A look at two players, Michael Cliff and Craig Miyamoto, as the countdown to the 100th Sacramento City Men’s Golf Championship, continues!

Cliff, the 2019 champion, and Miyamoto are entered in the 100th Sacramento City Men’s Golf Championship, presented by the Sacramento Golf Council, a nonprofit corporation.

Michael Cliff is 22 and attends Fresno State. He is majoring in communications and plays on the men’s golf team, which finished in fourth place at the El Macero Classic in April and continues its season in early May at the Mountain West Championship in Tucson, Arizona.

Craig Miyamoto is 53 and works in wealth management as a financial planner with Edward Jones. He won a club championship at Del Paso Country Club and likes getting out and playing tournament golf.

They share something in common: a knowledge of the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course, a par-72, 7,030-yard layout, at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex.

“I’ve had some really good success at the course. I definitely have some good memories of shooting low and playing in some good tournaments and being in contention,” said Cliff, who is a junior for the Bulldogs.

“Honestly, it comes down to feeling really comfortable off the tee and just making a lot of putts. I’ve always been a pretty decent iron and wedge player. It’s just a matter of if I can get the putts to fall and if I can roll it where I’m looking and read the putts.”

“I have a lot of good memories of making some pretty good putts, in the 10- to 15- to 20-foot range, which is kind of difficult to do because they can get pretty bumpy sometimes, especially later in the day, when a lot of people have played. It’s being able to see the lines and to get the speed down.”

“It’s something that I’ve always had a pretty good judgment of and something that I’ve always done a pretty good job of. I think that’s one of the big reasons why I’ve played so well there and have shot so low there.”

There is a very stiff challenge and test that the course presents, said Miyamoto, who played one year of college golf at UC Berkeley.

“It’s a great course. It’s long,” said Miyamoto. “It’s got some undulations in the fairways and on the greens. It’s really withstood the test of time. They keep it in great shape.”

Cliff, the 2019 champion, and Miyamoto are entered in the 100th Sacramento City Men’s Golf Championship, presented by the Sacramento Golf Council, a nonprofit corporation.

A Northern California Golf Association points event, it takes place at the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course, June 5 and 6, and is open to all male amateur golfers with a current WHS (World Handicap System) Index of 5.0 or less. The two-day, 36-hole event can have a maximum number of 120 players.

The champion of the tournament – an annual amateur event that began in 1921 and has been won over the years by the likes of Bob Eastwood, Mark Wiebe, Spencer Levin, Bob E. Smith, Matt Bettencourt and Bob Niger, just to name a few – will receive a crystal trophy and will have their name engraved on the perpetual trophy.

“I can remember playing in it as a kid and as a college golfer,” said Miyamoto. “I’m looking forward to it and wanted to help in the celebration. I appreciate everything that (Morton Golf Management) and so many others have done to promote golf and junior golf in Sacramento and in the Northern California area. It’s much appreciated – everything they do.”

The Sacramento City Men’s Golf Championship – which has also been won by Verne Callison, Frank Toronto, Ray Arrino, Phil Arrino, Joey Ferrari, Dave Carr, Dave Baskins, and Lou Alvarez – was canceled last year.

Michael Cliff

Cliff won the 2019 tournament title, firing rounds of 74 and 66 for a 4-under-par 140 total at Haggin Oaks. Kevin Blue of Davis (70-72 – 142) finished second and Paramdeep Sodhi of Folsom (74-69 – 143), Matthew Watkins of Novato (76-67 – 143), Dylan McDermott of Granite Bay (72-71 – 143), and Drake Mendenhall of Granite Bay (70-73 – 143) tied for third.

“I remember the first day being pretty challenging, really windy,” said Cliff. “I had never played Haggin Oaks in winds as significant as that day. I had always had kind of a specific way to play the course and I had to kind of change it up. Depending on what the wind was doing, I had to take some different lines, and it was a challenge. Nobody went super low that day.”

Cliff started the second and final round four shots behind the co-leaders, Blue and Mendenhall.

“Getting off to a good start really gave me a lot of confidence in the second round,” said Cliff, who made eight birdies and two bogeys in the final round. “I had a really good mindset going into the last round. I knew I was playing well. I was trying to just make as many birdies as I possibly could. I honestly didn’t think that it was going to be enough.”

With his victory, Cliff is in a winner’s circle, joining some of the greatest players in the history of Sacramento area golf.

“It was really cool to win that tournament, knowing and realizing who had played there and who had won there before,” said Cliff. “So many big names have been successful at that tournament and have also been successful in the amateur rankings and in the professional rankings.”

