Santa Barbara has beautiful beaches, beautiful weather, and famously beautiful people. It also has beautifully groomed golf courses that have been graced by such notable names as Fred Couples, Michael Jordan, and Bill Clinton. The first weekend of December, however, the players on Sandpiper Golf Course were of the up-and-coming variety, there to compete in the International Junior Golf Tour (IJGT).
Among the pack was Brett Patton, an 18-year-old Santa Barbaran who, along with his opponents, battled wind and rain as the first winter storm system surged through Southern California. “I like to play in different elements,” explained Patton. “I wanted to stay safe and keep it on the fairway.” A winning strategy, it turned out, in extremely wet conditions; Patton won the division title for boys 15-19 years old after a solid, two-day, 36-hole performance. After getting off to a slow start on Saturday, Patton recovered with an eagle on a par-five and finished the day making eight pars, finding himself just one stroke behind then-leader Paul Gunness-Bendetti of Calabasas.
The match resumed an hour later than scheduled on Sunday due to “unplayable conditions on the greens,” but once the match was underway, Patton sank two birdies in his first four holes. This gave him the lead and, ultimately, the IJGT Pacific Coast Major title, with rounds of 76 and 74 to defeat Gunness-Bendetti by four strokes. “I have played junior tours before, mostly in Southern California, like Palm Springs and San Diego. It was a surprise to win, though, because I have been [focusing on] baseball.” Last year, Patton accepted a scholarship to play baseball at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC), but he plans to try out for the SBCC golf team in the spring.
The IJGT was founded in 1995 by Ray Travaglione in order to provide young players with the opportunity to develop and promote their skills. With nearly 60 events at some of the finest courses in the United States, Canada, Scotland, and Bermuda, the IJGT boasts a title that’s no small feat and is an immense accomplishment for individuals attempting to break into the professional sphere of play. Other IJGT champions include Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, and Paula Creamer, to name a few from the PGA and LPGA limelight — decent company for Patton, who hopes to add more courses to his repertoire. “I would love to play Saint Andrews in Scotland, the birthplace of golf.”