|Cal Golfer Captures 81st Commuters Title|
Published: Thursday, 01 May 2008 23:04
There was a time, about 40 years ago, when collegiate golfers dominated the Alameda Commuters Championship. The complaints from your everyday working-man golfers were at first whispers, then grew louder. It became quite a controversy in the late 1960s, with a rather surprising ending.
The older golfers complained that they simply could not keep up with the likes of Forrest Fezler, a San Jose State star who won the Commuters in 1968-69 and went on to star on the PGA Tour. Or 1967 champ Ray Leach, a Marin denizen who starred at BYU.
To solve the problem, the United States Golf Association and the Northern California Golf Association started mid-amateur championships; a distinct move to keep college golfers out of the field.
But a strange thing happened — the collegiate golfers suddenly disappeared from the Commuters field in the mid-’70s.
The reason? NCAA golf shifted from match-play (school-on-school) to tournament play. With all those tournaments, intercollegiate golfers could no longer afford two weekends to play in the Commuters.
Until this year.
Five golfers from the U.C. Berkeley golf team entered the 2008 Commuters Championship — a first in over four decades. All five — Ian Dahl, Jeff Hamm, Freddy Wolfe, Kent Yamane and Mike Jensen — finished in the top 20.
And red-shirt senior Mike Jensen, who hails from Los Altos, won.
Jensen shot a solid 66 on the par-71 Earl Fry course in Saturday’s third round, with birdies on four of the last five holes, to separate himself from the field by two strokes. He coasted to a three-shot victory with a final-round 70, playing safe, aiming at the center of the greens to avoid trouble. Jensen ended up with a 10-under-par 274 for the championship.
“I didn’t expect to win,” Jensen said. “It’s been over a year since my last win, the Santa Clara County.”
Jensen was one of five golfers who tied for medalist honors after 36 holes with 4-under-par 138 totals. The other four golfers figured to challenge. Martin Trainer, 17, had just won the San Francisco City title. Chris Marin, a caddie at Pebble Beach, was coming off a win in the California Mid-Am.
Andrew Haggen is a rising star on the De LaSalle High golf team. And Sean Demeter was the only golfer to shoot both rounds in the ’60s (69-69).
Jensen had stretched his lead to three strokes by the time the two pivotal holes of the championship arrived, the 12th and 13th.
Jensen three-putted No. 12 for a bogey, falling to 8-under-par. Marin sank a five-foot birdie putt to move to 6-under, joining Haggen in a two shot swing.
Then Jensen hit a weak approach to No. 13, short and right of the pin, while Haggen and Marin hit theirs close to the pin.
It looked like the wheels might be coming off Jensen’s ride — but he showed his championship mettle by hitting the shot of the tournament. He selected a 60-degree wedge to hit a low burner of a pitch shot, which barely cleared the hill, skipped once then suddenly stopped, inches from the hole. A kick-in par.
A shot like that can un-nerve an opponent — both Marin and Haggen missed their birdie putts. And never challenged again.
A routine birdie on the par-5 14th, and a solid birdie from a bad lie in the bunker on 17, cemented Jensen’s three-stroke triumph.
“That two-shot swing on twelve, then he hit it right on the next hole, I thought I had a chance there,” Marin said. “His up-and-down on thirteen broke the momentum. But that up-and-down on seventeen was real good. Mike’s a champion.”
Emily Childs of Alameda High did not look like she was satisfied just becoming the first woman to make the cut in Commuters’ history in the third round. She looked like she
wanted to win. At one point she was 4-under-par. But bogeys on the final holes finished that, and she posted a 71. A 74 in the final round gave her a 293 total, and a tie for 31st.
Jim Oliver of the Greencoats claimed they had no trophy for a girl making the cut, because it never happened. But they did give Childs a dozen roses, which surprised her.
Mayor Beverley Johnson handed Jensen his championship trophy.
Mark Miller avenged his loss to Gary Vanier in last year’s Senior Commuters, posting a one-stroke victory over Vanier on Sunday. Miller may be the reigning NCGA Points champ, but on the victory stand he stated that Vanier, who won three straight Commuters titles from 1988 through 1990, “is the best golfer in Northern California.”
There was not one whimper of complaint about a collegiate golfer winning this year. Mike Jensen was a popular champion.