DALY CITY, CALIF. – There are two things you can count on when you come to San Francisco’s Olympic Club for a golf tournament: The weather will be changeable and the course and grounds will be immaculate. The historic venue, which can boast of hosting the U.S. Open golf tournament five times, as well as three U.S. Amateurs and the 2004 U.S. Junior Amateur, is a highly regarded destination for prestigious golf events.
Both the weather and the venue held true to form for the regional Drive, Chip and Putt qualifier on September 9, with drifting fog and clouds parting occasionally early in the day to reveal teasing glimpses of blue sky—until the coastal fog put a cap over the area just as the competition began.
Despite the cloudiness, with light breezes and temperatures in the high 60s, it was a beautiful day for the 64 competitors, ages 7 to 15, who had converged on San Francisco for a chance to advance to the National Finals at Augusta National on April 1, 2018, the Sunday before Masters Tournament week.
The competitors came from as far away as Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and from as close to home as right here in San Francisco—eight boys and eight girls each in age groups 7-9, 10-11, 12-13, and 14-15. At the end of the day eight competitors were headed cross-country for the National Finals.
Kasey Maralack, of Snoqualamie, WA, winner of the Girls 12-13 age group, will be making a return trip; four years ago she was the regional winner as a 9-year-old. The return trip is, she said, “…just as special as the first time.”
Washington state golfers dominated the California Regional event, with four winners from Washington, and two each from Oregon and California.
The California winners bookended the competition, with 9-year-old Asterisk Talley of Chowchilla taking the Girls 7-9 honors, and Ian Gilligan, of Corte Madera, winning in the Boys 14-15 age group.
Gilligan played on his junior high school golf team, and now, as a new freshman, will play high school golf. He also wants to also play college golf, hopefully on a Division 1 team. He hails from just across the Golden Gate in Corte Madera and showed a delicate touch—and maybe a local’s familiarity—in the chipping competition. Gilligan stopped all three of his attempts within two feet of the hole for an event-best total of 60 points.
The driving competition was held on the first hole of the Olympic Club’s Ocean Course, the sister course to the better-known Lake Course – the site of many great moments in U.S. Open golf history. The Olympic Club will host the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open on the Lake Course, the first time that the women’s national event will be held here or at any San Francisco-area course.
The putting and chipping competitions were held on the Cliffs Course, the Olympic Club’s nine-hole, par-3 executive course, located across the road from the main club, on the west side of Skyline Boulevard. The Cliffs Course is a 1994 Jay Morrish and Tom Weiskopf design, and features sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Hang gliders drifted through the air above the course, between the cliffs and the low-hanging fog, as the competitors assayed the chipping and putting portions of the event.
The Cliffs Course’s No. 1 green, where the putting competition was held, is a typically speedy Olympic Club putting surface, with a back-left to front-right slope.
The chipping competition was held on the green of the second hole, where the competitors chipped into a tricky back-to-front slope.
Edmonton, Alberta’s Jonathan Meng, competing in Boys 12-13, had one of two chip-ins on the tricky second green, which helped him to a 41-point total for that part of the competition. Meng and his father traveled the farthest to come to the Olympic Club for the event; their home in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, is 1,145 miles from San Francisco.
When asked how the harsh Canadian winters affect his golf game, Jonathan said, “It’s hard to know your distances when you come back from being off for the winter.”
The Olympic Club Regional qualifier for the Drive, Chip and Putt competition was a special event for all of the competitors, and ample demonstration of how well all of the kids involved have learned the lessons of sportsmanship and friendly competition that is one of the goals of the event. Very few tears of disappointment were seen, and they were greatly outnumbered by the smiles and congratulations offered to the winners by their fellow competitors to cheer them on their way to Augusta next April.