SANTA ANA, June 10 — Fifteen years ago, Oceanside’s Brad Larsen declared victory at De Anza Country Club, securing his first SCGA Mid-Amateur Championship only to never be heard from again.
Until today, that is, when Larsen stepped back into the spotlight, winning the 33rd SCGA Senior Amateur Championship by three shots at Santa Ana CC and becoming the only player to win both the SCGA Mid-Amateur and SCGA Senior events.
Larsen, who turns 56 on June 14, shot 73-73–146, 2 over par, to take the title, topping 2009 champion and Chula Vista resident Howie Knodt, USGA Senior and British Senior champion Kemp Richardson of Laguna Niguel, and three-time SCGA Super Senior champion Robert Carver of Fullerton, who all came in at 149.
“I’m just happy my boss gave me time off to play,” Larsen said afterward with a laugh. “I’m excited to tell him.”
A 50-year veteran of the game, Larsen’s life was largely golf-centric in his younger years. A 1977 UC Santa Barbara golfing alum with a degree in English, Larsen entered the mini-tour circuit after graduation, in a three-year attempt to join the PGA Tour.
“I made it to the final round of Tour qualifying school three time,” he said, “and once, missed my Tour card by only two shots.”
In 1980, however, he changed paths, entering a career as a sales manager for some of the major electronics retailers like Best Buy, for which he currently manages its mobile division in more than 20 area stores. He’d go on to marry wife Susan and have two golf-loving sons (Brian, 18 and Chris, 20). And, of course, win his first (and last, until today) major championship: the 1995 SCGA Mid-Amateur Championship.
But then, he was gone. “Playing in golf events just wasn’t a real big focus for me after that,” he said. “I didn’t really do much competition. I began working for Best Buy that year, I had two young kids. It wasn’t as big of a priority.”
He and Susan would go on to open their first Best Buy store in China, where they would live for two years. He played a lot of golf, two to three times a week with his sons at their home course, Shadowridge CC, saying that “golf is our life.”
And after a shaky first starting hole, where he hit a bad tee shot and began his second round with a bogey, that frequent family golfing would pay off, as he’d go on to make history as the only player to win an SCGA Mid-Amateur and Senior Amateur championship.
“I felt pretty confident going into today, I really thought I was going to go out there and light it up,” Larsen said. “The bogey on the first hole threw me a little, but then I chipped in on six for a birdie and was back to even, so I calmed down a bit.”
Many players including Larsen battled tough greens and putting, and it was the beginning of what would be a see-saw round for him, which saw Larsen bogey hole five, chip in for birdie on 7, and then birdie 10 and 13 to go to 1-under. He caught a glimpse of the leader board near the club house and “the wheels started to come off after that,” he said. “I really thought my potential win was slipping away.”
Larsen would bogey the next three holes before carding a final birdie on 18.
“I’ve lost a few tournaments from getting too hyper,” Larsen continued. “I thought I’d opened the door for someone else to come in, and it wasn’t until I turned in my scorecard that I was relieved. I would have replayed those last holes over and over in my head if I’d lost. It was a surprise, I had no idea out there that I’d won.”
Knodt, who had a magical 2009 season when he won the SCGA Senior, SCGA Senior Match Play, SCGA Senior Four-Ball and earned SCGA Senior Player of the Year honors, struggled with Santa Ana’s par-3s, with yardages that “were just in between distances for me,” he said afterward. “It was tough out there.”
First-round leader Greg Hetzer of Palos Verdes, the only player to shoot under par yesterday with a 1-under 71, struggled in the final round, finishing 71-79–150 and tying with Don Baker of Woodland Hills for fifth place.
For his win, Larsen receives an exemption into this year’s CGA Senior Amateur, as well as the 2011 SCGA Mid-Amateur, SCGA Senior and SCGA Amateur Championship.
“It was my goal to play in all three events this year, and I missed qualifying for the amateur this year,” Larsen said. “Guess in 2011 I’ll get to do it.”
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