Locals tee off in amateur tourney

Two of La Jolla's own — one a novice, the other a seasoned vet — participated last week in the California State Amateur Championship held at La Jolla Country Club golf course and Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club.

Both Bucky Coe, 24-year-old son of La Jolla Country Club pro Pete Coe, and Harry Rudolph III, La Jolla restaurateur and former PGA pro who won the tourney nearly 20 years ago, were among the 156-player field vying to advance after the first two days of the tournament split between the two golf courses.

Both were attempting to qualify for an elite group of 32 players competing in match play at Rancho Santa Fe. Rudolph made it. Coe nearly did.

"I just barely missed out on match play," said Coe, competing in the state's biggest amateur golf tournament for the very first time. "I was one of 10 guys playing for three spots in match play: It was do it or go home."

Coe said he played well but, unfortunately, made a couple of bogies near the end that kept him from "closing the deal." "I was odd man out," he said, noting what he liked best about the experience. "Playing in front of the (spectator) gallery was cool," he said. "You want to perform. Obviously, you're a little nervous."

It was dejà vu for Rudolph, who won the tournament back in 1991. This time around he made the elite field of 32, which was whittled down to 16 players on June 24, then trimmed to four players Friday before Saturday's finale. He ended up finishing second to tournament winner Scott Travers, a senior at the University of Santa Clara.

Though he had won before, Rudolph said competing again was still big for him.

"This is the biggest amateur tournament in California," he noted. "Tiger Woods never won it. Phil Mickelson never won it. There are a lot of great players coming from California that never won it. It's a big event."

It was also the first time La Jolla Country Club had ever hosted the event.

That, too, was a big deal.

"This is the 99th year for this tournament that started out at Pebble Beach where the U.S. Open was just played," said Pete Coe, now in his 28th year as a golf pro at the 420-member private club established in 1927.

Coe said La Jolla Country Club was chosen to co-host the amateur golf tournament partly because of its greens.

"What really best characterizes our golf course is its small, fast greens," he said. "It's what makes our old-style golf course unique. Our greens are half the size of greens being built for golf courses today. A lot of shot-makers like that because it requires skills with irons to hit the ball on the green."

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