Golf

Ramiz Jamal wins California State Fair Men’s Amateur

Ramiz Jamal, 19, rolls in a birdie putt on the 18th hole Monday at Haggin Oaks to put the finishing touches on his final-round 66. He won by three shots.
Ramiz Jamal, 19, rolls in a birdie putt on the 18th hole Monday at Haggin Oaks to put the finishing touches on his final-round 66. He won by three shots. Special to The Bee

For every golfer in a slump so deep it’s difficult to imagine ever playing well again, Ramiz Jamal has some advice.

Keep fighting.

Jamal did, and as a result, he’s the winner of the 2016 California State Fair Men’s Amateur Championship.

The 19-year-old UC Irvine sophomore from Huntington Beach shot a 6-under-par 66 in Monday’s final round at Haggin Oaks to win by three shots – and signal his re-emergence on the competitive golf scene.

I just looked at (staying focused) as another challenge. If someone wants to penalize me, penalize me. We work for hours and hours to be this good.

Ramiz Jamal, on the possibility of being penalized for slow play in the final round

“If you told me three, four months ago I would be holding this trophy, I would have laughed at you,” said Jamal, who finished at 13-under 203.

An accomplished junior and high school player, he accepted a golf scholarship to Irvine. Then he promptly lost his game as a freshman and failed to earn a start on the Anteaters’ traveling team. His trademark fade was overtaken by uncontrollable hooks. Whereas breaking par had been the norm, breaking 80 became a struggle.

“I couldn’t put it in the grass,” he said.

Jamal was lost, but instead of giving up, he reassessed.

“I focused on readjusting my mindset, swing and hitting the little fade,” he said.

Working with his instructor, Jamal said he changed his grip (weakened), alignment (opened his stance), ball position, hand position, swing path back, downswing motion and finish position.

“Pretty much everything,” he said.

It was all working Monday when Jamal birdied four of the first seven holes to rally from a one-shot deficit into a one-shot lead. Then he reeled off nine consecutive pars before finishing with two birdies to clinch things.

The only drama in the end was whether Jamal’s group would be penalized for slow play in the five-hour round. The penultimate threesome was warned after they fell two holes behind after 12 holes; they finished about 30 minutes after the group in front of them. Northern California Golf Association officials contemplated a penalty but decided against it.

Jamal said he wasn’t fazed by the possibility.

“I just looked at (staying focused) as another challenge,” he said. “If someone wants to penalize me, penalize me. We work for hours and hours to be this good.”

If you told me three, four months ago I would be holding this trophy, I would have laughed at you.

Ramiz Jamal

Granite Bay’s Bryan Wise, who shared the lead entering the final round, finished second after a 70. UCLA freshman Patrick Murphy (70) was third, four shots behind. Davis’ Ben Corfee (72) was Jamal’s closest pursuer most of the day until bogeyes on Nos. 15 and 16 ended his bid. Corfee tied for fourth with Rocklin’s Lee Gearhart (67), UC Santa Barbara senior Brandon Bauman (70) and Cal sophomore Collin Morikawa (66).

In other State Fair tournaments:

▪ Folsom’s Paige Lee (68-139 at Cavanaugh) won the women’s title by one shot over recent Nevada graduate Caryn Khoo (69-140).

▪ Campbell’s Ryan Sloane (70-203 at Bing Maloney) won the masters title for the third year in a row, finishing five shots ahead of Rancho Cordova’s Chris Johnson (70-208) and Gold River’s Robert Hamilton (70-208).

▪ El Dorado Hills’ Mark Morgan (67-137 at Mather) repeated as the seniors champion.

▪ Stockton’s Bob Thomason (71-143 at Mather) beat Carmichael’s Herb Jensen (70-143) in a playoff to win the super seniors for the second consecutive year.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526.

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