victory capped a wire-to-wire performance for the Huntington Beach resident. He shot 69-72 — 141 for a two shot lead over Randolph and Art Butler of Glendora CC after the 36-hole opening round Friday at San Gabriel. A third-round 73, two-over-par, allowed Greer to maintain his two-shot advantage after the third round.
Greer had begun the week by shooting 69-73 — 142 to share top honors with John McGlone of Yorba Linda CC in the Metro South regional qualifying which was held at McGlone's home course.
Other qualifying leaders in championship play were:
- Randolph in the Western Region, who shot 70-69 — 139 at Black Lake GC;
- Dave Licalsi of Desert Horizons CC (Metro East and East Region) 70-71 — 141 at March Air Force Base GC;
- Mitch Voges of Valencia GC (Metro Region) 72-71 — 143 at South Hills CC;
- James Myers of El Camino CC (South Region) 68-72 — 140 at San Luis Rey Downs Golf Resort & CC;
- David Nicholas of Bakersfield CC (North Region) 71-71 — 142 at Rio Bravo Resort.
In flight competition, Jeff Earnest of Santa Barbara GC, a seven handicapper, captured the President's flight when he rallied from off the pace with a net 69 on the final round to nip Dick Pickup of Santa Ana CC, Phil Redman of San Bernardino CC, and first-round leader Wayne Carter of Canyon Crest CC by one stroke.
Donald Martin of San Clemente GC, a 10 handicapper, won the Vice president's flight on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff with Bob Campregher of Master's Golf Group and Bud Corson of Valencia GC. Martin fired a net 69 to come from off the pace and tied his two playoff opponents at 140.
Maurice Norrington of El Dorado GC, playing to a 15 handicap, shot rounds of 68-67 — 135 and won the Secretary's flight by two shots over Jefferey Faver of Rolling Hills CC. Norrington's brother Wayne, who won the Secretary's flight last year, finished tied for sixth in the Vice President's flight this year.
"All of a sudden, the round turned into match play, and I came out on top." — Brad Greer, after winning the 1984 SCGA Amateur.
When Brad Greer began the final round of the 85th SCGA Amateur Championship, he knew what lay ahead. Playing in the final threesome, he was paired with two of the three players — Sam Randolph and Patrick Duncan — who were tied for second, two strokes behind him.
And, given the fact that Greer's total through three rounds at the tight San Gabriel Country Club Course was one-over-par, Greer knew that most of his competition was likely to be in his threesome or in the group preceding him.
The effect was, therefore, quite similar to match play, and in one sense, that's ironic, because Greer and Randolph figure to battle each other in many matches next year when they become teammates at the University of Southern California.
Greer freely admits that his golfing career has been somewhat nomadic. The 22-year-old Huntington Beach resident graduated from Marina High School and went first to Golden West College and then to Orange Coast College.
Along the way, he won the San Diego and Costa Mesa City Championships and the 1983 Tournament of Champions on the West Coast Amateur circuit.
This month, he enters USC where he will be a senior majoring in business; he will also play alongside Randolph, Mike Blewett, Rob Geiberger and the rest of the USC team which won the 1984 Pac-10 championship.
"My first goal is to finish school," he says. "Then, in a couple of years, I'll think about turning pro." When he does, it may be awhile before he encounters a match like the final round of the SCGA Amateur Championship.
The turning point in the last round may have been the eighth hole. "I hit a one iron for my drive," explained Greer, "but then I pulled a seven iron to the right. When I saw my lie, I was just trying to get up and down for par, but I had a good feeling because I had birdied the hole the first three rounds."
Using a nine iron, Greer chipped towards the flagstick. "When the ball was within four or five feet of the hole, I knew it was going in," said Greer later. He was right, and the birdie helped Greer to finish even par for the front nine.
If the eighth hole was a high point in the round, the back nine had its dark moments. Perhaps the gloomiest came at the 450-yard, par-four, 17th hole. "You absolutely don't want to be right on your drive," explained Greer, "because you'll be out-of-bounds. So, for the first three rounds I hit my drive over the trees into the 10th fairway which left a five iron to the green."
But on Sunday, Greer didn't keep his drive far enough left and the ball stopped in the rough near a tree. "I had about 220 yards to the green," explained Greer. "I hit a four iron, but I caught a flier and it went long and right."
Faced with a delicate chip, Greer's ball checkup up short and he missed the 15-foot par putt to drop a stroke behind Randolph, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.
"I couldn't worry about what Sam was going to do," explained Greer. "I just knew that I had to make birdie and put some pressure on him."
But the pressure was on both golfers and both missed short putts. Greer's birdie attempt would have won the championship outright; Randolph's would have sent the match to a playoff. "I didn't even see Sam miss," said Greer later. "I figured I had blown it when I pulled my birdie putt. I was heading for the first hole and a playoff."
It was one of the few things that Greer missed all week.