Amol Mahal won the San Francisco City Championship on the 38th hole of an epic, all-day match against Justin Polk on Sunday afternoon at TPC Harding Park.
The event, known locally as “The City,” takes great pride in being the oldest municipal tournament in the U.S., dating to 1917. A field of 156 players took part in the championship division qualifying rounds during Halloween weekend, leading to 64 players advancing to match-play rounds that began Nov. 6. The championship division reached the quarterfinals on Saturday as Polk and Mahal played two 18-hole matches to reach a 36-hole finale – that went into overtime – on Sunday.
Mahal, a former UC Santa Barbara player who was reinstated after a brief professional stint, had blitzed Drew Bender, 7 and 5, to reach the final match, but he found himself either tied or trailing Polk for 27 holes of the final. The younger Polk, a Santa Clara resident who has recently spent time playing for San Jose City College, needed 19 holes to edge Andrew McDonald in the semifinals but showed little weariness against Mahal.
Neither player gained much separation in the final match. Mahal grabbed a 1-up lead through the first nine holes before Polk fought his way back. Wins on Nos. 17 and 18 put Polk ahead, 2 up, at the lunch break.
Mahal proved steady to start the afternoon session in winning three of the first seven holes, flipping the match back to 1 up in his favor. Polk won the 26th hole with a par to tie again, but Mahal would grab the advantage once more by winning the 33rd hole.
As he did in the morning, Polk birdied the par-3 17th, the match’s 35th hole, and brought the match back to square. Both players made bogey on the home hole to send it into sudden death, where Mahal won on the second extra hole.
Mahal joins past champions Ken Venturi, Harvie Ward and George Archer. The tournament is typically held earlier in the year, but had been postponed because of previous COVID-19 concerns in California. Each year, more than 600 players enter the event through qualifying, and there are 10 different divisions represented.
The senior championship went to Andy Gabelman as he easily beat Dean Park, 7 and 5. Gabelman commuted back and forth from his home in Carmel, California, about two hours south of San Francisco.
The women’s division went to Kesaree Rojanapeansatith, who beat Kylee Choi, 2 and 1. Rojanapeansatith played golf at the University of San Francisco and now works at Presidio Golf Club.