November 14th - 17th 2019
The Story From Day 2
Brandon Harkins and Tony Verna have a lot to celebrate: a wedding, a new child and a victory in the Straight Down Fall Classic.
Harkins’ wife gave birth to the couple’s first child, a boy named Jackson, three weeks ago. Verna got married on Oct. 19. Harkins was a groomsman.
They added a victory in the Straight Down Fall Classic on Nov. 17. The pair shot 14-under 129 (63-66) in this scratch best-ball pro-am to finish two shots ahead of two-time Fall Classic champion Edward Loar and his amateur partner, former U.S. Mid-Amateur runner-up Todd Mitchell.
Scott Heyn won low club pro honors after finishing third with amateur partner Corby Segal. Heyn and Segal won last year’s Fall Classic, their third win in this event since 2012. They finished three shots back this year. Two other teams tied for third: the duo of former PGA Tour winner Rod Pampling and the Chicago Cubs’ Ian Happ, and longtime Tour player Ricky Barnes and his amateur partner, Andrew Medley.
Harkins, who’s played the past two seasons on the PGA Tour, made 14 birdies this weekend. He credited Verna’s steady play for freeing him up on San Luis Obispo’s slick putting surfaces.
“I putted pretty well,” Harkins said. “Having Tony in each hole with me, it eased the stress, so I think it made it easier on the greens, because the greens are so tricky. These greens are some of the best, if not the best, greens I’ve ever putted.”
Harkins and Verna started the final round with a one-shot lead. Verna made their first birdie on the par-4 second hole. Harkins contributed two more on the front nine to move them to 11 under.
They were in a three-way tie for the lead when they made the turn. Pampling and Happ and the father-and-son team of Doug and Greg Bauman also were 11 under.
Harkins made birdie on the two par-5s that open San Luis Obispo Country Club’s back nine and added another birdie on 15. Both players bogeyed the par-4 16th to cut their lead to a single stroke, but Harkins birdied the final hole to clinch a two-shot victory.
The teams led by former PGA Tour winners Kenny Perry and Arron Oberholser tied for sixth place at 10 under par. Perry played with amateur Kris Marshall, while Oberholser played with former San Jose State teammate Trent Tessler.
Harkins and Verna have been friends since junior golf. They played for rival high schools before playing college golf for separate California schools. Harkins played at Chico State, while Verna was a member of UC Santa Barbara’s team. They traveled together for a season on PGA Tour Canada, as well. Verna is a reinstated amateur and now lives in San Francisco, where he’s won two of the past three club championships at Olympic Club. Harkins has four career top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour.
This was the third time Harkins and Verna have played the Straight Down Fall Classic. The third time turned out to be a charm.
The Story From Day 1
They played for rival high schools in California’s East Bay, but now Brandon Harkins and Tony Verna have formed a successful pairing at the Straight Down Fall Classic.
Harkins and Verna shot 8-under 63 to take the first-round lead in the Straight Down Fall Classic. The scratch pro-am tournament uses a best-ball format, so birdies are a necessity. Harkins and Verna made 12 on the slick, sloping greens of San Luis Obispo Country Club.
The final round will be played Sunday. Admission is free to the public.
Harkins, who played the past two seasons on the PGA Tour, made eight birdies Saturday, while Verna contributed four. A team’s score is the total of its lowest score from each hole.
“It was pretty stress-free,” said Harkins, a Chico State alum. Verna played college golf at UC-Santa Barbara.
They’ll start Sunday’s final round with a one-shot lead over Greg and Doug Bauman. The father-and-son team plays out of Biltmore Country Club in North Barrington, Illinois.
Four teams are tied for third place after shooting 65, including the duo led by longtime PGA Tour star Kenny Perry. Perry, who won 14 times on the PGA Tour and once ranked No. 4 in the world, is playing the Fall Classic for the first time. He is playing with amateur Kris Marshall.
The other three teams that shot 65 are Ricky Barnes and Andrew Medley, Jason Gore and Kevin Marsh, and Jason Ballard and Patrick Dipasquale.
The Chicago Cubs’ Ian Happ and his professional teammate, Rod Pampling, are tied for sixth place after shooting 66. Two-time Fall Classic champion Edward Loar and amateur Todd Mitchell also shot 66.
Pampling, a three-time Tour winner who’s making his Fall Classic debut, was impressed by Happ’s performance in the sport that he plays part-time. Happ is a 2 handicap. He’s hit 50 home runs in three Major League seasons.
“To see a guy who’s 25 swing as fast as he does, I can only imagine what he does to a baseball,” Pampling said. “It hurts just watching him. It’s a pretty powerful motion. He has a good swing. You can see the passion he has. There’s a lot of good shots in there.”
Gore and Marsh, who were college teammates at Pepperdine, will be seeking their third Fall Classic title. Ballard won the 2017 Fall Classic with Straight Down founder Mike Rowley. Barnes won the 2003 U.S. Amateur and has played more than 300 PGA Tour events.
Perry, 59, also is a two-time U.S. Senior Open champion and has played on winning Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams. Marshall, his amateur partner, also is playing this tournament for the first time.
San Luis Obispo Country Club is known for its challenging putting surfaces, and they lived up to their reputation Saturday.
“It’s the hardest 18 holes of green complexes that I’ve played besides Augusta National,” said Perry, who was runner-up in the 2009 Masters. “We did OK. We’re just getting our feet wet.”
Harkins and Verna have been friends since junior golf. They spent a year traveling together and playing professional golf in Canada, as well. Verna is a reinstated amateur who now works in renewable energy in San Francisco. He has won two of the past three club championships at Olympic Club.
“Out here, it’s about keeping it below the hole,” Harkins said. That’s what we tried to do, even if it meant missing the green. The greens are so good.”
Sunday's tee times will begin at approximately 7:30 a.m.
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