MONTEREY, Calif. (December 3, 2016) -- Two college players, and one high school senior are pacing the field after posting 2-under 70s at Del Monte in the first round of the Christmas Classic. Cal Bears Sebastian Campton and Sean Yu will battle in the final group tomorrow, along with Ashkaan Hakim of San Ramon, a high school senior who will play for St. Mary’s University next year.
A stroke back after posting 1-under 71 is a group that includes two more Cal players (defending champ Ben Doyle, KK Limbhasut and Walker Huddy), plus Ned Jensen of San Francisco, and a precocious 14-year-old named Ethan Chung.
It was Chung’s first AmateurGolf.com event, and he vindicated himself quite nicely, thank you. But it didn’t start off quite the way he would have liked.
As he waited to hit his first tee shot (on the par-4 10th) he turned to tournament director Jeremy Gomberg and whispered, “I hope I don’t finish last.”
After pulling his first drive out of bounds left, Chung dug deep and made a “second ball birdie.” He went 2-under from there, riding a hot putter that helped make up for that fact that at 14, he can’t keep up with the longer hitting college players off the tee. Chung has plenty of tournament experience however, with hundreds of junior tournaments under his belt, including two Junior Worlds in San Diego.
Kevin Kobalter, an NCGA veteran from the Meadow Club posted a very solid round of 71, which narrowly edges 2-time Christmas Classic champ (championship division) David Nelson by a stroke.
Kobalter saved some serious strokes around the green today, chipping in twice and holing a couple more putts from the fringe of the historic course’s tricky greens. Nelson, of Reno, loves Del Monte and in his last win of the overall championship he bested a mostly collegiate field by posting a pair of 68s.
Jeff Britton of Carmel posted 73 to get himself right in the mix, while old friend Hank McCusker of Mendocino returned to the AmateurGolf.com Tour after a break with a solid round of 2-over 74.
We always say that even par net does well in AmateurGolf.com events, and that held true today for Lyle Covino, who leads his division after posting 72 net. Covino is sporting 13 Callaway clubs after visiting the AmateurGolf.com “World HQ” and getting fitted at Callaway’s slightly larger headquarters – evidently he’s settling into them quite nicely. (If you’re interested in a fitting with AmateurGolf.com Tour title sponsor Callaway Golf in Carlsbad please let us know and we’ll get you set up.)
Mark Heald of Turlock is three shots back at 75, while fellow Turlock Country Club member Charles Balisha posted 76.
Sunday's final round will be a 9:00am shotgun.
There were plenty of amazing shots hit today, but none more gutsy than the one played by Dave Gouveia of Grass Valley on the 18th hole today. Earlier in the round, Gouveia lost a ball in one of Monterey’s famous ball-eating trees, but he wasn’t having any part of it after again failing to find his ball in the right rough on No. 18.
“The guys in my group told me another tree had grabbed it and it was a goner,” said Gouveia. “I told them ‘no way, I’m climbing up there and hitting it.’”
Gouveia scored 80, not bad considering his encounter with Mother Nature. We’re happy to have caught the moment on camera in the video that accompanies this story.