Gaddy Pulls It Back!

Brian Gaddy had the 79th Annual Southern California Amateur Championship almost in his grasp, felt it slipping away and then pulled it back in the second extra hole of a sudden-death playoff at the difficult, 6,444-yard Bel-Air Country Club course.

Gaddy, a 33-year-old former USC basketball player and golf star, a runner-up in several local golf tournaments, and a member of Annandale CC, saw Mark Wiebe, a 20-year-old Escondido youth, leave his third shot in a greenside bunker on the second extra hole. Each had birdied the par-5, first extra hole.

After Wiebe's fourth shot was safely on the green, Gaddy stroked an 8-foot putt into the hole and the suspense was over.

The colorfully dressed office furniture salesman from Arcadia threw his hands in victory and hugged and kissed his fiancee, Betty Jo Smith, who had led his gallery for the tournament.

The suspense was high during the final two rounds for Gaddy and Wiebe, since no other player mounted a serious threat. Wiebe led Gaddy by two strokes, 139-141, after 36 holes.

A hole-in-one on the 194-yard 16th in the third round seemed to have turned it around for Gaddy. He edged into a thin 210-211 lead after 54 holes.

Opening the final round, Gaddy birdied the first hole and Wiebe bogeyed the fourth hole. Gaddy had a three-stroke lead, but it was short-lived. He bogeyed the seventh, while Wiebe posted a birdie 3, and they were only a stroke apart — as they were at the turn.

Both bogeyed the 10th, and Gaddy bogeyed the 11th, only to have Wiebe follow with a double bogey 6. Gaddy again led by 2. But he felt the championship slipping away as he bogeyed the 13th and double bogeyed the 14th to fall one behind.

On the par-5, 577-yard 14th, Gaddy drove into a flood-control ditch. He took a two-stroke penalty and them compounded his trouble by three putting. He was one down with four holes left.

Gaddy settled down and regained his putting stroke. He holed a 12-footer on No. 17 to stay just one shot back. Then on No. 18, he rolled in a 10-footer for a birdie to deadlock the tournament at 284.

The eventual winner's putting magic stayed with him on the par-5 first extra hole as he rolled in a 10-foot birdie, after missing the fairway with his drive and hitting his approach shot over trees to the right of the green before chipping up for this putt.

On the second extra hole, Wiebe found the bunker with his second shot, and failed to get his ball out on the first try.

When did Gaddy think he could win it?

"In the final holes. When some putts started to drop, I thought I had a chance," he explained. "I knew I was a better putter than I looked earlier."

"I had a stretch of holes I didn't play very well, but I just didn't give up. There at the end, I sort of got a little taste for it; that I could do it, but I wasn't sure until I had the putt on the second playoff hole," he added.

The victory marked a six-year struggle to win a major amateur championship for Gaddy. The new champion gave up a basketball scholarship at USC to devote himself to golf. He earned college letters on two Trojan championship golf team in 1965-66 before turning professional in 1970.

He failed in two attempts at the PGA qualifying school and applied for reinstatement as an amateur.

Before his pro stint, Gaddy was the SoCal Publinx Tournament of Champions winner in 1968-69 and finished fifth in the 1969 Pacific Coast Amateur. He also was low qualifier for the National Publinx that year, finishing 10th in the tournament.

While he has been Annandale club champion for the past three years, Gaddy has failed to win a major amateur title until the SCGA Amateur. He was three-time low qualifier in the U.S. Amateur Championship and was runner-up twice in the Pasadena and L.A. City Championships.

Wiebe, a junior at San Jose State, where he is a member of the golf team, was runner-up in the 1978 Sunnehanna Amateur, a quarter-finalist in the 1978 NCAA championship. He plays out of Meadow Lake CC.

Three strokes behind the leaders after regulation play was Tom Gorrell, twice club champion at Old Ranch CC. He had rounds of 73-70-75-69 — 287.

Tied for fourth with 288s were Eric Evans, Los Robles GC; Steve Seals, Western Hills CC; and Mark O'Meara, Mission Viejo CC.

Doug Clarke, La Jolla CC, last year's winner, finished in a 14th place tie with 293 for the 72 holes.

A second hole-in-one was scored in the tournament, when Angus Pfaff, Willowick GC, aced the 154-yard third hole. He was in the President's Flight.

A record 1,192 SCGA members attempted to qualify for the 79th SCGA Amateur.

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