John Sweeney Puts His Name on Apple City Trophy – Literally

2015 Apple City Winners:
Back row: Kris Surano (Senior gross), Michael Scott (2nd Place).
Front row: Stacy Brown (Net Champion, modern), John Sweeney (Apple City Hickory Champion).

The 15th annual Apple City Amateur and Hickory Open was played May 2-3 on the Pajaro Valley Golf Club & Spring Hills Golf Course. It was a pretty special day for John Sweeney, who not only won the event, but an award named in his honor.

On Saturday, May 2, hickory players competing in their own dedicated flight of the 15th annual Apple City Amateur roamed the grounds of the 1922 Pajaro Valley Golf Club in Royal Oak for the first time in decades. Saturday’s highlights included six birdies, including two impressive back-to-back ones from Mike Kosich on 17 and 18. Michael Scott’s birdie on the very difficult par 3 11th, was part of a stellar net 68 and only three back of first-day leader John Sweeney, who carded a super round of 84 for a net 65. Several players met afterward at Jim Thompson’s man cave extreme for drinks, kabobs, and entertainment by Michael (and the occasional backup singing by Tim).

On Sunday at Spring Hills in Watsonville there was more fine hickory golf. Spring Hills on paper appears easy enough at 6,000 yards par 72, but plays tough due to the target golf and the many forced carries. We played from the tournament’s “apples”, or back tees, which in hindsight was a mistake considering the field was comprised of all but one Senior player. Sunday’s scores reflected the poor decision. Kris Surano was the exception with a fine 2 over par back nine 38 despite a triple on the perilous 14th. He would finish as the outright Senior gross winner for the second year in a row with the low round of the day, 82.

Miracle on the par 5 17th
First-day leader John Sweeney and pursuer Michael Scott arrived at the 35th hole all square with two holes to decide the championship. With 170 yards left for his third shot, on the wrong side of the fairway with ball above his feet, a huge greenside bunker up ahead on the right, and hazard to the left, John hit the shot of the tournament. A perfect fade, it threaded the perils both left and right and bounded up onto the green to within 15 feet. John would drain the putt for a natural birdie 4 that would give him the cushion needed to secure the 2015 Apple City Hickory Open Champion title.

A win for the ages
Those that call Spring Hills home sometimes talk of the spirits that seem to watch over the place. When Gerry Loyola Sr. holed out on No. 15 for an ace with Loyola junior’s 7 iron, all sensed that the kid was there. (Jerry Loyola Junior died of cancer at age 24. He began working and playing Spring Hills as a teenager. An annual charity event for his foundation is held every year at Spring Hills. John Sweeney knew and played with Jerry.)

John played in the Jerry Loyola Foundation Challenge back in August. It was here that the idea for a perpetual plaque honoring John’s long-time association with Spring Hills and for his playing in the Apple City with hickory long before any hickory flight existed, began. The trophy, appropriately carved from a plank of hickory, was crafted by Michael Scott who endured a “picky” customer all the way up to, and including, the nailing and orientation of the winners’ plates.


The John Sweeney Award was unveiled much to the surprise of all and especially the winner, John. The award presentation was cut short after the presenter got a bit choked up attempting to explain the back story… brevity is best at times.

The John Sweeney Award is awarded the tournament winner (which was fitting and very surprising; John says he has never won a hickory event in the some 20 years of playing hickory golf!). It was decided that the champions of our NorCal hickory events – San Francisco Hickory, Apple City, Monterey Hickory Classic, and Turkey Shoot – will be based on net scores. This is very different from the norm, but we have yet to have a single repeat winner in any of our events. We also recognize our low gross Senior and Open players as well… even if they also happen to be the lowest net “champion” as well. It has worked out really well and everyone is excited with the concept.

Stacy Brown, our lone lady golfer, was our Monterey Hickory Champion last fall with the only net subpar round and a very nice 91 gross. You can imagine how excited she was to be crowned the overall champion.


The 2015 Champion enjoys a refreshing drink from the trophy!

Course owner Amy Preaseau and staff thank all for participating and look forward to seeing everyone again next year!

Click here to see an album of photos from the event.