On his third try competing in the tournament, Bhavik Patel of Bakersfield captured the 100th playing of the California State Amateur at storied Olympic Club.
The Bakersfield resident failed to qualify for match platy in the two previous championships, but rode a hot putter to an 8 and 6 victory over Kevin Wentworth of Arnold in the final. Wentworth was bidding to become the first mid-amateur since Don DuBois in 2005 to win the title. The final tally is themost lopsided result since 1996 when Mark Johnson won 8 and 7 over Brian Crocker.
As with nearly all his matches on the week, the champion established an early lead, in the final matches case, by winning holes 5-7 to take a 3-up lead. Patel closed the morning round 3-up, based primarily on the strength of his putter and mental strength. Despite hitting only four of 14 fairways and eight of 18 greens, Patel carded a 73 by making the putts he needed to. On 16, the long par-5, Patel canned a 10-footer for birdie after watching his opponent hole out from the front bunker.
“When you have a greens that roll well and you make a good putt, it goes in,” Patel said regarding his hot putter. “It pays to have a local caddie.” Both competitors had never played Olympic before this week and sometimes were perplexed by the firm greens and foggy, cold weather during the final. Approach shots were almost routinely short throughout that match, placing a premium on the short game, an ability the champion demonstrated multiple times. “The wind swirls out here and seemed to be hurting all day,” Patel said. “My shot game and putter won me the match.”
After the lunch break, Patel, a rising senior at Fresno State, more than doubled his lead via winning four of the first five holes. The 4th hole told the tale of match, as Patel hit a push-fade off the tee that ended up in the adjacent fairway and Wentworth followed him with a hook into the long weeds for a lost ball. “The door was open and I just couldn’t walk through,” Wentworth said. The 7-up lead held through the next six holes where the players matched par for par. Patel secured the championship on the 12th hole, the 30th of the match, with a birdie.
“I just didn’t have my game today,” the runner-up said. “I can’t take anything away from Bhavik, but simple shots I made look hard.” Wentworth’s steady short game was hot and cold throughout the day, and the Arnold resident failed to capitalize on any of the champion’s mistakes. “He made a ton of putts,” Wentworth said. “And I wish I could have matched him. He found a way and I never got any momentum.”
The 27-year-old Wentworth had never tasted the kind of success he achieved this week, and the aspiring professional, clearly enjoyed the championship. “It was a great experience,” he said.
For Patel, the championship not only propels toward a stellar final season, it provided a necessary lesson to the aspiring professional. “I’ve got a long way to go, but if I can hit my driver straight I can really compete. This golf course taught me that,” he said. “But knowing a lot of the names on that trophy and winning here at Olympic in the 100th championship…it’s a dream cone true.”
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