Jeff Hart Wins SCGA Amateur
Had Jeff Hart heeded his golf instructor's advice, the Southern California Golf Assn. would have a different amateur champion today!
The 19-year-old Solana Beach youth is a protege of teaching pro Ernie Vossler, and it was Vossler who advised him to skip tournament play this summer and work on his swing.
But Hart had committed to play in the SCGA Amateur and some other tournaments, and play he did — with the exception of a nine-hole lapse on the final day at Hacienda Golf Club.
The USC sophomore shared the lead after the first round with Howard Marvin, a 49-year-old "once-a-week golfer" from San Dimas Canyon GC. Each opened with three-under-par 68s at the 6,502-yard championship site.
After a one-under 70 in the afternoon round the first day, Hart was the only player under par at 138 — five strokes better than his nearest rivals. Tied at 143 were defending champion Brian Gaddy, 33, Annandale CC; David Games, 18, California CC; and Marvin.
With an eight-stoke lead after a two-over-par 73 on Saturday, it looked like Hart would win in a walk, but it turned out to be more than a Sunday stroll. Games had slipped back in the third round, but Ray Vanyo of Quail Lake GC joined the hounds in the quest of the red fox.
Hart's driver deserted him, as he missed the fairways and carded bogeys on the first four holes on Sunday. For a moment it could have been anyone's tournament. With a birdie on the 405-yard first hole and pars the rest of the way through six, Marvin cut Hart's margin to three strokes, as did Gaddy who parred through five holes and birdied the 199-yard, par-3 sixth.
At this point, Hart widened his margin with a bird on the 515-yard seventh hole, while Gaddy settled for a par and Marvin took bogey. But Gaddy wasn't to be counted out as he birdied the next hole while the redhead was taking a par. At the turn, Hart had a three-stroke lead over Gaddy and four over Marvin and Vanyo.
Playing two groups ahead of Hart, Chris Houchin, 21, of Stockdale CC shot a 33 on the front nine to pull even with Gaddy and three shots behind the leader. With birdies on the second, third, fifth, seventh and ninth holes, Houchin was making a run at the leader, but bogeys on the first and fourth slowed his charge.
Double bogeys on the 10th hole knocked Houchin and Marvin from the race, and a bogey five on the 309-yard, par-4 11th slowed Gaddy's attempt to overtake the struggling leader.
Hart birdied the par-4, 416-yard 13th while Gaddy made bogey for a two-stroke turn around. By that time, Gaddy was running out of holes and it would take a miracle for him to pull even.
Hart had regained some control of his tee game, but Gaddy did not gold. Gaddy parred 15 and Hart bogeyed to reduce the lead to five strokes. Gaddy made bird to Hart's par on the 15th and the defending champion trailed by four, and on the 16th Gaddy made par while Hart was taking a bogey.
Hart's lead was three strokes with two holes to play. Gaddy birdied the par-5, 467-yard 17th. In the following group, Hart was on the 17th green in two and putting for eagle. He rolled the putt close and holes his birdie.
Both bogeyed the finishing hole.
After the round, Hart said, "To win a tournament like this you usually have to shoot four good rounds. I was lucky I got away with a 77 today."
Gaddy's downfall did not come on Sunday, when he had a one-over par 72, but rather on Saturday in the third round when he took a disastrous quadruple-bogey seven on the par-3, 190-yard 16th hole.
He hit his tee shot to the green, and it bounced over and into tall grass about 10 yards behind and below the putting surface. He tried to wedge the ball up, and swung below it, leaving the ball nestled in the grass.
Gaddy's second attempt with the wedge advanced the ball about two feet and his third moved it another five feet. He got up to the green with his fifth stroke and two putted.
Those four strokes were the difference in victory and second place. Reflecting on them the next day, Gaddy said, "it was a matter of bad judgment in shot selection."
Vanyo slipped to an 81 in the final round for a 300 total and Marvin carded an 82 for a 301, leaving space for some of the young Southern Californians to move up in the standings.
Tied in third with 293s were Houchin, 21, Stockdale CC, a senior at Fresno State; Lynn Stone, 22, Los Serranos GC, a senior at Cal State Fullerton; and Mark Wiebe, 21, Meadow Lake CC, last year's runner up, a senior at San Jose State and recent winner of the 1979 Pacific Northwest Amateur Championship. Chuck White, 20, Los Alamitos GC, a junior at UCLA was alone in sixth with 295.
Ted Richards Jr., 56, the reigning Southern California and California State Seniors Champion, finished in seventh place. Richards won the SCGA Amateur in 1954 before many of his young fellow competitors were born, and again in 1961. He also won the National Public Links Championship in 1953 and has been the Bel-Air club champion 19 times.
As Richards stood on the first tee Sunday, waiting to tee off with David Games, 18, California CC, and Steve Pate, 18, Birnam Wood, he commented, "Put another youngster their age with them, and I'd still be older than all three of them combined."
Tournament Director Pete Patman of Hillcrest CC commented after the tournament, "We had a lot of good players, and it was a shame that all of them couldn't win."
Back in the field after 72 holes of play were some outstanding golfers such a Doug Clarke, 20, La Jolla CC, who won in 1978, and who was a member of the 1979 Walker Cup team; Mickey Yokoi, 20, a UCLA junior and the new Los Angeles City Champion; and several other good players.
Douglas Eichelberger, Braemar CC, playing in the Vice President's Flight, scored a hole-in-one Sunday on the 127-yard 12th hole. That was the only ace of the tournament at Hacienda.