Bobby Bucey had a fairly successful golf career at Clayton Valley High School. But when he graduated in 2007, the Concord resident didn’t draw much attention from colleges seeking him out to join their schools’ programs.
Many schools might rue that oversight as the golfer recently did something only four World Golf Hall of Fame members have done by winning the 107th California Amateur Golf Championship, just like icons Ken Venturi, Mark O’Meara, Johnny Miller and Gene Littler achieved in the annual amateur that was first held in 1912.
Oh, and by the way, a couple golfers who played in the California Amateur without winning are named Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.
Concord pharmacist Steve Stimac lost the 1969 California Amateur championship match to future PGA touring pro Forrest Fezler, one year after Miller won his state title. Stimac, a fixture in local golfing circles for many years, was also runner-up in the 1975 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship.
At 29, Bucey was considered an “old man” in the field of 156 qualifiers at La Costa Resort in Carlsbad last month. The golfers competed for two days of stroke play that whittled the field down to the top 32. Bucey was seeded 11th after the 36 holes of stroke play, despite a slow start in the first round with four bogies. He then faced a grueling schedule of six more rounds of match play over four days to claim the trophy.
He had to rally in a couple of the matches, including his 1 up win over UCLA junior and No. 4 seed Hidetoshi Yoshihara of Irvine in the 36-hole Sunday finals, Bucey found himself down by three after the morning 18 holes.
With his dad Bob serving as his caddy, Bucey maintained a positive attitude, believing it was more Yoshihara’s excellent play than his shortcomings that accounted for the difference in the match.
“I felt I was hitting it really well and if I could just make a couple more putts, I’d be back in the match,” he said.
However, he fell back a further stroke before he birdied the 24th and 25th holes to halve the deficit and give him “a second wind and a shot of adrenaline.” He eventually tied the match, gave back a stroke and then re-tied for the lead on the 33th hole.
He finally took the lead on the 35th hole when Yoshihara made bogey. They halved the par 5 36th hole, and Bucey claimed the Edward B. Tufts Trophy that includes all those illustrious previous champions.
Golfing at an early age
Bucey says the family story is that his golf-playing dad chopped down a club for him to start playing at 2 years old. He began taking lessons at Boundary Oak in Walnut Creek as a kid. As he went to Silverwood Elementary and Pine Hollow Middle schools in Concord, he played lots of golf and also baseball in Clayton Valley Little League.
When he began Clayton Valley High, Bucey realized that his two favorite sports were both played in the spring and he decided to “really focus” on golf. He helped his Eagle teams to North Coast Section tournament appearances as a sophomore and senior. His junior year, the team didn’t qualify for NCS but Bucey did by finishing eighth in the section qualifying tournament.
Following his CVHS graduation, the only college offer he received was Cal State East Bay. Bucey attended the Hayward school for two years, helping the Pioneers to the NAIA National Championship playoffs as a freshman and then individually as a sophomore.
Bucey transferred to Chico State and enjoyed two years of success with the Wildcats with Coach T.L. Brown, who “helped me learn to really believe in myself. He gave me a chance when really no other coaches wanted me.”
Along with senior teammates Eric Frazzetta, Kevin Rei and 2011 NCAA Division II champion Kyle Souza, Bucey’s Wildcats made it all the way to the 2012 NCAA championship match before losing to top-ranked Nova Southeastern in the finale.
Their team is considered the best in Chico State history. The team won the NCAA stroke play title and also captured the school’s first California Collegiate Athletic Association league crown.
Bucey’s Cal Amateur championship was his fourth Northern California Golf Association title, but by far the most prestigious. He earned a 10-year exemption to the State Championship, which relieves him of having to qualify each year. In 2017, he was an alternate in the tournament and didn’t get to play.
“The exemption is great, because you need to shoot under par just to make it into State,” he says.
He’ll be back in action next week in the Pacific Coast Amateur at the Olympic Club in San Francisco, where Bucey figures to compete against the top collegiate players in world amateur rankings.
Four wins in five years
Bucey has won an NCGA Championship in four of the past five years, starting with the 2014 NCGA Amateur Stroke Play in a playoff at Poppy Hills. He teamed with Brett Viboch to capture the 2016 NCGA Four-Ball Championship.
Last year, he won a playoff for the NCGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Poppy Hills, that time with mom Karen as caddy. He was denied back-to-back Mid-Amateurs when he lost a playoff in the final match this May.
Bucey is a member of Oakhurst Country Club, where his father is also a member. A business administration major, Bucey “always liked numbers” and went into accounting.
He works in San Ramon as an audit supervisor for Vavrinek Trine Day & Co.
He says the company has been great about allowing him some flexible scheduling when he is in a multi-day tournament, especially since he assumed the supervisory position.
Bucey heads out to Oakhurst, which is close to his Concord home near the Pavilion, to play a round after work at this time of year or practice phases of his game: chipping, putting. He can also be found under the lights at the Diablo Creek driving range.
He says PGA pro Dave DeLong of Boundary Oak is the one coach who “got me so far.” Bucey says he doesn’t see DeLong as much as he used to, but “I can text him a video or just tell him what my ball is doing and he can fix me over the phone.”
DeLong also coached another Clayton Valley High golfer, Domenic Mazza, when he placed second in the 2010 World Long Drive Championships.