Greer Had A Blast At Virginia
Alfred Hitchcock would've thrown away his popcorn in disgust. No need to call in Sherlock Holmes either. As far as suspense and mystery were concerned, the 86th Southern California Golf Association Amateur Championship didn't exactly keep everyone on the edge of their seats.
However, Brad Greer's resounding 12-stroke victory at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach achieved something far greater than suspense: history.
The strapping 24-year-old form Huntington Beach blew away a talent-laden field of Southern California's best amateur golfers in the process of claiming his second consecutive SCGA Amateur crown, a feat that hadn't occurred in 34 years.
Jim Ferrie of Virginia CC was the last man to win back-to-back titles when he won the 1950 and 1951 tournaments. Greer joins Paul Hunter (4 wins), Walter Fairbanks, George Von Elm, John W. Dawson, and Bruce McCormick (3 each), as well as Fay Coleman, Ferrie, Al Geiberger and Ted Richards (2 each) as the only multiple winners in the 86-year history of the event.
Greer, who plays out of Mission Hills CC, also smashed McCormick's 22-year-old tournament record of 280 by six shots with rounds of 70-66-67-71 — 274. His play turned the tournament into a horse race for second-place, a spot eventually claimed by Brian Mahon of Rancho Bernardo at 286.
Finishing behind Mahon was Ed Cuff Jr. of La Mesa at 287. Steve Rhorer of Virginia, Greg Starkman of Hillcrest, and Dirk Jones of Torrey Pines tied for fourth at 288.
The tournament began Friday with 36 holes amidst warm, humid weather. Greer put together rounds of 70 and 66 for a six-under-par of 139 and a three-shot lead over Art Butler Jr. of Glendora, who shot 68-71, and Cuff, who shot 70-69. One shot behind Butler and Cuff was Steve Bogan of Yorba Linda at 68-72 — 140.
Saturday the runaway began, as Greer continued to dominate Virginia's back nine holes. For the third straight day he carded a three-under-par 33 on the back side and on Saturday required a scant 24 putt — 10 on the front nine — to finish with a four-under-par 67.
His colleagues were impressed — and discouraged.
"The tournament's over," said Bogan, whose fine play around the green earned him a 70 and a share of second place — seven shots behind the leader.
Dennis Paulson of Santa Ana, in fifth place at 214 agreed, saying, "We're playing for second now. He's bringing this course to its knees with his driver," added Paulson who, as the reigning NCAA long-driving champion from San Diego State, knows a thing or two about the game off the tee.
Mahon fashioned a 69 to edge into a second-place tie, and later said, "I knew I had a chance (on Sunday), but he (Greer) was playing so well that he would have done well if he was playing at the British Open or Quad Cities (professional tournaments held concurrently with the SCGA Amateur)."
Greer did have his driver and putter sizzling, and when he did miss greens, his ability to salvage par while others were dropping shots enabled him to take aim at the tournament record — a mark he not only wanted to eclipse, but obliterate.
After Saturday's round Greer declared, "I want to shoot real low tomorrow a 64 or 65; shoot something that will stand up for 20 or 30 years."
Before Sunday's final round, Bogan was forced to withdraw because of personal reasons leaving Mahon in sole possession of second place.
As if he needed any help, following Greer all the way on Sunday was his own private gallery — "my little fan club," Greer said — a group of about 20 which included his parents, family, girlfriend, and other assorted well-wishers.
Needing to shoot only a 77 for the tournament record, and knowing that his competitors were well back, Greer pressed his game hard on Sunday, and had a round which started off mediocre, became masterful, and finished madcap.
Putting by his own admission "lousy" on the first four holes, Greer found himself two-over-par and vulnerable to a charge by his pursuers. The charge never came, as Mahon and Butler were missing greens and putts. Greer opened the door by finding trees with his tee shots, but his competitors couldn't capitalize.
At one point Greer, commenting on the lack of scintillating play by himself and his competition, ruefully acknowledged, "We're really tearing this side up."
A short birdie putt on the 375-yard eight hole seemed to steady Greer, who merely wanted to get through the first nine holes. "I just can't wait to get off this side," he muttered.
"The back side is my side." After finishing the front side in one-over-par 36, he set out to prove his point.
Routine pars at the ninth and tenth holes set the stage for a birdie spree that would make Greer's hoped-for score of 65 a realistic possibility.
On the 503-yard, par-five 12th hole, Greer guided his third shot six inches form the cup for a tap-in birdie. After parring the 13th hole with a nice sand-save, Greer turned to a reporter and said, "It's almost Miller time!"
With his mind set on draining a few brews, the 6'2", 215-pounder who has one semester left to graduate from USC set about draining a few putts.
He crushed a driver on the 315-yard, par-four 14th hole that left him with only 30 yards to the green, which measures a scant ten feet from side to side.
Showing finesse as well as brawn, Greer lofted his ball high and saw it stop six feet from the cup. Calmly rolling in the putt, Greer moved to one-under-par for his round, and one got the feeling he wasn't through.
His tee shot to the elevated green on the 148-yard, par-three 15th hole stopped on the front fringe, eight feet from the flag-stick. With another stroke of his putter, Greer was two-under-par for the round and on a roll.
the 399-yard, par-four 16th hole also fell victim. A mammoth drive, a short iron to within two feet, and a 65 seemed not only attainable but — considering the way Greer was striking the ball — probable.
Greer's string of four birdies in five holes ended when he parred the 389-yard, par-four 17th hole after leaving his 15-foot putt four inches short.
Then, the madcap:
Standing on the 18th tee, Greer still wanted to shoot 66, which he could achieve by eagling the 544-yard, par-five closing hole. Trying to unleash one of his giant drives, Greer reached back, way back, for a little extra and rocketed his tee shot far to the right through the trees and through the porch of a nearby dwelling.
"I feel bad about it now, I swung way too hard," he said later. After placing his second drive in the fairway and laying up successfully, Greer clubbed his fifth shot onto the steep hill behind the green.
Chipping as if he were standing on his ear, he lofted the ball over the green onto the front fringe. A chip and a putt later, he had a triple-bogey 8 on the hole, and finished at even-par 71 for the day.
Despite his last-hole "snow-man," Greer's title was never in peril. Mahon finished with a 76, a dozen shots behind the champion, while Cuff shot 75 to sneak in the back door and nab third place, as Butler ballooned to an 80 and finished seventh.
"If someone would've played better, we might have put some heat on him (Greer), said Butler, "But I was playing for second all the way."
Greer's Victory came less than a month after he had lost in the finals of the California Golf Association Amateur Championship to Sam Randolph, who was not entered in the SCGA Amateur. Some observers felt that the USC All-American would've given Greer a run for his money but Greer did not share those feelings. "The way I played, I don't think it (Randolph's entry) would have mattered," said Greer following the tournament. "I was just the best this week."
After a successful amateur career, Greer has turned pro, and believes his victory at Virginia will be a confidence booster for that effort. "I hope I can keep playing this way," said Greer. A lofty goal, but with his name inscribed twice on the SCGA Amateur chalice, he has history on his side.