By Don Thames, Country Club golf pro
At the tender age of 32, Stefan von Seeger had waited a long time to win a major championship at Rancho Murieta Country Club. As a boy, when he was not eligible to compete, he watched his father, Steve, win the club championship. His only chance to win a club championship was through the junior competition, which never materialized. He grew up, left the community and then returned two months ago as a Rancho Murieta resident and joined the club as a junior executive member. He wasted no time to grab the title of club champion. In the finals of match play he faced past champion and wily veteran Steve Jones. “I knew coming in that Steve is a grinder, so I prepared for that mentally,” said von Seeger. “It became apparent early on that Steve was going to get everything up and down, and he did so throughout the match.”
In a seesaw match that went to the 18th hole, Jones took an early lead and held onto to it through much of the first 18 holes. The turning point of the match came on hole 10 in the morning session of the scheduled 36 holes. Jones left his approach short right. von Seeger knew it would be a par. He played his approach conservatively left of the pin as the hole location was dangerously close to the left front edge of the green (over water). The 70-foot putt, up over the ledge, was solid and tracking. The ball hung haltingly on the edge and fell in for a birdie three. Jones was then forced to hole his pitch and removed the flagstick for that purpose. He played it overly aggressive and missed way long. At this point von Seeger was only one down.
After lunch von Seeger seized the lead and at one point he led by three holes. Steve Jones was not done yet. In a match against Steve Edinburgh, Jones overcame a three-up lead held by Edinburgh after nine holes. Jonesie came back to win that match on the 18th.
Like father, like son. (Click for larger image.)
Stefan held the advantage with the driver. Steve was a master around the greens. It was set up to be a duel to the end and the players did not disappoint. The gallery for the match reached over 100 spectators that were not only thrilled with the match but enjoyed the beverages sponsored by Carole Thames and Town and Country Real Estate.
Jones won holes 16 and 17 and went to the 18th tee one down. Jones found the fairway bunker while von Seeger piped another drive well over 300 yards, leaving him an easy eight iron into the green. In the end, von Seeger won the hole and scored a 2-up victory.
“With all of the memories I have as a kid growing up here and watching my Dad win this event, the whole thing seems a bit surreal,” von Seeger said. “I’m just glad to be back out here enjoying the community again. The long wait was worth it!”
Darrell Lewis and Jared Alexander gave the gallery a great show in the Scratch Gold Flight as well. Mr. Lewis is a longtime friend of the Alexander family and has, in fact, lived within walking distance of the Alexander family in three separate towns. They players not only knew each other well, they knew about the other's game.
This match would also go to the 18th green as Alexander had a 15-foot putt to take the match into a playoff. Jared missed his attempt, but nonetheless, played great golf not only in the finals, but throughout the tournament. In the end, Lewis would win the final match 1-up.
Clearly, Darrell Lewis deserved the title, as he was the best ball striker in the field throughout the event. He finished second in qualifying and outplayed each and every opponent he faced over two weekends, although his victory over Alexander was by the slimmest of margins. Darrell works the ball from right to left and the amount of hook is always a factor in how well he plays. This week Darrell’s tee ball was drawing three yards. Perfect! During his lesser performances his hook would be explained best by Lee Trevino’s assertion, “You can talk to a fade but a hook won’t listen.”
Jim Morphy led the field in the qualifying and earned medalist honors with a fine round of 74. By his own assertion he said, “I can’t hit it any better, I couldn’t believe it. ... I could have putted better, I didn’t miss many greens." Morphy bowed out to Alexander in the quarterfinals 3-2.
Kent Fowler won the Handicap Division Title with a 7-5 victory over Joe Petterle in the finals. Fowler went out to an early lead and never looked back. He played well consistently and had an edge with the pops on the card. Dr. Fowler has proven to be a match play specialist and enjoys the format of play. It proves the age old axiom of playing for the sake of the game and having fun.