2009 Champion and Story [FINAL SCORES]

Granite Bay's Hallisey wins State Fair golf title

By Steve Pajak
Published: Tuesday, Sep. 8, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 6C

Ryan Hallisey built a two-stroke lead through 16 holes Monday during the final round of the California State Fair Men's Amateur Championship.

Then he played the percentages at Haggin Oaks' MacKenzie course, laying up his second shots on the two par-5 closing holes within sand-wedge distance.

When Hallisey's closest pursuers, Brent Booth in the group ahead and Brandon Hagy in his group, hit their aggressive second shots in the water on No. 17, the engraver would have started etching Hallisey's name on the trophy had this been the British Open.

Then been made to stop when Hagy sank a 35-foot par on No. 17 and a 30-footer for eagle on No. 18 to force a playoff.

Then been allowed to breathe a sigh of relief and resume the task at hand when Hallisey won with an eagle of his own on the first playoff hole, the par-5 No. 1.

"I wanted to force them to make an eagle, and one did," Hallisey, 21, said of his strategy.

The Granite Bay resident and Nevada senior closed with a 3-under-par 69 for a 54-hole total of 11-under 205 to earn what he called his biggest win. Hagy, 18, finished with a 68 and a shot of confidence entering his freshman season at Cal. Andrew Ok (68) of Granada Hills and Andrew Gunson (70) of Irvine tied for third, two shots off the pace.

Booth, a UC Davis senior, trailed Hallisey by two shots when he took the plunge on No. 17. He had 235 yards to the pin and 223 yards to carry the lake between him and the green. A slight mis-hit from a thin lie sealed his fate.

"I felt like I needed to get to 11 under to have a chance," he said. "I was at the limit of how far I could hit my hybrid. I gave it my best shot. I just didn't execute."

Booth (71) hit a second ball in the water on No. 17 and tied for ninth after a triple bogey.

Minutes later, with 205 yards to carry the water on No. 17 from a squirrely lie, Hagy hit a 3-iron that didn't come close. He rallied with a decent fourth shot and long putt to give him a puncher's chance on No. 18.

This time, his 3-iron was nearly perfect to the back of the par-5 green. He pumped his fist and hollered when the putt hit the back of the hole. He estimated he made seven putts of 30 feet or longer over three rounds.

"It was the biggest putt I've ever had, and I made it," he said.

Hallisey still had a 15-foot birdie putt to win outright, but he needed to make a 3-footer coming back just to force a playoff.

On the playoff hole, Hagy reached the right edge of the green in two shots before Hallisey blasted a 190-yard 6-iron from the left rough within 18 feet. Hagy left his 60-foot eagle try 6 feet short before Hallisey sank his eagle putt.

"Walking to the green, I was thinking I had to make it," Hallisey said. "His confidence was growing, and I didn't want to give him another chance."

Hallisey, Hagy, Booth, Gunson and Niall Platt were within a shot after nine holes. Hallisey eagled the par-5 10th to tie for the lead. None of the five tried driving the par-4 11th, moved up to a tempting 290 yards, even though 21 players in the 50-player field gave it a whirl, one making an eagle.
At the par-3 12th, Gunson double-bogeyed and Platt bogeyed to fall from contention. With nobody making a significant impact in the groups ahead, the last five holes essentially were a three-way battle.

With fire trucks crossing the course in the background to fight a grass fire along the Interstate 80 boundary, Hallisey calmly sank a curling 30-footer for a birdie on No. 14 to build a two-shot cushion.

Four more pars weren't quite good enough in regulation, however, against the hard-charging Hagy, who was all smiles in defeat afterward.

"Hey, I lost to an eagle," he said.