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Arbuckle's Geyer wins WCC tourney
One obstacle stood between Ben Geyer and the West Coast Conference championship — 461 yards of grass.
The situation facing the St. Mary's College junior was easily the most intense of his young golfing career.
As he trotted down the 18th fairway at San Juan Oaks Golf Club in Hollister on April 18, Geyer was informed of the current circumstances by Gaels coach Scott Hardy.
A par meant a sudden-death playoff — a birdie meant a WCC title.
His second shot on the par-four 18th was a solid 186-yard approach with his 7-iron that found the fringe. Now, Geyer needed to sink a lengthy putt for the win.
Geyer analyzed the putt from numerous angles, it was breaking left and he knew he'd need to give it just a bit of juice from the fringe.
He made three practice swings to set his timing, adjusted his feet ever so slightly and tapped the ball. About two seconds later, when the ball found the bottom of the cup, the 2009 Pierce High graduate pumped his right fist in triumph.
Geyer's 66 on the final day of tournament play completed his 9-under-par, three-round masterpiece as the Arbuckle native edged the University of San Diego's Alex Ching for the individual championship.
Geyer is only the fourth Gael to win the WCC championship and St. Mary's won its first ever team championship.
The victory was also Geyer's first in three years of playing Division-I golf.
"It was pretty awesome," he said. "I always told myself, 'I know I'm good enough to win,' and to finally get it here is pretty special."
Geyer shot a 69, 72 and 66 over the three-day WCC tournament at San Juan Oaks, a par-72 course. He also earned All-WCC honors.
The 20-year-old is used to the individual pressures of golf.
Last summer, he competed in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Erin Hills and Blue Mound Golf & Country Club in Erin, Wis., where he set a course record by shooting a 66.
He made it to the round of 16, where he lost to the No. 1 junior golfer in the world.
In an individual sport like golf, Geyer said the mental aspect of the game is vital to success.
"I just try to turn the nerves into energy and then it's easy to keep your focus," he said. "You just have to take it one shot at a time. Our coach tells us that you have to approach every shot like it's the first shot of the day.
"You have to keep feeding yourself positive thoughts."
Geyer began his career at the Moraga campus as a guaranteed walk-on and each year has progressively earned himself financial aid. He is now practically on full scholarship.
As a freshman, he earned a spot as the squad's fifth man. He recalls his first tournament at the Fighting Irish Gridiron Classic at Notre Dame — temperatures were in the 40s and rain was coming down. He quickly learned that D-I golf is a whole lot different than playing in the Northern Section.
"The biggest difference (from high school to college) was learning to play with what I have," Geyer said. "Each year I've become better at that."
Up next for Geyer and the Gaels are the NCAA Tournament regionals. The team will find out its destination on May 7.
Individually, Geyer will play in several tournaments this summer, including the U.S. Open qualifier and several NCGA tournaments.
He has also been invited to play in a handful of amateur tourneys, including the Southwestern Amateur at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club in Gilbert, Ariz., and the prestigious Sahalee Players Championship in Seattle.
With a rigorous practice schedule, Geyer doesn't get much time to visit and play his hometown course at Arbuckle Golf Club, last visiting over Winter break.
The life of a D-I golfer leaves little time for respite, but for the sport he loves, it's worth it.
"It's been really good to me," Geyer said.