Mesa numbers overflowing

Bryce Alderton

Eight days before the start of the 32nd annual Costa Mesa city golf

championship, tournament director Sean Collins was filled up.

No, he wasn't fed up with the annual men's amateur tournament that

attracts some of the top players in Southern California to the Costa

Mesa Golf & Country Club for 36 holes of golf for two days.

He was full of entry papers from golfers attempting to grab one of

the few remaining spots into a field that ballooned to 390 amateurs,

the largest Collins has seen in his five years running the

championship, which begins on both the Mesa Linda and Los Lagos

courses at 6 a.m. today.

"This is the first year I've had to shut it down," said Collins, a

teaching pro at the club. "The deadline was [July 30] and as of

[Wednesday and Tuesday], I said, 'No more.' I have a list of 15 guys

who want to play, but I won't be able to pull it off. It's sad to

turn people away."

The championship flight alone features 169 golfers.

Collins said in past years the field hovered around 330 golfers.

Players must be at least 18 years old. This year's surge in numbers

is easily explained because of the golf course.

"This course has turned into a gem, more or less," Collins said.

"The greens are perfect. For a public golf course, you don't have to

pay very much. The pace of play is somewhat slow and it tests your

patience, more or less. We have a lot of college guys this year, but

that is always the case."

"[Course superintendent Jim Fetterly] gets the course in such good

shape," said Danny Lane, a manager of Mesa Verde Partners who is

entered in the championship flight.

Fetterly and staff have readied both courses for the onslaught of

soft spikes set to stroll on the greens and fairways of one of Orange

County's most popular and affordable public courses.

Today and Sunday, both Mesa Linda and Los Lagos courses will soak

up the sunshine and spotlight of golfers shooting for titles in five

flights: Championship, seniors, first, second and third.

Each golfer will play Mesa Linda (5,538 yards) and Los Lagos

(6,542 yards) once for their 36 holes. Players in the championship

flight will tee off today on the shorter Mesa Linda course.

Foursomes, or the occasional threesome, will tee off in 10-minute

intervals on both days, just like in past years.

But in contrast to prior years, Collins set aside 16 spots for

four foursomes between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Sunday for players atop the

championship flight leaderboard following today's first round.

"In the past I would give them a time [for the first round], say 9

o'clock, and the next day would group as far as scores go," Collins

said. "I had had enough headaches with that so I decided to give them

times for both days. No one has times for Sunday [between 11 and

11:30 a.m.]. If a guy comes in at 65 and that is the low score, I

have 11:30 reserved for him."

For the first time, golfers maintained the pace of play on both

courses during the two days of last year's tournament, Collins said.

But there was a slight delay in naming a winner in 2003, unrelated

to speed of play, however.

Adam Marshall needed just one extra hole to emerge victorious from

a three-way sudden-death playoff. Marshall made a birdie 4 on the

par-5 18th hole on Los Lagos to claim the prize over former UC Irvine

standout Mike Lavery and Torey Edwards. All three tied at 7-under

after 36 holes.

Marshall, a La Quinta resident, will defend his title and begins

play on Mesa Linda at 7:10 a.m. in a group with Ed Susolik, Costa

Mesa's men's club champion.

Jeff Thomas and Sam Morgan, Costa Mesa men's club members, will

tee off in the same group at 7:40 a.m. on Mesa Linda.

Past champions Mike Carpenter (2001) and Greg Sato (1999) are also

in the championship flight, which requires players to have an

established handicap of 2.2 or less.

The championship, formerly known as the Will Jordan Classic, has

produced winners who went to claim major golf championships.

Mark O'Meara, the 1998 Masters and British Open champion, won the

Costa Mesa city title in 1979 a week after his victory in the U.S.

Amateur.

Scott Simpson, winner of the 1987 U.S. Open, beat out his father,

Joe, for the 1974 Costa Mesa crown. Scott Simpson hit a 45-yard wedge

shot on the 18th hole to within four feet of the cup and sank the

putt for victory.

Flight winners will add their names their names alongside O'Meara

and Simpson on the perpetual trophy.

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