Golf

Pair scrambles for spot in two-man national championship

USGA official Matt Sawicki, left, and Del Paso course superintendent Mark McKinney strategize hole locations at the Del Paso Country Club on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Arden-Arcade, Calif.
USGA official Matt Sawicki, left, and Del Paso course superintendent Mark McKinney strategize hole locations at the Del Paso Country Club on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Arden-Arcade, Calif. Aseng@sacbee.com

An hour after they posted a 6-under-par 65 in U.S. Amateur Four-Ball qualifying Monday, Drew Olson and Dave Reneker were into their second post-round beer.

Of the 52 teams at Del Paso Country Club attempting to earn one of three berths in the inaugural two-man national championship, 38 had finished and none was better. Celebratory brew for a job well done seemed reasonable.

Oops.

Lee Gearhart and Alistair Docherty, teammates at Chico State playing alongside Granite Bay club members Gary Deblaquiere and Scott Colby, crashed the party in one red-hot foursome. Gearhart and Docherty each made five birdies in a 63 to earn medalist honors. Deblaquiere and Colby birdied five of their last six holes for a 64.

And just like that, Olson and Reneker were in a three-team-for-one-berth playoff among teams shooting a 65.

Olson, a former UCLA quarterback with the second-most passing yards in school history, birdied the first and third playoff holes to keep the team alive. Then Reneker, a two-time club champion at Bel Air Country Club in Los Angeles and fellow Bruin alum, drained a 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth playoff hole to advance the twosome to the championship at Olympic Club in San Francisco in May.

Reneker’s decisive putt, on the 18th green seemingly lit only by Christmas lights encircling the pro shop window nearby, came at 5:05 p.m., 20 minutes after sunset.

“This has to be it,” Reneker said after hitting his approach in the relative dark. “My range-finder won’t work.”

Granite Bay club members Gary Dunn and Jon Peterson were relegated to first alternate after Dunn, who had two birdies in the playoff, missed a 12-footer for birdie that would have extended the playoff until today. The twosome of Kevin Kobalter and Kyle Gentry were eliminated with a par on the first playoff hole.

Olson, 31, and Reneker, 46, had to get their game faces on in a hurry after learning they were in a playoff. It helped that Sacramento’s Spencer Levin, who has earned just shy of $6 million in five seasons on the PGA Tour, was carrying Olson’s bag. The two became friends while freshmen at UCLA in 2002.

“He gave me three reads – two were right,” Olson cracked of Levin’s input.

The U.S. Four-Ball, which replaced the U.S. Public Links, will be the first USGA event for Gearhart, Docherty, Deblaquiere and Colby.

Gearhart and Docherty, both 20, capped their round by each driving the green at the 280-yard, par-4 ninth hole. Each two-putted for an exclamation-point birdie. As was the case all day, Docherty teed off first.

“It was nice because I could be aggressive knowing Lee would hit it in the fairway,” Docherty said.

Gearhart, a Woodcreek High School graduate, and Docherty, from Vancouver, Wash., are roommates and leaders for Chico State, fifth-ranked in Division II. It was the first time they teamed up. Gearhart thought their games would mesh well.

“He does all the flashy things; I make a lot of pars,” Gearhart said.

Deblaquiere, 41, and Colby, 43, were second-best in the field – and in their foursome – after making eight birdies and one bogey.

“We figured if we stuck within one shot of (Gearhart and Docherty) we would be just fine,” Deblaquiere said.

Colby’s two-putt birdie on No. 9 pushed the twosome over the hump.

Call The Bee’s Steve Pajak, (916) 326-5526.

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