Ron Cerrudo remembers both the 1964 and 1965 California State Fair Men’s Amateur Championships like it was just yesterday.
It was well over 50 years ago, but Cerrudo can recall specific shots, situations and details about how those events went for him at the Haggin Oaks Golf Complex in Sacramento.
“It’s amazing I can remember all this stuff, but I can’t remember where my keys are,” he said in a telephone interview from his home in Charleston, S.C., on Tuesday, Oct. 23. “I can remember things that I did when I was 15 years old – big tournaments, junior tournaments.
“I’m sort of a golf nut, basically. I remember the highs and the lows.”
Cerrudo finished as the runner-up at the California State Fair Men’s Amateur Championship both years.
He lost on the second hole of a playoff to Bob E. Smith in 1964.
He lost on the first hole of a playoff to Barry Hansen in 1965.
“I’ve won a lot and I’ve lost a lot,” said Cerrudo, who turned professional after his college career at San Jose State and played the PGA Tour from 1967 to 1978. “It’s just one of those things. Sometimes people just beat you.”
Cerrudo said losing in the playoff to Smith – who later on played both the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions – “stung a little,” as he had a bogey on the second playoff hole.
“It’s when you beat yourself, is what hurts,” he added.
Cerrudo, who works as the Director of Golf Instruction at Daniel Island Club in Charleston, lost to Hansen on one of the rarest shots in golf.
The two players were tied for the lead at the end of three days and 54 holes of regulation play, and moved on to a playoff. Hansen won it with a double eagle on the par-5 first hole of the Alister MacKenzie Golf Course. Hansen holed his second shot, drawing applause and excitement from spectators near the green.
Both players hit their drives in the fairway, with Cerrudo about 20 yards in front of Hansen. Cerrudo told himself at the time, “I’m out there – OK, I got it.”
The pin, Cerrudo remembered, was in a difficult location — tucked behind two bunkers, on the right side.
“He hits first, and he holes it for a double eagle. I go, ‘Oh my goodness.’ I was just going to throw him the ball, because, I mean, the game’s over,” said Cerrudo. “My brain just shut down.
“When the guy holes his second shot, it’s like, OK, you beat me.”
The playoff ended after Cerrudo hit his second shot, a 4-wood. He reached the green in two.
“ … By analogy, the term ‘albatross’ became common to refer to a double eagle,” the U.S. Golf Association reported on its website, www.usga.org.
Cerrudo happened to see Hansen years later at Pebble Beach Golf Links. Cerrudo was playing in a tournament there at the time.
“He said, ‘Remember me’? I go, ‘Oh yeah. Oh yeah, I remember you.’ ”
The drama on the final day of the 1965 California State Fair Men’s Amateur Championship was not limited to just the first playoff hole.
Cerrudo was joined in a group with Hansen and Verne Callison, a seven-time winner of the California State Fair Men’s Amateur Championship (1943, 1944, 1947, 1952, 1953, 1958, 1960). Callison was also the runner-up (1956).
“This one guy (Hansen) that’s playing with us, started off kind of crummy,” Cerrudo recalled. “We had never heard of him. We’re going along and the greens are real bumpy. All of a sudden, this guy starts making everything. It’s like, what’s going on?”
Cerrudo and Hansen were tied for the lead going to the final hole of regulation.
Cerrudo reached the green in regulation, hitting driver and then 2-iron from the fairway, and two-putting from about 40 feet for par.
Hansen had to chip out from near a bush after missing the fairway off the tee to the left. He hit to about 50 feet of the hole on his third shot. He saved par, making the long putt.
“I played well, but it didn’t work out,” said Cerrudo. “The one that hurt me – when the guy holes his second shot, I just laugh. It’s like, OK, it’s this guy’s day. He makes a 50-footer on the last hole for a par and then he holes it. It’s like when I finished runner-up in the British Amateur and shot 5-under in the finals and lost.”
Cerrudo had an outstanding amateur career, playing in major events. He had 10 wins around the Bay Area in one year alone. He played on Walker Cup and World Cup teams for the U.S.
“I love the game,” said Cerrudo, who grew up in Castro Valley. “It bit me and got me. It bit me at about 12. From then on, it was just, let’s do it.”
He won two straight Northern California Golf Association amateur titles in 1964 at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa and in 1965 at The Olympic Club in San Francisco.
Cerrudo was inducted into the California Community College Men’s Golf Hall of Fame in 2003, as he starred for Chabot College in Hayward in 1964 and 1965 and was named as a first-team All-Conference player in 1964. He was medalist at both Northern Regional and state tournaments in 1964.
He was a two-time All-American at San Jose State and was the runner-up at the British Amateur in 1967. Cerrudo led San Jose State to a second-place team finish at the NCAA finals.
He won twice on the PGA Tour, capturing the Cajun Classic Open Invitational in 1968 and the San Antonio Open Invitational in 1970.
Cerrudo tied for 21st the PGA Championship in 1969, tied for 30th at the U.S. Open in 1974, and tied for 46th at the Masters Tournament in 1967.
He played in 271 career PGA Tour events and made the cut in 207 of those.
He has been a teaching pro since 1979, working at Shipyard Golf Club and Port Royal Golf Club on Hilton Head Island, S.C.
He is the Director of Instruction at the Ron Cerrudo Golf Learning Center at the Daniel Island Club, a private golf club that features Beresford Creek, a course designed by Tom Fazio, and Ralston Creek, a course designed by Rees Jones.
Cerrudo was named No. 1 among golf instructors in South Carolina by Golf Digest in 2015.
“The game has captured me – let’s put it that way,” said Cerrudo. “It’s been great for me. I’m very blessed, because I do something that I love. I get my thrill from watching my students improve – that’s it.”
Cerrudo made his home at Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa, the host of the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open, for several years. He spends three weeks during the summer in Northern California each year.
Past champions of the state fair, which dates back to 1925, include Ken Venturi (1950), Al Geiberger (1955), Dick Lotz (1961, 1962), George Archer (1963), Kevin Sutherland (1984), JJ Jakovac (2002), Brandon Hagy (2012) and Corey Pereira (2014).
The state fair is played each year at Haggin Oaks and is part of the Northern California Golf Association tournament calendar.
Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, 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, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019.