West Vancouver, British Columbia (Pacific Coast Golf Association) — Tyler Raber of El Macero, Calif. was crowned the 47th Pacific Coast Amateur champion with a wire-to-wire romp at the storied Capilano Golf and Country Club in West Vancouver, British Columbia.
After opening with rounds of 63-67-70, the recent University of California Davis Aggies Men’s Golf team alum was able to stave off his back-seat competitors with a respectable two-over-par 72 final round on a difficult course layout to be crowned Pacific Coast Amateur champion.
Raber started off his round in clean fashion, making pars on his first two holes before birdying the par 5, 481-yard 3rd hole for the fourth straight day. He would make all pars on holes four through six before carding a bogey-five blemish on the tight 440-yard par 4 seventh.
Raber shook it off, making the turn in even-par 36, heading into the back nine in impeccable shape to hold on for his victory. He would make an even stronger case for being a dominant champion with a birdie on the incredibly difficult dog-leg left par 4 10th hole that ranked third toughest throughout the week.
After making a string of three pars on holes 11-13, Raber would slip up by bogeying three of his next four holes to get it to 2-over for the day with a single hole remaining. After hitting his approach shot on the par-5 525-yard 18th just short of the green in three and putting his chip shot long, Raber left himself an eight foot par putt to seal his victory.
He calmly walked up and knocked the winning putt in the center of the hole, etching his name next to PGA Tour winners Billy Mayfair (1987, 1988) and Ben Crane (1998) as well as James Lepp who won the last Pacific Coast Amateur hosted by Capilano Golf and Country Club in 2003. His four round line of 63-67-70-72--272 total was good enough for -8 overall.
After accepting the Ed Updegraff perpetual trophy as individual champion and joining the ranks of the aforementioned successful tour players, Raber was all smiles. “Its pretty cool. There are a lot of good names on there," said Raber. “It feels pretty good to be able to put my name on the same trophy as a lot of those guys.”
Asked how he was able to hang on to the cushion he built himself after his opening seven-under-par 63, Raber was honest about his strategy.
“When you play that well, it feels nice to be able to look at the leaderboard and go ‘okay I beat by the field today by a couple’ but to do it in the first round, you still have to remember that there are three rounds to go, most of the tournament still to go.”
“So it is kind of hard to stay in the moment and remember that there is a lot of golf to play and you never know what’s going to happen or who might catch you," he added. "Thankfully I just kept doing my thing and trying to play the best golf I could and it all worked out.”
Raber is no stranger to victory having won the 2012 Trans-Mississippi championship and the 2010 Stockton Sports Commission Invitational while at UC-Davis; experience he credits with assisting him to his victory in West Vancouver.
“It was a big help. I played a lot of good tournaments at UC Davis. We were thankful to have a very good travel schedule and play some of the better teams in the country every time we went somewhere.”
“I have had a lot of experience with big tournaments, big fields and playing against a lot of good players. That experience definitely helped me out this week.”
Playing alongside Raber and doing his best to catch him was eventual runner-up Cory McElyea of Santa Cruz, Calif. McElyea, a member of the winning two-day Morse Cup team competition representing the Northern California Golf Association, just couldn’t get anything going in his final round.
McElyea would make a single bogey (6th) followed up by a single birdie (7th) today, but was unable to make up ground on Raber's 54-hole lead. McElyea would post rounds of 68-66-71-70--275 to finish 5-under par, three strokes behind Raber’s victorious pace.
Finishing tied in third place at -4 was Jonathan Sanders of Chatsworth, Calif. and Eric Sugimoto of San Diego, Calif. Sugimoto, a promising rising junior with the University of the Pacific Men’s Golf team, fired consistent rounds of 68-69-69-70 over the four days of competition while Sanders, a sophomore on the dominant University of Washington Huskies Men’s Golf team, scored the days lowest round with a 4-under-par 66 to jump up the leaderboard.
Defending champion David Fink of Corvallis, Ore. eagled his final hole to prove his 2012 win and close contention this week was no fluke. He would post scores of 70-67-70-71 to finish tied for fifth at 2-under par with fellow Oregonian Hans Reimers of Albany (69-75-67-67) and San Diego’s Zander Schauffele (71-68-70-69).
On a day that featured nail-biting suspense by the lead groups, highlights of the round and tournament came from groups well back in the field. Two holes-in-one were carded on the difficult uphill 175-yard par-3 9th hole by Brian Jung of Corvallis, Ore. and Thomas Lim of Moorpark, Calif.
Another highlight came on the 18th hole from Taylor Montgomery of Henderson, Nev. After blocking his second shot on the closing hole of the championship onto the second floor outdoor clubhouse patio, Montgomery navigated patrons eating their lunch to hit a flop shot wedge over the hand railing and into a nasty lie beside the green. He would make a thrilling pitch shot that nearly trickled into the cup, settling for a miraculous par that brought a smile to his face and a raucous cheer from the crowd of onlookers.
Lastly, a perennial challenger in the event from Las Vegas, Nev was Brady Exber. Exber, 57, playing in his 23rd Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, tied for 17th at 4-over par 71-70-73-70--284, showing he can still compete with the young talent coming up the amateur ranks. In the last year, Exber has ranked as low as 492nd in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.
The 48th Pacific Coast Amateur will head to Pine Canyon Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz. to be contested July 22-25, 2014.
For Carl Jonson, playing in this week’s Pacific Coast Amateur Championship is more than just another golf tournament. If not for Jonson's family, this championship may have never been reconstituted for the modern era.
Chris Williams, recent winner of the 45th Pacific Coast Amateur Championship, has been named to the 10-man United States Walker Cup team that will play from Great Britain & Ireland. He joins Patrick Cantlay, who played in the 2010 Pacific Coast Amateur.