Professional golfer Michael Allen, a native of San Mateo, CA, now living in Scottsdale, Arizona, has a strong local base of support here in the Bay Area – friends, family and local fans who come out to cheer him on whenever he plays a tournament nearby. Those fans were out in force this week at Harding Park Golf Course, sticking with Allen through thick and thin as he rode waves of elation and frustration in the Schwab Cup Championship, the final tournament of the Champions Tour season.
Allen opened the tournament with a 3-under 68, posting one of only three bogey-free rounds on the first day, with birdies on the second hole and the back-to-back par-5s, holes 9 and 10. It was a round that could have been two or three strokes better had a few edge-burning putts fallen, but there was nothing that had gone obviously wrong.
The next three rounds of the tournament were a story of ups and downs for Allen – beeline drives and missed putts, tree trouble and laser-like iron shots – with the tee shot at the 18th hole playing the role of nemesis.
The drive at 18 stuck a fork in Allen’s round on Friday and Saturday with double-bogey, courtesy of a massive Monterey Cypress which guards the approach to the fairway – he found it with 3-wood on Friday and driver on Saturday, when the solid thump of ball on wood echoed unmercifully back to the tee box across Lake Merced.
Sunday’s fourth round was another porpoise ride for Allen and his fans as he carded an early double-bogey at the fifth hole, a shortish (417-yard) par-4. The long, narrow green at #5 has so much movement that just looking at it is enough to induce motion sickness – trying to putt on it is no golfer’s idea of fun.
The hole location on #5 for today’s final round was front right, on top of a gentle humpback. Allen went at this tough flag location, and missed right. Two thumps out of the deep, damp rough got him on the green in four, followed by two putts for a very frustrating double-bogey.
Birdies at the seventh hole, a short par-4, and the ninth, the shortest of the three par-5s on the course, bucked up his gallery, and Allen pumped the excitement level up another notch when he hit the green in two at #11, the final par-5 on the course, two-putting from the back fringe for another birdie.
Rolling through the back of the green on the par-3 eleventh hole led to another bogey, then two holes later he wowed the gallery with a stiffed approach shot to a tough, tucked-back hole location at #13 for a tap-in birdie.
Two holes later, again, a beautiful approach to another tucked hole location resulted in a three-jack double bogey, at the fifteenth. Then, after pars at holes 16 and 17, Allen’s gallery held their collective breath as he came to the tee box at 18 and pulled driver. A slight helping wind lent Allen confidence, and he put one of his best swings of the week on the ball, threading the gap between his nemesis tree on the right and the cluster of trees up-course, ending in perfect position on the fairway. A clean approach to the green left him above the hole, and he rolled in his second putt for par, putting a pleasant end on an uneven week.
Allen finished the week in 22nd place, with a final score of 2-under 282. He finished sixth in the final Schwab Cup standings, 65 points out of fifth place and a handy $100,000 annuity. With two wins on the Champions Tour this year, at the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic and the Greater Hickory Kia Classic at Rock Barn, and eleven top 10 finishes, it has been a good year for the longtime pro, but he was hoping for a better finish in his old stomping grounds, on a golf course he practically grew up on.
With the off-season at hand, Allen will take advantage of the time off from competitive golf to relax, regroup, and then set back to work on his game for the new season. Allen is a big movie fan, and his wife, Cynthia, who followed him around the course all four days this week, through sunshine and fog, says that her husband will probably be in a movie theater catching up on the latest releases the first day they get home to Scottsdale, relaxing and preparing for a fresh start at Hualalai next January.