Calaveras Enterprise

Premier golf event ready to tee off at Saddle Creek

One of the biggest events put on by the Northern California Professional Golfers Association (NCPGA) is set to tee off Monday morning at Saddle Creek Resort in Copperopolis.

The 86th annual Northern California Open Championship runs Monday, Sept. 25, through Wednesday, Sept. 27, at Saddle Creek, featuring more than 130 golfers. Most of the players are PGA professionals, but the field also includes amateurs.

“This is definitely one of our premier events,” said Carla Joy Bengco of the NCPGA.

Supporting the Open’s status as such is an estimated $65,000 professional purse, the largest in tournament history.

A large portion of that was made possible by donations from Black Oak Casino in Tuolumne, a major sponsor of the event along with Nike Golf and Sundog Eyewear.

This is the first time Saddle Creek has hosted the Northern California Open.

“This event gives our whole area positive exposure for golf,” Saddle Creek head pro Chris Bitticks said. “It’s a way for us to showcase our county and showcase our facility.”

Saddle Creek has been ranked among the top-10 courses in California in Golfweek’s “America’s Best Courses” ratings for the past three years, making the list at No. 9 in 2006. It also was included on Golfweek’s top-100 listing of “America’s Best Residential Golf Courses,” made the 2006-07 ZAGAT listing of “America’s Top Golf Courses,” and was named one of “The 101 Best Golf Experiences in the West” by Fairways and Greens.

The Copperopolis resort’s golf facility also includes a new practice range, which opened last week. Earlier this year, all bunkers on the golf course were renovated with new drainage, liners and sand.

The three-day Northern California Open Championship has a 54-hole stroke play format and a 36-hole cut to the low 33 percent of the professional field and the low six amateurs.

Included in the field of professionals competing for the $7,700 winner’s take are Bitticks and Saddle Creek assistant pro Tighe Hammam.

Jeff Rangle of Contra Costa Country Club could be the player to beat in the tournament. Last week, Rangle, 21, set a new course record at Saddle Creek with a first-round score of nine-under par 63 en route to winning the Northern California Section TaylorMade-adidas Golf PGA Assistant Professional Championship.

Saddle Creek general manager Bill Troyanoski is also signed up to play in the Northern California Open, as is Don Smejdir, a Saddle Creek resident.

On Sunday, Saddle Creek will play host to the Northern California Open Pro-Am.

Contact Jeremy D. Malamed at

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