Nothing against Pebble Beach, but the hallowed ground in the Monterey peninsula isn’t the be-all end-all of California golf. It really only begins to tell the story of the many great courses the Golden State has to offer.
California’s golf story continues on Monday when the 99th California State Amateur Championship tees off at Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club
and La Jolla Country Club, marking the first time one of the nation’s oldest state amateur golf championships will be staged in San Diego.
Since it opened in 1919, the tournament had been held every year at Pebble Beach Golf Links, with the exception of 2000 when it hosted the U.S. Open. But starting in 2007, the tournament started a north-south rotation that allows some of the state’s other great courses to be showcased.
“It was a tough decision (to move it) just because Pebble is Pebble, but by rotating it to these great courses, we’re not really losing a beat and I think the players are enjoying the chance to challenge themselves on some of these classic courses,” said Mike Sweeney, the director of rules and competitions for the Southern California Golf Association.
Two years ago, the tournament made its way to Southern California for the first time when it was staged at Lakeside and Oakmont in Burbank and Glendale. Now it’s being played at two of San Diego’s most storied courses.
Rancho Santa Fe and La Jolla will share 36 holes of stroke play over the first two days of the championship, which will determine the medalist and 32 match-play participants. Match play will be contested at Rancho Santa Fe beginning Wednesday. The 36-hole final is set for Saturday.
Rancho Santa Fe has hosted many prestigious events over the years, including Bing Crosby’s pro-am “clambake,” the San Diego Open and, more recently, the U.S. Junior Amateur. La Jolla is home to several legendary players, including Gene Littler, Phil Rodgers, Chuck Courtney and Phil Mickelson. It also has hosted many important events, including two SCGA Amateurs.
The 156-man field is no less impressive, as it will feature some of the state’s best up-and-coming and veteran amateurs, including Tim Hogarth, Nick Delio, Jeff Wilson, Del Mar’s Anthony Paolucci, Encinitas’ Bucky Coe and Rancho Santa Fe’s Ed Cuff Jr., who won this event in 1998.
“We usually get a strong field for this tournament, but we have so many great golfers coming out of Southern California,” Sweeney said. “It’s exciting to see the combination of young guys and the mid-amateurs who are the staples of these events. It’s great to see the older guard with the younger stars of the future.”