Arctic blast doesn’t cool off Concha
While players stayed away from golf courses in droves in the Lake Tahoe-Carson Valley area on Monday, Genoa Lakes had the perfect drawing card: a chance to play in the U.S. Open.
With temperatures approaching the freezing mark, out-of-season snow falling and a numbing wind blowing, the 48 players competing in local qualifying were dressed, not for golf, but a day on the slopes.
“Oh, my gosh, it was brutal,” said Reno’s David Nelson, one of three players to qualify for the 36-hole June 3-4 sectionals. “Even though there were certain times you hoped it was called, it wasn’t that bad. I have played in worse conditions.”
The tip of the iceberg for Nelson came on his 11th hole, which was No. 2 since he teed off on the back nine. Following a birdie at No. 1 to go 4-under par, Nelson delicately cozied his third shot to within 3 feet of the cup on the par-5 hole.
A cinch birdie, right?
“That’s when the snow started coming down really hard and the wind blew me back,” Nelson said. “I didn’t even hit the hole from 3 feet.”
The miss started a six-hole slide by Nelson, who went from 4 under to 1 over.
One player who wasn’t affected by the harsh elements was University of Nevada senior Carlos Concha. Concha birdied two holes when conditions were the toughest en route to a 3-under-par 68. The first-time sectional qualifier was the only player in the field to break par.
“I’ve played in similar conditions, and at Genoa, too. This is not uncommon for Northern Nevada weather,” said Concha, who kept the cold out with long johns and a turtle-neck sweater added to his customary golf attire. “I just got lucky today.
“This round was right there with my best, especially since it was qualifying to go to sectionals and the weather. It was a good day; it doesn’t get much better.”
Monday was the final day for local qualifying, so there wasn’t a point where officials seriously considered suspending the event.
“Weather-wise, there was no guarantee that (today) was going to be any better,” said Nelson, who also doubles as a United States Golf Association representative for Northern Nevada.
“We were really concerned whether we were going to be able to pull it off,” said Lou Eiguren, director of golf for Genoa Lakes.
Concha’s birdies ranged from 6 to 12 feet, but it was a clutch par save that he made on the back nine that really held his round together.
“I made a bunch of saving putts, and on No. 5 I got up and down from 80 yards to make par,” Concha said. “I just wanted to hold onto what I had from there and I was able to do that.”
The other qualifier to come out of the region was Tom Dawson, the head pro at Hidden Valley Country Club. Dawson shot an even-par 71.
Bryson Young, a senior at Galena High in Reno, won a playoff to secure the first alternate position. He beat out Steve Sear and Bob Klein on the first hole of the sudden-death playoff. All three players shot 73.
South Lake Tahoe’s Ebon Slack, the head pro at Genoa Lakes and a former sectional qualifier, fired a 78.
Nelson has now qualified for sectionals three times and played in the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, Calif. After practice rounds with Curtis Strange, Craig Stadler, Ben Crenshaw and Andy Bean, Nelson missed the cut by four shots. However, he eagled the second hole during each round.
Steve Yingling can be reached at email@example.com or (530) 542-8010.
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