Since its inception, the Match Play Championship has been one of the premier events on the SCPGA Tournament Calendar. Being crowned Match Play Champion is synonymous with words such as greatness, grit and determination. It also means that your name will forever be etched into the prestigious trophy, along with some of the best players in the Southern California PGA Section.
On July 11, thirty-two talented SCPGA professionals stepped onto the first tee at Pauma Valley Country Club with history in mind. They all wanted to be the lone survivor and hoist the coveted Match Play trophy high in the air, knowing that they had accomplished something special. However, they also knew that thirty-one other competitors were hoping for the same result, and that they had to be sure to stay “hungry” and take it one match at a time.
The first day was comprised of the morning round of 32, followed by the round of 16 in the afternoon. The lower seeded players, or favorites, (based on 2015 POY points) had no trouble moving on in the morning matches. The only “upset” in the morning was number 25 ranked Andrew Larkin, PGA, taking down the number eight-ranked veteran Chris Starkjohann, PGA, 3 & 1. The afternoon matches saw much of the same, as the majority of the favorites moved on to set up some exciting day two matches.
The quarterfinals began promptly at 7:30am the next day and were highlighted by good story lines in each of the four matches. Match one saw 2014 SCPGA Section Champion Ryan Kennedy, PGA, versus 2015 SCPGA Section Champion Chad Sorensen, PGA. This match saw Sorensen prove why he is such an outstanding player, and the current Section Champion, by winning his match 4 & 3. Match two was reining SCPGA Player of the Year Michael Block, PGA, against his buddy Kenny Pigman, PGA, who said to Block, “he was coming for him in 2016.” The “young gun” Pigman showed that his game is top notch and defeated Block 2 & 1.
Match three placed the wily veteran Gary Sowinski, PGA, against Don Littrell, PGA who, along with Block, was coming off of a strong finish in the PGA National PGA Professional Championship in New York. Even though Sowinski is almost twice Littrell’s age, he proved that age is just a number by winning the match 5 & 4. The final match of the morning was the defending Match Play Champion Jamie Puterbaugh, PGA, against the proud UCLA Bruin Steve Holmes, PGA. The quiet, but aggressive, Holmes was victorious over Puterbaugh by a score of 7 & 6.
After the quarterfinal matches were complete, only four PGA Professionals still had match play life: Holmes, Sowinksi, Pigman, and Sorensen. All four of the remaining players could taste victory, but knew there was still a lot of golf left against some great players. The first semifinal match pitted Holmes against Sowinski, and after a back and forth battle, it was Holmes that moved on after winning the match 2 & 1. The second semifinal match consisted of the up-and-comer Pigman against Sorensen. After a birdie barrage on his scorecard, Pigman was able to advance to the final against Holmes, winning 4 & 3.
The stage was then set for an all-star final match between Holmes and Pigman. The momentum of the match was clearly in favor of Holmes, who took a one-up lead after 9 holes. The lead then doubled to two holes for Holmes after Pigman double bogeyed the tricky 10th hole. The match then got good quickly as Pigman was able to claw back by carding three birdies on the next seven holes. This birdie barrage by Pigman led to Holmes standing on the eighteenth tee with a one up advantage. As Holmes was standing over his tee shot, he knew that playing conservatively would be his best option to win the match, but that thought process all went out the window when he hooked his tee shot into the practice range. This opened the door for Pigman, and with a winning par, the match moved to extra holes.
The nineteenth hole of the match, a 532-yard, par 5, showcased just how important the short game is. After belting two shots, Pigman’s ball found the green side bunker while Holmes was laying three near the putting surface. Pigman stepped into the bunker, dug in and swung hard – unfortunately the golf ball did not come out. He was forced to hit the same shot again, this time his ball barely snuck out of the bunker and onto the fringe. Pigman then hit a phenomenal chip shot next to the pin, and tapped in for a bogey. This opened the door wide open for Holmes; and after hitting a quality pitch shot, all that was left for glory and the win was a three foot putt for par. When the ball found the bottom of the cup, Steve Holmes claimed the trophy and the title of 2016 SCPGA Match Play Champion.
Thank you to the partners of the event: PGA Tour, Sterling Cut Glass, and Pepsi. The participants in this year’s event are grateful for your partnerships.
A special thank you to host PGA General Manager Paul Devine, Course Superintendent Doug Rudolph, and the staff at Pauma Valley Country Club for their generous hospitality.
One final thank you to SCPGA rules officials Ron O’Connor, PGA, and Keith Reinking for volunteering their time and rules expertise at the championship.