2004 Champion and Story

Sacramento king: Campbell claims Calif. State Fair title
Eagle at No. 18 secures victory

BY RON BALICKI, Sacramento, Calif.

Talk about your fantastic finishes. In the 80-year history of the California State Fair Amateur Championship there may have been none better than the finale that took place Sept. 6 on the MacKenzie course at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.

Trailing by a stroke going into the 537-yard, par-5 18th hole, Peter Campbell, 19, of Encinitas, Calif., and a sophomore at UCLA, rolled in a 25-foot eagle putt from about 7 feet off the front of the green to become the first Bruin to win this event.

Campbell, who took a one-shot lead into the final round, closed with a 4-under-par 68 for a 16-under 200 total to win by a single stroke over UCLA teammate and roommate Chris Heintz, 19, of Brea, Calif., and Erik Flores, 17, of Grass Valley, Calif., a high school senior who plans to sign a scholarship with the Bruins this fall.

Heintz, who earlier this summer was a quarterfinalist at the California State Amateur and tied for ninth at the Players Amateur, closed with 66, while Flores shot 68 to follow his competitive career low round and competitive course record round of 8-under 64.

Bob Niger, the 44-year-old from El Dorado Hills, Calif., and Michael Wilson of Pacific Grove, Calif., who was a sophomore member of California's NCAA championship team earlier this year, tied for fourth at 205.

"What a finish, not just for me but for the tournament as well," Campbell said. "There were a lot of people out there so there was a great atmosphere. It obviously was thrilling for me and I'm sure it was for everyone out there watching.

"When we got to the 18th tee (at which time Flores, at 15 under, held a one-shot lead over Campbell and Heintz), I looked at Chris and said 'Let's give them (fans) something to talk about.'"

At the finishing hole, Heintz put his tee shot in the middle of the fairway; Campbell pulled his slightly into the short left rough; and Flores ripped about a 350-yard drive but it strayed far left into the rough and in tree trouble.

Heintz hit his second shot just off the green right and Campbell generated a stir when his 6-iron shot from 200 yards hit the flagstick dead on. However, the ball shot straight back off the green and into the second cut of rough. Flores had to hit a low punch hook and wound up in the right greenside bunker.

Flores' third shot went long and rolled just off the green, some 18 feet from the hole, while Heintz' eagle putt from about 50 feet slid 3 feet past the hole.

That set the stage for Campbell's fantastic finish.

Flores still had a chance to force a playoff, but his bold birdie putt rolled 4 feet beyond the hole. He made that putt to settle for par and Heintz sank his birdie try.

"Peter just made an awesome putt, that about sums it up," Flores said. "I actually kind of expected him to make it. He's a fierce competitor and he showed that today."

Added Heintz, "It's was definitely exciting, no doubt about it. The way it all came about and then with Peter making that putt, you couldn't ask for a better finish."

Campbell appeared well in control when he birdied the first two holes to get to 14 under. Flores looked as though he knocked himself out of the race at the par-5 fourth hole when his second shot found the water and he three-putted for double bogey as Campbell was making birdie.

When Campbell sank an 18-footer for birdie at No. 10 to get to 16 under, he was four shots in front of Heintz and five better than Flores.

Heintz cut the margin by one when he birdied the 11th and when Campbell missed a 3-footer to save par at the par-3 12th.

Flores then began his charge when he birdied No. 13 to move within three and after Campbell bogeyed the par-3 14th, his lead was one over Heintz and two over Flores.

At the par-4 15th, Heintz caught Campbell at 14 under when he sank an 8-foot birdie putt and Flores moved within one when he drained a 12 footer for birdie.

At the par-3 16th, Flores sank another 12-footer for birdie and the threesome was tied at 14 under with the two closing par-5s to play.

Two-putting from 25 feet at 17 for this third consecutive birdie -- and fourth in the last five holes -- Flores moved to the head of the class and set the stage for the drama and excitement of the final hole.

"I love that (closing) situation. I love playing under pressure," Campbell said. "It's almost unfortunate that someone had to lose because I think all three of us played some great golf, not only today, but all week.

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Ron Balicki is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach him e-mail rbalicki@golfweek.com.