San Luis Obispo native Loren Roberts earned the nickname “the Boss of the Moss” some 25 years ago from PGA Tour pro David Ogrin for his mastery of the putter.
As a giant roar went up on the 17th green at San Luis Obispo Country Club, everyone watching realized that “the Boss” was back in town.
Roberts birdied the last three holes, including an incredible 40-footer on 17 to win the Straight Down Fall Classic with partner Mike Rowley on Sunday.
“The whole tournament hinged for us on 17,” Roberts said. “I hit it a little long left and you don’t expect to make a 40-footer, but I hit a really good putt and it went in the hole. And it was game on as soon as it went in.”
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Early on the back nine, things looked dim for Roberts and Rowley, the two hometown players. The father and son team of Olin Browne and Olin Browne Jr. looked dominant in moving to 13 under after 14 holes.
Playing in the group with former world No. 1 Fred Couples, it was the younger Browne who seemed to flourish in front of the big crowd.
On the 14th, a tough hole with a water hazard that has given golfers fits in recent years at the tournament, Browne Jr. hit a tough birdie that seemed to roll too high, only to trickle back down into the cup and put his team up three strokes on Couples’ team.
With Roberts and Rowley playing a hole ahead of the final group as the Brownes made their way up 18, they realized it would take a birdie just to force a playoff with the suddenly torrid Roberts.
Neither Browne could convert on a long birdie putt, sealing the championship for Roberts and Rowley.
“To win with Loren and watch what he did those last three holes was just awesome,” Rowley said.
Roberts toiled at menial tasks early in his career at the San Luis Obispo Country Club, doing whatever he could to stay connected and continue working on his golf game.
“To be home grown from our club and to do what he’s done in the world of golf is just amazing,” Rowley said.
Roberts said it’s those memories from his early years at the country club that made winning Straight Down for the first time all the more special.
“I cut my teeth here,” Roberts said of the country club. “I grew up here picking the range and working in the bag room. So I know a lot of these members. Unfortunately a lot of those members are gone or have passed on since I was here.
“But it means a lot for me to do this here.”
Other notable finishers included NFL Hall of Famer John Elway, who teamed with Paul Lobato to finish at 6 under and in a tie for 16th with Cal Poly golf coach Scott Cartwright and Tim Mickelson, the brother of golf icon Phil Mickelson. Couples and his partner Brad Shaw finished four shots back.