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Northern California trio captures Morse Cup at Pacific Coast Amateur

University of New Mexico golfer Sam Choi chips onto the green on the 13th hole during the second round of the Pacific Coast Amateur Wednesday at UNM Championship Course.

It may not be the Stanley Cup for the NHL champ or the America’s Cup for the yachting crowd, or even the Claret Jug that goes to the British Open winner, but the Morse Cup is a nice little bauble nevertheless.

It is awarded to the three-man team that compiles the best score over the first two days of the Pacific Coast Amateur Golf Championship, with the worst score each day not counted.

And for the 13th time in its 52-year history, the Northern California Golf Association walked off with the trophy.

The trio of Isaiah Salinas, Thomas Hutchison and Christian Banke carded a combined 13-under 271, thanks in large part to Hutchison’s 7-under 64 Wednesday at the University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course.

“It’s awesome,” Hutchison said of winning the cup. “We love to come down here and represent NCA. It’s a great association. And we love the guys and we hang out with them. We’re proud.”

The tournament’s low round thus far vaulted UC-Davis player Hutchison of San José, Calif., into a second-place tie overall with Blake Windred of Newcastle, New South Wales in Australia at 8-under 134, one stroke behind leader Quade Cummins of Weatherford, Okla.

Northern California finished three strokes ahead of the Southern California Golf Association.

“It’s kind of like a tournament within a tournament,” said Salinas, a recent Stanford grad. “It’s only two days so I definitely tried my best to shoot a good round and contribute. Tom played a great round. We just needed to not mess it up. It feels good to win.”

It was certainly something to think about as the round drew to a close, he said.

“I think it’s cool because not many tournaments have team events within individual tournaments,” Salinas said. “Once the tournament started and coming down the stretch, I was definitely thinking about it and trying to do my best.”

The local group representing the Sun Country Golf Association jumped three spots into a tie for fourth with the Arizona Golf Association at 5-under 279.

UNM sophomores-to-be Sam Choi and Igancio Arcaya were 4 under and 2 under respectively.

The improvements were big for the two Lobos who were playing on a course they play regularly, with Greg Condon’s 71 going uncounted.

“I made some good putts,” Choi said. “That was it. And stayed patient and waiting for the birdies to come and it worked pretty well. My mindset was this is my home course and I have nothing to lose. Just play aggressive. And I know my mistakes from (Tuesday) and I kind of fixed them.”

After an opening-round 2-over, Choi jumped into a tie for 19th, seven strokes behind Cummins.

Choi also got a boost via a caddie change.

“My dad caddied for me (Tuesday) and we had kind of a struggle moment,” Choi said. “He kind of gave me a hard time after I had a bad shot. (Wednesday) he gave me good momentum and cheered me on.”

Arcaya improved significantly on his opening-round 5 over, which occurred in the first five holes.

“I played well for most of the day except holes one through five,” he said. “I had three bogeys. But other than that, it actually felt like a solid day. I was hitting lots of greens, which is good for me here considering it’s a pretty long golf course. I gave myself some long putts, so I had a couple of three-putts. I played the par 5s a bit better, I was little more aggressive going into the greens and I was able to birdie two out of the three par 5s.”

Cummins played a steady, bogey-free 66 and credits his former assistant coach at Oklahoma, Jim Garren, with some good inside information.

“He used to be an assistant coach here,” Cummins said. “He kind of filled me in on the course and told me what was going on a couple of days ago. Without playing it, I kind of knew what was going on. He told me there are some easy holes out there.”

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