Knapp brothers sizzle at Costa Mesa City Championship

COSTA MESA – Jake Knapp said it had been five years since he and older brother Ryan played in the same group in an official tournament.

Boy did the hometown guys make Saturday count.

Ryan Knapp shot seven-under-par 63 while Jake shot 64 playing alongside on the Mesa Linda course at Costa Mesa Country Club in the first round of the 40th Will Jordan Classic (Costa Mesa City Championship).

Ryan, an incoming UC Irvine junior who graduated from Estancia High and played a year at Orange Coast College, is tied for the lead of the championship flight with Lyon Lazare while Jake Knapp, playing in his first Costa Mesa City Championship, is in third place heading into today's final round on the Los Lagos course.

"I played really smart golf today," said Ryan, who finished second in this tournament in 2009. "I really worked on my putting the last two weeks because I've been hitting good, just not making any putts."

"The greens are absolutely perfect, you just have to hit them in the right places. If you miss on the wrong side, you're not going to make the putt."

Doug Martinez, the 2005 champion, shot 66 as did Scott Sexton. Amit Chopra, Kyle Frame (Orange Coast College) and Chris Rendler each shot 68 while former Corona del Mar High standout Mike Moorhead finished with a 69. Ed Susolik, a Big Canyon Country Club member, also shot a 69.

Big Canyon Country Club member Danny Lane was among a handful of guys who shot 70, which also included Tom Doherty, Troy Davis and Riley Murphy. Mike Carpenter, the 2001 champion, shot 71.

Ryan, who like Jake has played Costa Mesa since he was a kid, moved to seven-under with a chip-in for eagle on the 475-yard par-five 14th. He was 15 feet off the green for his third shot, but played the right-to-left break enough for the ball to find the bottom of the cup.

Then on the 278-yard par-four 16th, Ryan's drive landed just right of the green. He chipped up and sank a 7-foot birdie putt.

Ryan's only blemishes were bogeys on the first and 17th holes. Otherwise, he motored along, hitting mostly three-woods off the tees. Some of the par-fours on Mesa Linda are reachable off the tee.

"You have to play them aggressively; they are too hard to lay back on," Ryan said.

Jake meanwhile birdied Nos. 15 and 18. On the 268-yard par-four 15th, his drive landed in a swale in the rough left of the green. He hit a 60-degree wedge flop shot over a tree to 5 feet and made the birdie putt.

Then on the 390-yard, par-four 18th, he blasted a drive and had a tricky pitch for his second shot. Jake needed to stand on a slope caused by the lip of a bunker short of the green. No problem, as he chipped on and made an 11-footer for birdie.

"It's probably the best condition I've ever seen it in," Jake said of the course. "The greens are a little bit firmer, but, like the guys are saying, they are not as firm as last year. It was good to have an early time, so the greens are rolling nice."

The Knapps were in the 6:40 a.m. group with Newport Harbor High product Travis Russell, who shot 72 Saturday and is transferring to UCI from the University of Hawaii at Hilo. The final groups will begin at 1:10 p.m. Sunday and continue until the leaders tee off at 2 p.m. on Los Lagos.

"I wasn't striking my irons very well, but took advantage of my good shots," said Jake, headed to UCLA this fall after graduating from Estancia. "I missed a short putt on 13 and made par. I made some good par and birdie putts and struck the ball well off the tee.

"Pins are impossible. Some of these pins, [tournament director] Sean [Collins] gets a little mean. It makes the course tougher, but it gives it some teeth."

The pin on 18 was snug front, about 3 yards off the front fringe.

Moorhead's round included three straight birdies on holes 11 through 13. He also birdied the 188-yard par-three 17th. Moorhead stuck a six-iron and firmly rolled in an 11-footer. Moorhead said the course had tricky pins and quick greens.

"I hit the ball well, my tee shots were good, but I didn't putt so well," said Moorhead, entering his first year at USC this fall. "If I can putt better, it would take a lot of the stress off."

Carpenter, the current Big Canyon club men's champion, struggled early, with bogeys on three of his first holes.

"You've got to make a bunch of birdies and I only had two," Carpenter said. "The course is tough. You know where they are going to put the pins, sometimes on borderline sidehills.

"The tough pins are the course's only defense."

Any difficult hole location couldn't stop either Ryan or Jake Knapp Saturday.

"We both told each other no matter what we were going to have a good time and it helps with the scores a little bit too," Ryan said.

Asked what it would mean to win the championship today, Ryan said, "I've been playing here since I could walk. All the guys who work here are like family. It would mean a lot."

OCC's Marcus-Mercado Kiel, a Newport Harbor graduate, shot 73 while teammate Zach Eddy tallied 75. Will Tipton (Big Canyon) shot 76 while Newport Harbor graduate Carter Norris finished with 77.

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