Becoming a professional golfer is easy. It requires a signature.
Making a sound decision whether to attempt to play golf for a living is more difficult. It requires soul-searching.
A rule-of-thumb question: If you're not the best amateur in your neck of the woods, what makes you think you can successfully compete against the best players in the world?
Two years ago, Josh Stone set out to prove he was the best amateur golfer in the region. Today, if he's not the best, he's a contender. Good thing, because he's turning pro later this year.
Stone dominated over the weekend at Ancil Hoffman, winning the 16th annual Memorial Amateur in record-setting fashion. He shot a final-round 3-under-par 67 for a five-stroke win over Matt Cohn (70). Stone's three-round total of 10-under 200 broke the record by two shots.
El Dorado Hills' Taylor Knoll (67), a Nevada sophomore, finished third. Knoll was eight shots behind Stone and the only other player under par.
Stone started the final round with a two-shot lead over Cohn, with foursome mates and UC Davis players Matt Hansen and Tyler Raber four shots behind. Stone led by three shots after the fifth hole and by four after chipping in for a birdie on No. 9. His lead was no less than four shots on a drama-free back nine.
After two years at San Joaquin Delta College, Stone opted for a part-time job at Swenson Park and full-time focus on golf over the rigors associated with playing golf at a four-year school. He crafted "a little amateur tour of my own" that included two-day city tournaments and bigger three-day events.
Stone won in Manteca. He won his hometown event, the Stockton City, two years in a row. He won in Davis. He finished fifth in Northern California Golf Association points last year, was second in the prestigious Alameda Commuters in April and was the medalist in U.S. Open qualifying in Pleasanton this month.
Does Stone, 23, feel as if he's the best player in the region?
"It feels like that the past couple of years," he said.
Cohn fought hard. He birdied Nos. 11 and 12, but when Stone birdied No. 12 (a cut 6-iron from the right rough to within two feet of the hole) and No. 13 (a wedge to within three feet), Cohn was five shots behind and pretty much knew he was playing for second.
"After 13, I knew it would take something magical instead of just good golf," the San Francisco resident said.
Hansen's round got off to an inauspicious start. As he picked up his bag after hitting his opening tee shot, one of his clubs struck his right elbow. He spent much of the day holding ice to the affected area and trying to shake it loose.
"There wasn't a shooting pain, but I hit some shots I wasn't expecting," Hansen said after a 73 to finish fourth. "I wasn't going to catch Stone anyway."
Raber faded with a 76. The El Macero resident hit his drive out of bounds on No. 4, continued to fight with his putter and trailed by 10 shots at the turn.
As for the winner, Stone has an aw-shucks demeanor, ever-present smile and gangly gait that reminds you of Nick Watney, a local boy who made good.
Considering that Watney is where Stone wants to go the PGA Tour
"I'm good with that," he said.
Call The Bee's Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.