LA QUINTA, Calif. – It was only a year ago that Michael Rizarri, from San Lorenzo, Calif., was in the middle of the pack in the Sarazen flight (12.0-15.9 handicaps) at the 2014 Golf Channel Am Tour National Championships in Scottsdale.
He placed 43rd that year. But a second round 77, his lowest score that week by eight shots, provided a glimpse of his potential.
Fast forward to 2015, where Rizarri has been bumped up to the Hogan flight (handicaps 8.0-11.9). In the 2014-15 season, he had just one win, which was the first event of the year, the Bay Area Kickoff. In fact, he didn't qualify for nationals until the final event of the year, the Sacramento-Central Coast Tour Championship, where he lost in a playoff after a two-day total of 156.
Rizarri came to PGA West without much in the form of expectations, where a field of 156 other golfers stood in his way.
"I knew I could hang with them," said Rizarri. "But I never thought I could be a national champion."
Rizarri avoided big numbers in round one on the Stadium Course and shot 79, followed by a second 79 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course to put himself in the hunt.
But he only improved from there, carding a 77 on the Norman Course. He finished it off with an even-par front nine before ending up with a 76 on the Palmer Private Course to win the flight by two shots over Tommy Stokes, who shot a 77 in the final round.
It was in improbable rise in just a year's time. But Rizarri is just getting started.
"The ultimate goal is to go to the Championship flight," said Rizarri, who will now join the Palmer flight (handicaps 4.0-7.9). "I'm just going to have fun with it. Stay in contention and go from there."
Lundquist takes down Jain in Sarazen flight
In the Sarazen flight (12-15.9 handicaps), it came down to a two-horse race on the final day at the Norman Course at PGA West. Vijay Jain was one shot ahead of Alex Lundquist. 36-hole leader Deke Cooper, a former standout safety at Notre Dame and NFL player, faltered on the Palmer Private course in Round 3 with a 92 to give them some space.
But early in Round 4, Jain faltered with a 10 on the par-5 2nd hole. He triple-bogeyed the next, and Lundquist, who managed to avoid big numbers on the front side, mounted a considerable lead. His final score of 88 to Jain's 93 proved to be enough to win by four shots. Cooper finished in solo third place with an 87.
Hubert Buffalo and Jeff Wilson had low-score honors in Round 4 with 81s.