At some point during the weekend of the tournament, Cliff plans to take some time to look for his name on the perpetual trophy.

“I was able to hold the trophy after I had won. I haven’t seen it since I was last there for the City Championship in 2019. It would be really cool to be able to see it when I go back there this summer, just to see my name and then kind of remember the time that I played there and remember the good memory of holding it up after I had won,” he said. Cliff finished as the runner-up at the 2019 California State Fair Amateur, played at the MacKenzie Course. Cliff had rounds of 67, 64 and 71 for a 14-under 202 total and lost to Devon Bling of UCLA on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff. Cliff had the lead in the second round.

“It was great to kind of back up my solid play at the Sac City and then play really well at the State Fair,” said Cliff. “That was an awesome tournament to play in, to be in contention all day, and to play against some really good college players. It was unfortunate that I lost in a playoff, but after looking at it, I played really well and was able to play pretty consistently, having a lot of pressure being in the final group and playing as well as I did. I took a lot of positives from it.”

Cliff has placed in tournaments throughout the spring season for Fresno State.

  • Tied for 57th, El Macero Classic, El Macero Country Club, 81-73-72 – 226.
  • Tied for 19th, SeattleU Redhawk Invitational, at Chambers Bay Golf Course, University Place, Wash., 76-68-72 – 216.
  • Tied for 28th, Bandon Dunes Championship, at Bandon Trails Course, Bandon, Oregon, 71-76-72 – 219.
  • Tied for 52nd, Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate, at Classic Club, Palm Desert, 75-76-71 – 222.

Last year, Cliff earned Mountain West Scholar-Athlete honors.

He was also named to the Mountain West Spring Academic all-conference team.

Craig Miyamoto

Miyamoto has been around the game a long time, as his first job was working at the driving range and washing golf carts at the Bing Maloney Golf Complex in Sacramento.

He played on the golf team at Jesuit High School in Carmichael, graduating in 1986. He transferred to UC Berkeley after attending University of the Pacific in Stockton for one year. He played one year on the men’s golf team at Cal and graduated in 1991 with a degree in sociology.

Miyamoto advanced from local qualifying to a sectional qualifier for the U.S. Open Championship one year. He qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2011.

Both of his grandfathers, Sumio Miyamoto and Akio Hayashi, played golf. Craig caddied in tournaments for his father, Jerry Miyamoto.

“Golf has been really good to our family. We’re very, very lucky,” said Craig Miyamoto.

Craig’s son, Matthew Miyamoto, 15, is playing tournament golf through the Junior Golf Association of Northern California and First Tee – Greater Sacramento Junior Tour.

There is so much that golf has given Craig Miyamoto, including life lessons.

“I would say definitely a respect for the game and to also be able to enjoy it. But there’s a competitive side, where it’s a challenge. I think that’s what I fell in love with about the game. There are just so many lessons that this game has taught me about life in general. And that’s what I love about it,” he said.

“I feel very, very lucky that we have so many great courses in Sacramento. We’ve got the Sacramento Golf Council, the NCGA. We have a lot of opportunity to play.”

Miyamoto loves the game and loves to compete. He will go into preparation mode during the month of May, working on his game, hitting practice shots, doing all he can to get ready for the tournament.

“I’m a working man who loves the game,” he said. “I’m kind of in that window where I am not old enough to play senior golf and I’m honestly not good enough to play with the young kids. But I love the competition and love to get out. I’m looking forward to starting to prepare for the tournament.”

“These young kids are so good and they’re such good sports. They’re rooting for each other and everybody in the group.”

“I will get out in the evenings after work and get some practice in on the short game and distance wedges and start to come up with a game plan for the course.”

Tournament information

  • The entry fee is $199 per player and includes green fees for both days. The deadline to enter is May 28.
  • There is no cut.
  • Rules officials from the NCGA will be on hand for the event.
  • The tournament starter will introduce players on the No. 1 tee prior to each round.
  • Players will be grouped in threesomes from the No. 1 tee starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday, June 5. Starting times are in nine-minute intervals.
  • The leaders will go out last in the final-round groupings on Sunday, June 6.
  • Merchandise certificates will be awarded to approximately 25 percent of the tournament field. All merchandise certificates are redeemable at either Haggin Oaks, Bing Maloney or Bartley Cavanaugh golf shops, the Sacramento Golf Council said.
  • Spectators are welcome to attend and gallery at no charge.

For more information about the event, go to https://sacgolfcouncil.org/tournaments/ or https://sacgolfcouncil.org/tournaments/sacramento-city-mens-championship/ or www.amateurgolf.com

* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 2019, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016.

Leave a Reply