Demsey Celebrates His 21st At The 94th

Just a month after winning the NCAA Division I title while competing as a sophomore for Arizona State, Demsey captured the 94th Southern California Golf Association Amateur Championship, holding off Craig Anderson of Pauma Valley by a stroke.

Even though Anderson, the 35-year-old former USC team captain, caught and passed (by two strokes) the 1992 CGA titlist with six holes to go, Demsey battled back to tie and took the lead for good at the par-three-17th when Anderson bogied the second of both back-nine par-threes at Brentwood Country Club.

The result was a four-under par total of 284 and a one-stroke victory for the lanky Demsey, a member at Bernardo Heights GC near his northern San Diego Country home, and of La Quinta Hotel GC. He had finished third a year before at Fairbanks Ranch, two strokes off the pace. His 284 total equaled the winning number in that one.

For a while, it looked like Demsey's third round 66, lowest in recent Amateur Championship history, would be a distant memory. That round brought Demsey from five strokes behind second round leader Mark Johnson of Sun Valley GC to two ahead of him after Johnson fired a one-over 73. Demsey actually started the round with a bogey five at No. 1, but never visited that neighborhood again. He then reeled off three straight birdies and finished the front nine in four-under 32. He added two more birds on his back nine.

His impressive third round was the key to victory. It was his only sub-par round of the weekend, compared with Anderson's three out of four.

Anderson, playing in Demsey's group on the final day with Jonson, made up this three-stroke deficit within the first six holes. The pair remained even for the next six, then Anderson had consecutive birdies at the par-five 12th and the par-four 13th to forge a two stroke lead.

Demsey cut that back to one with some bold strategy at the course's longest hole, the 576-yard 14th. The elevated green there is separated form the fairway by a ravine. Demsey went for the pin with his second shot while Anderson opted to lay up.

Even though Demsey missed the green right, he was hole-high and pitched on to facilitate a birdie. "If I don't get that birdie at that point, I'm dead," Demsey admitted. Anderson parred; then he bogeyed the par-three 15th by three-putting from 50-feet, and the stage was set for the 17th.

Anderson punched his tee shot "far" and it landed under the lip of the bunker. Demsey, who said afterward he was "lucky" to win, called it Anderson's "only bad shot of the day." Anderson said in retrospect, he should have backed away from the shot before hitting it. "Just as I was about to hit it, the wind (in his face) died."

His "out" was within 12 feet of the cup, but he missed the putt to bogey and the lead had disappeared. Demsey parred his way in, calmly canning a short putt at 18 for the victory after Anderson left his 16-foot attempt to force a playoff 20 inches away. The fact that Anderson's 70 was bettered only by Tom Gocke's 69 for low round of the day became small consolation for the reigning SCGA Mid-Amateur and Four-Ball champion.

It was the fourth consecutive year that the tournament has been decided by a single stroke (or less, as in last year's sudden death playoff).

Johnson, who has led at some point during three of the last five Amateurs, had Sunday betray him again in his bid to add the Amateur to his list of SCGA triumphs (he's won the Tournament of Club Champions, Mid-Amateur, and two decades ago as a high school student, the CIF/SCGA Invitational). Starting out two strokes behind Demsey, he dropped two more shots back on the first two holes. He bogied three more holes on the front side and wound up with a 77 and fifth place.

John Pate (brother of the PGA Tour's Steve) of the Valley Club made a mini-charge of his own, gaining two strokes on the leader on the front side, and coming within two shots of Demsey after 15 holes. But he put his tee shot next to a large tree in the right rough at 16, then missed a short putt to double bogey. End of charge.

Pate, who made the tournament field as an alternate from the qualifying round, finished a stroke ahead of Sal Enriquez of Upland and San Jose State, who himself edged to within two strokes of Demsey with his third front-side birdie at the par-five eight. But he lost those shots back on the next two holes and finished the round at even par.

Pat Duncan of Rancho Santa Fe, who won the 1990 event at Wilshire, kept himself in contention with consistent rounds of 72, 73 (twice) and 74, but could never make a big move, citing his play off the tee as his biggest problem. He finished sixth. Another former champion, Dave Sheff (1986), was a stroke behind Duncan after finishing with a pair of 71s.

Ed Cuff, a former pro from Pauma Valley, grabbed the first round lead with the tournament's first of five sub-70 rounds, a bogey-free 69. His second round of 76 left him four strokes behind Johnson, however, and he never got closer.

Defending champion Craig Steinberg of Braemar, bidding for his third straight title, was never a factor. He made the cut by a stroke, but the best round he could manage in the four was an opening 73.

Next year, Demsey will shoot for a second SCGA Amateur title at Hacienda GC in La Habra Heights.

It won't be surprising if Todd Demsey enjoys several more years of success like his 20th and 21st.

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