Sign up to receive our free weekly digital magazine!


The City Just Latest Example Of Youth Movement

Andrew Biggadike is 34 years old. He’s engaged. He grew up in New Jersey, earned an undergraduate degree from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. (where he played golf on the 2002 Division III national champs) and then secured a master’s degree in computer science from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. Biggadike now works as a software engineer in Palo Alto. He’s a full-fledged adult, in other words – lived in a few different places, held down a job, probably bought an occasional beer. That made him an anomaly on the final weekend of this month’s San Francisco City Championship. Biggadike advanced to the semifinals March 9 at Harding Park, where he was bounced by a kid less than half his age – Isaiah Salinda, a 16-year-old from Serra High who lives in South San Francisco. But Salinda has game. So do all these kids. This was the enduring lesson of “The City,” one of the country’s oldest municipal tournaments. It’s no groundbreaking revelation to discover the abundant skill of young golfers here in 2013, but the last day of this year’s event brought the trend into sharp focus. The men’s final matched Salinda and Will Brueckner, a 16-year-old junior at Acalanes High in Lafayette (and the eventual winner). In the women’s final, grizzled veteran Casie Cathrea, 17 – she’s leaving for college in August, honest – downed Jayshree Sarathy, 16, a junior at Gunn High in Palo Alto. Not a single college player in the bunch. Biggadike brings some perspective to this conversation. He volunteers as a rules official for the NCGA, working many of the organization’s junior events – and a lot of the kids in those tournaments also played in The City. So Biggadike found himself in the curious position of competing against young golfers for whom he might issue a ruling next month. Awkward! Or put it this way: Biggadike played in the U.S. Junior Amateur in 1995. He got a kick out of mentioning this to his fellow players in the City, some of whom weren’t even alive then. “When I was in high school and college, I played way more golf than I do now,” Biggadike said a few days before his quarterfinal victory against 47-year-old Nick Ushijima, the only other adult to reach the final weekend of the men’s championship division. “I was a little sharper, my bad rounds weren’t as bad and everything was just easier. “If I think about it, it’s after 3 o’clock right now and I’m still at work – and the high school kids are out playing golf.” The kids have more time to practice, often hit the ball farther and typically play more aggressively. That could work against them in match play, logically, but Biggadike didn’t gather much evidence to support this theory during his recent weekends at Harding. Take his first-round duel with high-school junior Ryan Gronlund of Pleasanton. Biggadike made birdie on No. 18 to force extra holes, and then he and Gronlund matched four consecutive pars. Finally, on the 23rd hole, Gronlund blinked – his three-putt bogey sent Biggadike into the next round. “That might have been most intense match I ever played,” Biggadike said. “If I was [Gronlund’s] age, I don’t know if I would have handled it as well as he did.” This might be the most striking thing about the kids: They’re poised. It’s one thing to take lessons at a young age and develop a sound, efficient swing. It’s another thing entirely to stay calm in the heat of competition, to show maturity belying the number on your birth certificate. Brueckner, for instance, fell 2 down after the morning round of his 36-hole final against Salinda. He didn’t fret, not even after losing the first hole of the afternoon round to drop to 3 down. Brueckner promptly won No. 2 (with a terrific par save) and made birdies on Nos. 3 and 4. That quickly, the match was all square. Brueckner no doubt benefits from his background at the Olympic Club, where he has been a junior merit member the past three years. He plays there frequently in the summer and occasionally during the school year – when homework is light, as he put it – and savors the team atmosphere. “A lot of good talent comes to play at the Olympic Club,” Brueckner said after winning The City. “Plus, we go play other people. That keeps my match-play intuition where it needs to be, and that’s what I like. And I never have more fun than when I play with those guys at Olympic.” Fun. There’s a novel way to keep the game fresh for ambitious young players. Brueckner has serious ambitions, too – he wants to play at Stanford. He recently met the school’s academic requirements, and now he needs to play well enough to impress the coaches. Biggadike, who returned to Harding to watch the final few holes of the championship match, wouldn’t be surprised to see Brueckner, Salinda or these other teenagers rise to grand heights. They’re young and fearless, with plenty of game. “I was talking to kids during the tournament about their plans and hopes for the future,” Biggadike said. “When I was their age, I didn’t really want to hear what some old guy had to say. … I always tell them to stay in school as long as they can.” Listen up, kids. Old guys know best.


Recent Posts