SAN FRANCISCO - Fresno State golfer Bhavik Patel won the 100th California State Amateur title on Saturday afternoon at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
On his third try competing in the tournament, Patel of Bakersfield, will be entering his senior season in the fall, failed to qualify for match play in the two previous championships, but rode a hot putter to an 8-and-6 victory over Kevin Wentworth of Arnold in the final. The final tally is the most lopsided result since 1996.
As with nearly all his matches on the week, the champion established an early lead by winning holes 5-7 to take a 3-up advantage. Patel closed the morning round 3-up, based primarily on the strength of his putter and mental fortitude.
Despite hitting only four of 14 fairways and eight of 18 greens, Patel carded a 73 by making the putts he needed to. On 16, the long par-5, Patel canned a 10-footer for birdie after watching his opponent hole out from the front bunker.
"When you have a greens that roll well and you make a good putt, it goes in," Patel said regarding his hot putter. "And it pays to have a local caddie."
Both competitors had never played Olympic before this week and sometimes were perplexed by the firm greens and foggy, cold weather during the final. Approach shots were almost routinely short throughout that match, placing a premium on the short game, an ability the champion demonstrated multiple times. "The wind swirls out here and seemed to be hurting all day," Patel said. "My shot game and putter won me the match."
After the lunch break, Patel, a rising senior at Fresno State, more than doubled his lead via winning four of the first five holes. The 4th hole told the tale of match, as Patel hit a push-fade off the tee that ended up in the adjacent fairway and Wentworth followed him with a hook into the long weeds for a lost ball.
The 7-up lead held through the next six holes where the players matched par for par. Patel secured the championship on the 12th hole, the 30th of the match, with a birdie. Wentworth managed to only win two holes on the day.