GOLF: Scintillating finish to a great week at Open

Josh Weaver

There’s no way it could have been scripted any better. A
scintillating finish golf fans dream about happened right here in
our neighborhood.
There’s no way it could have been scripted any better. A scintillating finish golf fans dream about happened right here in our neighborhood.

A fan-favorite at any event, Rocco Mediate, captivated the gallery once again with his stirring eagle on the par-4 17th, clinching the tournament championship.

The weather took a 180-degree turn for the worst for Sunday’s final round of the Open at CordeValle Golf Club in San Martin.

Blistering mid-90s temperatures early in the week gave way to shivering, rainy conditions for the tournament’s closing ceremony.

None of that mattered, though.

Whether it was kids crowding around for a Rickie Fowler autograph on bright orange hats or friends simply enjoying a day on the course, the Open entertained fans of all ages.

The week catered to the fan experience. And those who attended the PGA Tour’s third Fall Series event took advantage of all the tournament had to offer.

For instance, the 17th hole, served as the Kodak Challenge hole – a yearlong $1 million competition – and the Beer for Birdies hole allowed fans the opportunity to let loose as they cheered on the golfers playing through.

No roar was louder than the reaction after Mediate’s magic from the fairway. The personable veteran hit his fourth eagle for the event, which ultimately gave him his first victory in eight years.

“He didn’t have a chance, then all of a sudden, the trajectory looked good and it backs up into the hole. And we were like ‘oh, no, it happened again,’ ” CordeValle Golf Club member Gabriel Irving said of Mediate’s tournament-saving shot. “(His last eagle) was the most miraculous.”

The Westside Grill, on 8080 Santa Teresa Boulevard in Gilroy, can perhaps claim some credit for Mediate’s good fortune. The golfer ate dinner at the restaurant after his first three rounds.

“I may go back tonight,” Mediate laughed at a post-round news conference Sunday. “I’m not very superstitious, but I’m a creature of habit. So if I find a place in town, I stick with it. It was really good.”

Thirty-one birdies went down on 17 through the four days, giving fans 31 chances at a discounted beverage – half-price beer for five minutes after each birdie on the hole.

However, the tournament was much more than that.

Tina Morgano has been to professional golf events before. But Sunday, the Pleasant Hill resident wanted her husband Bryan Morgano to get his first taste of the PGA.

“This was a date for us,” Tina said as the rain began to fall at a steady pace around noon Sunday. “I could care less that it’s raining. It’s just great to be outside and watch golf.”

Bryan, soggy shoulders and all, didn’t let the conditions spoil his time at CordeValle Golf Club.

“It’s an attractive situation,” Bryan said of the tournament. “You see a lot more detail when you are out on the course than you do on TV. You don’t know all the dynamics of a tournament until you see it close up. The golf course is immaculate.”

The Morganos, like all fans who attended Sunday’s final round braved the rain and cool temperatures to get a glimpse at the pros.

Volunteer marshals Jos Yuson and Gwen Kagaoan spent their week policing the par-4 10th hole and had an interesting first round as they watched Danny Wax hit the power lines that span across the fairway, twice.

The ladies’ Sunday responsibility was on the tee box, signaling to the marshals down the fairway what direction the ball travels off the tee using a wooden panel – golf’s version of landing an airplane.

“I follow golf and I’ve volunteered at other events before,” Kagaoan said hunkered down underneath an umbrella.

Naturally, the final two threesomes of the afternoon had the largest gallery following, but with players such as David Duval, John Daly, Chris DiMarco and Tim Clark on the course, patrons made it their prerogative to walk the entire landscape.

“It’s easy to walk,” Tina Morgano said. “Everyone has been friendly. It’s a classy sport. It’s beautiful to hear that ping. If you’ve never golfed and you come to something like this, it kind of gets you hooked.”

The rain remained persistent adding to day’s drama, which saw five players tied for the lead late in the round. The anticipation built, and although some decided to call their day early and escape to shelter, plenty of fans stuck it out and were rewarded with the fantastic finale.

“It’s the PGA Tour right at your backyard,” Morgan Hill resident Yong Ko said. “You don’t see this that often and to have a full-field PGA Tour event here, I took advantage of it.”

Dave Hopkins, who enjoyed much better weather Friday, had no complaints about his experience.

“Frys put on a first-class event, without a doubt,” the Morgan Hill resident said.

“I think anyone that’s a golf fan has to see this, even nongolf fans. You can stand right next to the players. Some of them talk to you.”

The tournament featured six golfers with local ties, including a pair of Live Oak graduates, John Ellis and Erick Justesen.

Ellis, who also attended Gavilan College, had a chance to crack the top-10 entering the final round and ultimately tied for 24th.

Local fans made it a point to watch the pro and his monster drives.

“We have been following John Ellis and giving him our support the whole time,” Ko said.

Justesen missed the even-par cut after rounds of 72-73 for a 3-over tournament.

And if it was up to Mediate, CordeValle would be the host again in 2011.

“It’s a great place. I’m glad it was here,” Mediate said. “We love it here. So hopefully we’ll come back next year.”

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