Manav Shah and some of his golfing buddies have a nickname for the final four holes at Bakersfield Country Club.
It’s a moniker that might catch on with the general public following Shah’s stellar performance during the final round of the Bakersfield Open on Friday.
The former Centennial High and UCLA standout birdied the 15th, 16th and 17th holes before tapping in for par on No. 18 to win the three-round Golden State Tour event by two strokes over runner-up Jake Sarnoff of Manhattan Beach.
“We have a running joke out here that we call the last four holes 'Shah Alley,'” Shah said. “I think I kind of validated that today.”
Shah, who played on the Mackenzie Tour (PGA Tour Canada) last year, finished 16-under par, tying Bhavik Patel for the tournament’s all-time low score.
Shah began the final round 9-under par and in second place, three strokes behind leader Daniel Miernicki of Santee.
Despite carding birdies on holes No. 2 and No. 7, Shah remained three shots back of Miernicki when the two finished the front nine.
Meanwhile Sarnoff, who was playing two groups ahead of Shah and Miernicki, caught fire and made it a three-man battle for the tournament win by shooting 5-under par through 12 holes.
After Miernicki bogeyed the 13th hole, the trio was tied at 13-under. However, Sarnoff carded one last birdie on No. 16 and went to the clubhouse holding a one stroke lead.
His stay atop the leaderboard didn’t last long as Shah tore through the final four holes with ease to claim the $7,000 winner’s share of the event’s $40,000 total purse.
“I played pretty solid on the front (nine),” Shah said. “A couple of putts didn’t fall but my game felt solid, so I knew at the beginning of the back nine if I got it tied going to 15, I’d have a pretty good shot of winning this thing…I closed out really strong.”
Shah shot a tournament-best 7-under (seven birdies and no bogeys) on Friday. His final 54-hole tally included 20 birdies, two bogeys and one double-bogey.
“Jimmy (Cisneros), my caddie, he saw that I was hitting (the ball) really good and just told me all day to stay patient,” Shah said. “I was able to do that and thankfully got the win.”
Sarnoff played extremely well during the final round, carding seven birdies and one bogey.
“I’m really happy with the way I finished and played today,” Sarnoff said. “My driver has been all over the place the last year or so and I finally got a driver that hits straight. My strength is my wedges and my putter.”
Miernicki, who was 1-under for the day, finished in third place (-13). Chris Gilman of Yorba Linda (-12), Christopher Evans of Bermuda Dunes (-10), Cody Blick of Alamo (-9), and Christopher Chang (-8) of San Diego rounded out the top seven finishers.
Bakersfield’s Neil Bautista tied Matt Hansen of Los Oso for eighth place (-6).
Bautista had four birdies and two bogeys on Friday but finished the final round even-par due to a double bogey on the par-4, 395-yard, 10th hole.
“Today was a lot of up-and-downs,” Bautista said. “Didn’t start off very well. Came out of the gates a little bit shaky. Got it together in the middle part of my round and then just a little bit upset with a bogey on 17 to finish. But I fought hard all day. Overall, I’m OK with my round today.”
Shah, as to be expected, was more than OK with his part in Friday’s action on the links.
He did a radio interview via cell phone and then posed for pictures with his father and several other people following the victory.
“It feels great to get a win in front of my dad, my buddies who came out and watched, and the members here that that I see every day,” Shah said. “To be able to win in front of them is truly special, for sure.”