Making the Rounds: Trying times for Sacramento-area professionals

Golf is a humbling game on good days. The past few weeks have been particularly trying for pros from the Sacramento area.


Natalie Gulbis

, seeking her first LPGA Tour win in six years and a goose to her sliding tour status, shot a final-round 82 on Sunday in the LPGA Titleholders to fall from first to 29th.

In the 72-hole second stage of Tour qualifying last week:


Dillon Dougherty

bogeyed three of the final four holes to miss advancing to the final stage by one shot. It was another in a series of near misses for Dougherty, who hasn’t reached the final stage since turning pro after finishing second in the 2005 U.S. Amateur.


Erick Justesen

played the final four holes 5 over par to miss advancing by three shots. His final-round 79 was eight shots higher than any of his previous three rounds.


Matt Montez

shot 80-81 in his final two rounds after opening 68-70.

In the 72-hole first stage of Champions Tour qualifying:


Brad Bell

closed with an 80 when he would have advanced to the final stage with a 75.

Bob Niger

, needing a final-round 73, shot an 81.

The good news – they all played well enough to put themselves into the thick of things. The harsh reality – they’re all left to wonder: “What if?”

Gulbis will be fine. She’s a celebrity who makes most of her income away from the course.

For the aspirants ( Grant Norton, John Catlin, Grant Rappleye and Josh Stone also failed to advance from the second stage) everyone reaching the final stage gets at least conditional status. For everyone falling short, it means another year of minitours or abandoning the pursuit of playing for a living.

Montez, 27, reached the second stage for the first time in his third qualifying attempt. The McClatchy High School graduate, Elk Grove resident and Valley Hi regular accentuated the positive.

“If you would have told me at the beginning of the year that I would have been tied for seventh after two rounds of the second stage, I would have taken it,” he said. “Once you get over the disappointment and step back and look at it, I put myself in position to do well.”

Former PGA Tour winners Frank Lickliter, Arjun Atwal, Eric Axley and Billy Mayfair stalled in the second stage, so Montez, a self-described “decent” player through high school and college who’s increasingly in contention but hasn’t won in four years on minitours, isn’t beating himself up. At the beginning of the year, Montez said he would look for a job unrelated to golf if he failed to reach the second stage.

“The last two days, I didn’t hit it as good as I needed to in the wind,” he said. “I don’t know if it was the pressure or circumstance, but you start making bogeys and the shots keep adding up. I just need to continue to get better.”

Super playing conditions

Today’s Course Report is filled with adjectives such as excellent, superb and, dare we say, perfect.

Moderate temperatures with lows in the high 30s and highs in the high 60s have helped. Last week’s rain – three-quarters of inch – was just the right amount and timely.

“It’s been ideal,” said Empire Ranch superintendent Rodney Muller of Mother Nature’s contribution. “Also, in winter there’s less disease and insect pressure.”

Muller said a similar rainstorm every week or so would be helpful going forward.

“At night,” he said, keeping golfers’ best interests in mind.

The forecast for Thanksgiving, a moderately busy day for area courses, and Friday, one of the busiest days of the year, is for sunny skies.

Et cetera

• It’s a select group that has scored 1, 2, 3 and 4 on a hole.

Dave Madden

did his foursome’s heavy lifting with an ace at Ancil Hoffman’s par-3 No. 14.

Ed Ventura

made an anticlimactic birdie and

Jim Coombs

a ho-hum par. A single who joined the group played along with a bogey.


Kim Welch

of Roseville won twice this month on the new Grasshopper Tour. Her earnings of $3,000 in three events are more than the $2,746 she made in 10 starts on the LPGA Tour this year. Welch returns to the final stage of the LPGA Tour qualifying tournament next month in Florida.

• Roseville’s

Virgie Velazquez

(3-over-par 74) tied for eighth last week at Quail Lodge in the high school girls state championship. Vista del Lago’s

Emilee Hoffman

(76) tied for 19th.

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