Area Golf: Friends to face off at Straight Down

Cal Poly golf coach Scott Cartwright expects things to be a little different this weekend when he plays a couple of rounds with former Mustangs golfer Travis Bertoni.

Things can get tense when you’re playing for a $25,000 top prize.

The two pros will be among the 62 teams competing at the Straight Down Fall Classic to tee off at 8 a.m. today at the San Luis Obispo Country Club. The tournament concludes Sunday.

“Playing with Travis in the heat of a tournament context will be different,” Cartwright acknowledged. “But we know each other, so it should make for a more relaxing round of golf.”

Still, don’t expect Cartwright to take it easy on his former pupil.

“I’m sure we’ll be needling and jabbing each other a little bit out there,” Cartwright said. “Hopefully it’ll help keep us loose and playing well.”

Bertoni, a Paso Robles High graduate and 2005 Big West Conference champion, said he would enjoy returning to the Central Coast and playing in front of friends and family.

“I love it,” Bertoni said of returning home. “It’s nice to play in front of people that you know and are supporting you. When you’re out on the road you don’t see a lot of familiar faces.”

While he may not have been familiar to fans around the country, Bertoni is no stranger to high stakes golf. He qualified for and played in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines and is a member of the National Golf Association’s Hooters Tour where he finished 15th on the money list last year.

Cartwright and Bertoni admitted that the field would be wide open this year but both said that the team of Atascadero High graduate Roger Tambellini and Michael Rowley could be considered a favorite. The duo has won the event three times, most recently in 2007.

Tambellini, a veteran of the Nationwide Tour and the PGA Tour, finished in the top 10 on the Nationwide Tour money list this year, guaranteeing him a 2010 PGA Tour card.

He won the 2009 Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic, his third Nationwide Tour victory and claimed his largest career purse of nearly $150,000.

“Roger and Mike are a very tough team,” Cart-wright said. “Roger plays in it well, and Mike seems to putt very well on this course. I’d have to say they are the team to beat this year.”

The field has a number of notable contenders, including San Luis Obispo native and Champions Tour season point winner Loren Roberts. Champions Tour members Scott Simpson and Dan Forsman will also be vying for the title along with two-time Ryder cup member Steve Pate and PGA Tour veteran Jeff Brehaut.

With the professional field so wide open, it may come down to the play of their club pro partners.

Cartwright acquired the services of his friend and San Diego coach Tim Mickelson as his partner.

“I’ve known Tim for a long time competing against him (with the Cal Poly golf team) for a number of years at college tournaments and he’s a great player.”

If family relation is any indication on the quality of his play, the rest of the field may be in trouble. Mickelson is the younger brother of PGA Tour standout Phil.

The duo is just one of several college coaches playing in the tournament including Stanford’s Conrad Ray and USC’s Chris Zambri.

Proceeds from the tournament will go to the ALS Association. Cartwright said the charity was chosen after 2006 winner Don Woodward learned he was suffering from the disease.

“Don is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met,” Bertoni said. “It’s unfortunate to have something like that happen to such a good person. It humbles you and brings you down to earth.”