State finalist DeChambeau learned to play in Modesto

June 25, 2013 

Bryson DeChambeau

FRESNO BEE

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textRon Agostini
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Sports
    Bio: Ron Agostini has served as a sports reporter and columnist for The Bee for more than 35 years. His stories and columns have won state-wide, regional and national awards and he's a board director and past president of the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters Association. He's a graduate of Fresno State.
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— Bryson DeChambeau took his first golf swings as a toddler at Ripon's Spring Creek Country Club.

Taught and inspired by former Spring Creek assistant pro and father Jon DeChambeau, he quickly became a golf prodigy before the family moved from Modesto to Fresno when Bryson was 7.

Last week, DeChambeau's ascent reached the elite level.

He advanced to the title match of the 102nd California State Amateur Championship, losing 3 and 2 to Santa Cruz's Cory McElyea at Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Dunes course.

"I knew I had the game for it," DeChambeau said Tuesday. "It was just a matter of putting it all together for one week."

DeChambeau, a sophomore at Southern Methodist, has been hooked on the game since he could walk. The results have been conspicuous:

• The overall title of the 2008 Bumgardner Junior Memorial at Del Rio CC when he was 14.

• The title of the Junior Golf Association of Northern California Match Play Championship in a successful return to Spring Creek in 2010.

• The round of 16 at the 2011 U.S. Amateur before his senior year at Clovis East High.

• Conference USA Freshman of the Year as an SMU freshman. He recorded five top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes, featuring a second at the conference championship.

DeChambeau, a Modesto native, persevered at the State Amateur. He opened with a 77 in stroke play and needed a gutsy second round, a 72 despite 30-mph wind, to squeeze into the 32-man bracket.

The wins followed, including a semifinal victory during which DeChambeau shot a club-record 29 on the Dunes' front nine.

But in the 36-hole final, he trailed 4-down after the first seven holes. DeChambeau rallied to within 2-down after 21 holes, but — at the par-5 ninth (the 27th) — McElyea holed out from 50 yards for eagle.

DeChambeau was down five with five left, yet won two straight holes before he was beaten.

"It made me fight real hard," he said in reference to his week. "It was like I was almost prepared to be down. That gave me some confidence against my opponents."

A little perspective also helped. His father struggled in 2012. He underwent seven surgeries — open heart, back (twice) and eye (four). Undaunted, Jon (seeded 10th at the 2007 State Amateur) carried his son's bag through portions of the final and may be able to hit balls by August.

"It's amazing what he's gone through and yet he's so positive about things," Bryson said. "He told me when I was far behind in the championship match, 'Play your game. Just shoot under par and see where it takes you.' "

Bryson, like many talented and driven young players, struggled at times with his on-course composure. Again, witnessing his father's ordeal proved instructional.

"I used to get pretty mad because of my own expectations and the expectations others had for me," he said. "I learned that there are worse things to happen to you than a bad golf shot. It's all about being positive and happy."

Bryson called his State Amateur "a great learning experience," which he hopes he can apply during a busy summer: The Sahalee Players Championship next week, the Trans-Mississippi, U.S. Amateur qualifying, the Western Amateur and the Canadian Amateur.

• THE SHAG BAG — McElyea became only the second NorCal player in the last nine years to win the State Am. ... Oakdale's Mabel Wong shot 2-over 75 at the Dunes this week and shared medalist honors with Kathleen Scavo of Benicia and Jessica Luo of San Jose at the 64th California State Junior Girls Championship. Wong opened match play with a win on Tuesday. ...

Jamie Looper of Oakdale posted a 36-hole total of 146 at Bayonet and Spyglass Hill and tied for second at the Northern California Golf Association Master Division title. Looper, the 2008 Master Division winner, tied with Russell Humphrey and Casey Boyns, two strokes behind four-time champion Randy Haag. ...

Volunteer positions are available at the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach, to be held Sept. 26-29. ...Visit www.thefirstteeopen.com/volunteers or by calling (831) 649-1533).

• HOLES-IN-ONE — Josh Smith, Modesto, 130-yard second at Del Rio CC (River), pitching wedge. ... Jason Smith, Modesto, 160-yard 15th at Spring Creek CC, Ripon, pitching wedge. ... Bill Hartlett, Waterford, 138-yard eighth at Creekside, 6-iron. ... Steve Springer, Modesto, 142-yard second at Jack Tone Golf, Ripon, 6-iron. ... John Page, Riverbank, 111-yard 13th at Jack Tone, pitching wedge.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at (209) 578-2302 or ragostini@modbee.com. Follow Ron via Twitter @modbeesports

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