Golf Channel Amateur Tour Event Gets Juices Flowing

A threesome in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour's San Diego Open putts out Sunday on 18th hole at Rancho Bernardo Inn.

Standing in front of the scorer’s table Sunday afternoon at Rancho Bernardo Inn, Steve Sitar reacted as if he had just won the Masters when results were announced for his flight in the San Diego Open, a two-day major on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour.

And that was for finishing third.

“Yes, I’m going to nationals,” exclaimed Sitar, a 58-year-old engineer from Las Vegas. The top three finishers in the Senior Jones Flight all earned exemptions to the Tour’s national championship event in September at PGA West in La Quinta.

It was a lot of excitement coming from someone who just shot a 17-over-par 89.

“I’m not Tom Watson,” said Sitar, whose handicap is similar to what he shot. “I just do it for the fun of it. If I don’t stink up the place, then I’m usually pretty darn happy.”

That’s the type of enthusiasm the Golf Channel Amateur Tour has generated among its players. They’re treated like professionals in many ways — for example, their names are announced when they approach the first tee — but there is an Everyman quality that encourages all comers. The Tour has 12 different flights to account for every level of golfer, so there is competition within each grouping. Performances Sunday ranged from an even-par 72 shot by San Diego’s Thomas Isaak at Maderas Golf Club to win the Championship Flight to the 62-over-par 134 one golfer recorded in the Senior Snead Flight at Rancho Bernardo Inn. The 20 he carded at the par-4 ninth hole didn’t help, but that’s another story (eight balls in the water? Really?).

Sitar said he was encouraged to join the Tour last year by his son, who is also a member. He has enjoyed the competition and the variety of courses he’s been able to visit.

“These courses are gorgeous,” said Sitar, who played Maderas on Saturday before concluding the weekend at RB Inn.

“Here I shot an 89 and I thought I could easily have shot an 84,” said Sitar, sounding strikingly similar to the PGA pros when they recount their rounds. Sitar was proud of back-to-back pars at 16 and 17, but he double bogeyed the par-5 18th. He’s not alone there. The 18th is a challenging finishing hole, stretching well over 500 yards, the last half of it uphill with water on the left, fed by a stream that fronts the hole’s tiered green. There’s plenty of opportunity to give away strokes before sinking the day’s final putt.

Ah, well. Sitar takes it in all stride. In fact, afterwards he sounded as if he was working up material for a Vegas lounge act.

“Some of the golfers take it a little more seriously than I do,” said Sitar. “I take it like Lee Trevino. I want to win, but I golf for one reason only — beverage cart girls.”

Then he added: “I don’t make my living at golf. I spend my living at golf.”


Players Warm Up To Golf Channel Tour Stop Here

A group playing Saturday in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour completes its round on 18th hole at Maderas Golf Club.

One of the major stops on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour is this weekend’s San Diego Open. It’s a two-day, 36-hole event played at Maderas Golf Club and Rancho Bernardo Inn. There are 21 states represented in the 180-man field, which is divided by handicap into 12 flights. Seemingly all of the visitors came here in search of some sun.

Pat Moore of Aurora, Colo., and Sean Brushett of Seattle, were positioned above the 18th hole at Maderas after completing their rounds, watching other groups finish and marveling at the weather (72 and sunny). Moore said Tour events don’t get going in Colorado until the end of April. Brushett said they begin play in Washington three weeks earlier, but still “it will be wet and cold. Of course, it’s like that most of the time.”

David Saxon of Farmington, N.M. said he couldn’t have picked a better place to play his first Golf Channel event: “With it 40 degrees back home, I couldn’t resist.”

Saxon, 41, owns a business called Sandia Hearing Aids and said he signed up for the Tour because he found himself spending too much time working.

“I joined to get me back into golf and get my handicap down,” said Saxon, who plays to a 15 handicap. He shot a 98 on the par-72, 6,555-yard Johnny Miller-designed course at Maderas. He felt fortunate to avoid triple digits after shooting 54 on the front. Saxon put the driver away on the back nine and carded a 44.

“The fairways are so narrow,” said Saxon. “I realized I was using the driver too much.”

Saxon called Maderas one of the most difficult and challenging courses he’s ever played. It’s certainly much different than what he sees back home in New Mexico. There were the narrow fairways and some blind shots. There were the canyon holes that created some difficulty judging distance. And there’s the price to be paid for leaving shots short — or long.

Said Moore: “It’s unforgiving. I’ll bet I took six to eight penalty strokes (going out of bounds). But I loved the challenge.”

Moore, 61, who also was eager to get out of the Colorado cold. Now if he could just get his game to warm up. Moore, a 22-handicap, failed to break 100 at Maderas. He should fare better Sunday at Rancho Bernardo Inn, where errant shots have more room to roam.

Brushett shot an 88 at RB Inn on Saturday, then came over to Maderas to get another look at the course before playing it on Sunday. He shot 85 at Maderas in a practice round earlier in the week.

“You play for bogeys and if you pepper in some pars it’s a good day,” said Brushett, 43, an executive who joined the Tour two years ago and is playing in his 20th Golf Channel event.

The lowest score of the day was a 2-over-par 74 by Roland Rivera of San Diego in the Championship flight, which includes golfers with handicaps of 3.9 or lower. It was one of 20 scores in the 70s at RB Inn, where most of the lower-handicap flights played on Saturday. They move to Maderas for Sunday’s final round. Rick Labrum of Murrieta, playing in the Senior Hogan flight (handicaps of 8 to 12), had the lowest score at Maderas on Saturday with a 10-over 82.

Here’s more on the Golf Channel Amateur Tour.