Stembridge Beats Tran in Playoff to Win 43rd NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Title

John Stembridge of Santa Cruz nearly finished in last place when he made his previous appearance in the Northern California Golf Association Amateur Stroke Play Championship in 2019.

This time the 33-year-old Stembridge made a birdie on the first playoff hole to turn back Aidan Tran of Fresno on a chilly day at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, claiming the first victory since the Bluegrass Invitational in his college days at Auburn.

“It goes to show where I’ve come from, and how much work I’ve put in,” Stembridge said after winning the 43rd edition of the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship. “Things started clicking for me in the last week. It feels great to get a win.

“Aidan had piped his drive (on the playoff hole), and I wanted to get out there with him. I got a good break with the kick off the tree. I just managed to hang in there.”

After Tran found the fairway with his drive in the playoff, Stembridge pulled his drive right and . received a fortuitous bounce, as his ball kicked back into the fairway.

Tran, a sophomore at Georgia Tech who played at North Clovis High, found the greenside bunker with his approach shot and hit the green from there, but his short birdie putt lipped out. Stembridge reached the green in two with a 3-iron approach shot from 228 yard and two-putted for the birdie that gave him the victory.

Earlier, Tran led by three strokes after 14 holes, but he made two straight bogeys, and Stembridge forced the playoff by reaching the par-5 18th hole in two shots and two-putting for a birdie.

Stembridge posted a score of 66-74-68—208, five-under-par, while Tran, who won the 2023 Fresno City Championship recently, finished at 67-70-71—208, and Baron Szeto of Moraga and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was third at 68-69-72—209.

Ryan Gay of Walnut Creek posted a score of 72-71-69—212 to tie for fourth with Philip Rowe of San Luis Obispo, who totaled 72-72-68—212, while Aj Fitzgerald of Salinas shot 68-73-72—213 to tie for sixth with Mason Benbrock of Carmichael, who wound up at 72-69-72—213.   Luke Dugger of Davis finished at 72-74-68—214 to tie for eighth with Jake Bettencourt of Clovis, who totaled 76-69-69—214 and Reid Buzby of San Francisco, who came in at 72-73-69—214.   Former winners of the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship include Johnny Miller, Ken Venturi, George Archer, John Lotz, Jim Wiechers, Verne Callison, Talbert Smith, E. Harvie Ward, Jack Bariteau and Eli Bariteau.

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