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Delio smashes way to golf title

Cal State Northridge standout wins the California Amateur championship.

June 22, 2008|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Nick Delio hits golf balls so hard that he cracks them.

Twice during the California Amateur championship, the long-hitting Delio -- a member of the new-generation bomb-and-gouge school of play -- had to take broken balls out of play after smashing them with tee shots.

That didn't stop him from winning, though. Delio, 19, from Valencia, blitzed through the tournament, capping the victory with a 7 and 5 win over Austin Roberts of Carmichael on Saturday in the 36-hole final match at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake.

Delio, who won his 18-hole semifinal Friday in an 8 and 7 rout and shot 66 on Monday at Lakeside in the stroke-play portion, took a 2-up lead into the afternoon 18, then continued play that was as hot as Saturday temperature, which crept above 100.

His array of drives up to 340 yards helped ignite a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie start that put him five-under-par through the first four holes and gave him a 6-up lead that Roberts could not overcome.

"After that start, I wanted to make him make birdies to beat me," Delio said.

Roberts, 15, trying to become the youngest winner in the 97-year history of the tournament, could not. His putter went cold and he narrowly missed six putts -- lipping out twice -- in the 12 holes they completed in the afternoon.

Delio, the 2007-08 Big West Conference freshman of the year at Cal State Northridge after averaging a school-record 71.9 for the season, did not lose a hole in the afternoon match.

He did, however, have to take his ball out of play after cracking it with a five-wood tee shot on the 11th hole.

"It flew funny and sounded funny, so I assumed it was cracked," said Delio, who cracked another ball with a driver in the first round of match play Wednesday. "I looked at it and it was, so I took it out of play."

Delio had somewhat of a home course advantage, because his Northridge team practices at Lakeside once a week, but was fortunate just to get in. He was the first alternate after qualifying and learned a week before the tournament began that E.J. Kahn had broken a foot and withdrawn.

"He's a machine," said Jim Bracken, the Northridge coach. "He's fun to watch."

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peter.yoon@latimes.com

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