Ryan Grauman left Napa on Sunday afternoon feeling very, very good about his game.
Grauman, a sophomore at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, was feeling especially good about his short game and the way he handles his business on the greens with his putter.
Grauman made seven birdies and needed just 28 putts as he came from behind to win the Napa City Amateur and Senior Championship at Napa Golf Course, located at Kennedy Park.
After opening with a 2-under-par 70 on Saturday, Grauman took charge on the back nine of the final round, shooting a sizzling 66 on the 6,681-yard championship daily fee golf course that presents a stiff test with water on 16 of the 18 holes.
He completed the two-day, 36-hole event – part of the Northern California Golf Association’s tournament calendar – with an 8-under 136 total in the championship flight. Grauman, a 2018 graduate of The Athenian School in Danville, finished two strokes in front of Kevin Alexander, the first-round leader, of Napa.
The course record of 64 is held by J.J. Jakovac, a 2000 Vintage High School graduate, who went on to earn three-time NCAA Division II first-team All-America honors for Chico State. Jakovac, the 2002 and 2004 NCAA Division II individual medalist and a member of the Chico State Athletic Hall of Fame, caddies for Collin Morikawa on the PGA Tour.
Alexander had rounds of 67 and 71 for a 138 total and finished as the runner-up for the second year in a row. Alexander had a three-shot lead after the first round.
Grauman birdied the par-3, 164-yard 16th hole, making a 40-foot putt.
He reached the front of the green on the par-5, 526-yard 18th hole in two, hitting consecutive 3-woods, and then two-putting for birdie to cap an outstanding round.
“Ryan didn’t make the mistakes,” said Alexander, 43, who works as an electrician and plays out of Napa Golf Course and Chardonnay Golf Club. “He was super solid, with a great short game. He made the putts. That’s what you have to do.
“Playing with Ryan, he’s fantastic. I knew he was going to be tough. He’s super solid. He’s a great putter, a great ball striker. No chinks in his armor. Good short game.”
Grauman hit six fairways in regulation and 13 greens in regulation. His other birdies came on Nos. 2, 5, 8, 11 and 14.
“I’ve been battling some back issues lately and I hadn’t really been putting together good, solid rounds,” said Grauman, a resident of Alamo, who plays out of Round Hill Country Club. “I’m working through that and trying to get that healed up. It’s nice to know that my game is coming back into good shape right now.
“I cleaned up some of my approach shots into the greens from the day before. My putting is what really stepped up. It’s what shaved some shots off for me, as I was able to make anything within like eight feet. It was just trusting my putting.”
Alexander, who had a double-bogey on the par-4, 353-yard 17th hole, plays in NCGA points events and earlier this year qualified for the 108th California Amateur Championship at Monterey Peninsula Country Club at Pebble Beach. Alexander did not advance to match play in stroke play qualifying.
“I needed to put some work into getting it going,” said Grauman, 20. “It was a great, great battle, back and forth, the whole day. (Alexander’s) a great player and it was just really fun to be in that moment and to also keep myself in that moment.
“There’s some holes where you really have to buckle down and hit some great shots out here. It’s a good test to see how your game is.”
Grauman, who is majoring in economics, was presented with a trophy and a gift certificate from the golf shop afterward. He has played in two U.S. Golf Association events, the 2016 U.S. Junior Amateur at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tennessee, and this year’s U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in the Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina.
Grauman said his game plan for the final round – played in ideal conditions, with sunny weather and temperatures in the high 70s – was to give himself as many opportunities as possible for birdie.
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“If I’m struggling to save pars out there, I’m not going to be catching up with him,” said Grauman. “It’s a pretty tough course, but you can make a lot of birdies out there. You just have to minimize your mistakes and that was my game plan – try to hit as many greens and really focus on the short putts. If you start missing some of those, your confidence can go down.”
Grauman is in the process of trying out for the Saint Mary’s team after a freshman season where he played in each of the team’s 13 tournaments and compiled a scoring average of 73.33 per round. He tied for 13th at the West Coast Conference Championships and was also second on the Saint Mary’s team at the NCAA Regionals.
Grauman called it a “confidence booster” to post low scores on a challenging Napa course, designed by Jack Fleming and Bob Baldock. Napa Golf Course was at one time a Monday qualifying site for the Kaiser International Open Invitational and Anheuser-Busch Golf Classic, PGA Tour events that were played at Silverado Resort and Spa. Napa Golf Course, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017, has also hosted U.S. Open local qualifiers over the years.
“It’s just a great way to challenge yourself and to test your game,” said Grauman. “It’s a great event and the course is a really tough test. I was glad to see that I could put this together. There’s some shots I didn’t pull off for sure that I need to work on, and that’s what this course can reveal. But I’m very happy with my game and with the direction it’s heading in.”
Earlier in his career, Grauman played in American Junior Golf Association, Junior Tour of Northern California, Future Collegians World Tour, and Junior Golf Association of Northern California events over the years.
Grauman’s only bogey during the final round came on the third hole.
Alexander had seven birdies and two bogeys on Saturday. This was followed by five birdies, two bogeys and the double bogey on Sunday.
Alexander’s tee shot on the 17th hole landed near a tree trunk, leaving him in a tough spot. It took him three more shots to reach the green.
“I went for it right there and lost it. It was definitely a battle and I lost it on 17 obviously,” said Alexander. “It didn’t work out. That’s kind of how it goes.
“You can’t make that many mistakes and expect to win. You need to give your best effort and not make mistakes.”
Alexander did not start playing golf until he was 25. He and his wife, Aprille, have three children, ages 6, 3 and nine months.
He played on the Napa Valley College men’s golf team in 2004 and 2005. He won the Napa City title in 2009.
He has also won the Davis City (2010, 2019), Antioch City (2018), Siskiyous County Amateur (2007, 2008, 2009), and Shasta County Amateur (2006).
He tied for third place at the NCGA Amateur Stroke Play Championship in 2009 at Poppy Hills Golf Course at Pebble Beach.
He plans to play in the San Francisco City Men’s Championship next year.
Lucas Carper took third place (73-72–145), Matt Watkins came in fourth (72-73–145), and Robert Erler was fifth (77-71–148) in the championship division.
Matt Vukicevich won the senior division title (76-75–151), Somboon Kitapan was second (78-79–157), and Bobby Davis was third (81-77–158).
The event had a field of 35 players.