Ron Agostini

Turlock teen impresses at NorCal event

Turlock High junior Sam Smith can't help but look ahead.

He's already the area's best boys junior golfer in years, and he's already circled Stanford as his eventual destination.

But for now, Smith must try to impress the Cardinal, which will be difficult given the fact Stanford is the reigning NCAA champion.

Smith, 16, no doubt helped his cause Tuesday when he won the Northern California Golf Association Junior Championship at Lake Merced CC in Daly City.

His rounds of 70, 76 and 71 for 1-over-par 217 topped 14-15 age flight winner Patrick Grimes of Palo Alto by four strokes. Smith leaped to the top with a nifty closing nine of 33 that outclassed defending champion Adam Ichikawa of Los Altos (77-69-78 — 224) and Taylor Travis of Fremont (70-80-74 — 224).

"I started shaky but I got it going on the back nine," Smith said. "This gives me a confidence boost for the rest of the year."

The rest of the year begins with a hectic August, which starts Monday when Smith tries to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at Del Rio CC. He also has scheduled American Junior Golf Association events and the Ping Invitational.

He'll be hard-pressed, however, to trump his victory in the NCGA Junior, an event which was won by such luminaries as Ken Venturi and Johnny Miller.

Smith hopes Stanford takes note.

HUBER — Madera's Tim Huber, formerly a club pro at Ripon's Spring Creek CC and Oakdale CC, tuned up for this week's Reno-Tahoe Open by winning the Northern California PGA Professional Championship at Mayacama outside Santa Rosa.

Huber, who works at Sierra Meadows Ranch (formerly Awahnee), shot 74-69 — 143 and edged Brad Martin and Rick Leibovich by two strokes. "It's an honor to win this prestigious event and be included with other past champions such as Tony Lema, Bruce Summerhays, Dick Lotz, Bob Wynn and Mick Soli," said Huber, who's already won the 2007 NCPGA Stroke Play Championship.

Ripon's Don Winter tied for 16th (74-78—152).

THE SHAG BAG — Smith joins many local players at Del Rio, one of six Northern California sites for Amateur qualifying Monday. Physical condition could play a role during the long and probably hot 36-hole day. The lowest scorers will advance to the Amateur at the Olympic Club in San Francisco Aug. 20-26. ...

Honolulu's Tadd Fujikawa, 16, will make his professional debut at the ninth Reno-Tahoe Open. The 5-foot-1 Fujikawa made a name for himself by being the youngest U.S. Open qualifier in history (2006) and, earlier this year, by finishing 20th at the Sony Open. He's a long shot in more ways than one. He weighed 1 pound, 15 ounces at berth and was given only a 50-50 shot to live. Also featured at Montreux CC are Corey Pavin and Rocco Mediate. Tickets cost only $15 on-line or $20 at the gate. Call 775-322-3900 or visit renotahoeopen.com.

HOLES-IN-ONE — Terry Plett, Modesto, 139-yard eighth at Creekside, pitching wedge. ... Martin Stokman, Riverbank, 138-yard 12th at Oakdale CC, 8-iron. ... Dave Armbrust, Winton, 138-yard fourth at Stevinson Ranch, 8-iron.

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or 578-2302.

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