|CLICK HERE for the complete 2017 RDGA Match Play Championship bracket
The RDGA's first major amateur championship of 2017 - the District Match Play and Senior Match Play competitions - were hosted by Clifton Springs Country Club on May 26 to 28. The competitions each featured single elimination brackets with players seeded from Nos. 1 through 24, based upon points earned from tournaments in 2016 - the RDGA's version of "May Madness."
The two champions left standing by the end of the weekend - Stafford Country Club's Jim Scorse in the Match Play Championship and Stuart Harris of Locust Hill Country Clubin the Senior Match Play Championship - arrived at the trophy presentation Sunday taking different paths, with Scorse winning his eighth RDGA Match Play title and Harris earning his first. Both played well when it counted, however, and each survived strong fields to reach the top.
The RDGA wishes to thank Clifton Springs Country Club, its members and staff - and particularly the efforts of PGA Head Professional Michael Basch and greens superintendent Keith Kelley - for hosting this year's RDGA Match Play Championships.
Scorse Steady in Winning Eighth Match Play Championship Title
Entering this year's RDGA Match Play Championship as the defending champion was nothing new for Stafford's Jim Scorse - after all, he'd been in the same position before, for a record seven times.
But, as the defending champ and the No. 1 seed in the Match Play bracket, Scorse did have one advantage - a first-round bye, thanks to the fact that the 2017 RDGA Match Play Championship featured a starting bracket of 24 golfers, with the top eight seeds receiving first-round byes. That meant that he would only play a maximum of four rounds throughout the Championship
Meeting Scorse in the championship Match on Sunday morning would be his greatest challenge yet - Locust Hill's Adam Condello. As the No. 3 seed in the Championship, Condello, a regular contender in the RDGA District Championship Ryan Memorial, past winner of the Tournament of Champions and the 2015 RDGA Player of the Year, had also received a first round bye.
The final match of the 2017 RDGA Match Play Championship lived up to its billing. Although Scorse was never behind in the match, Condello never let him get more than 2-up at any time. Taking a 1-up lead to the short, 320-yard par-4 sixth hole, the two opponents had the option of going for the green - and an eagle two - if they landed their tee shots on the green that is tucked away to the left off a dogleg fairway. While Condello did not hesitate to "take the bait" and went for the green off the tee (and almost made it), Scorse debated his course of action.
"I looked over (to No. 6) when I was walking down No. 5 and I thought I saw the pin way to the other side of the green, where it was blocked by the bunker. I was going to go for it, but then I thought, no, I’m just going to lay up on this hole so I have a full shot in," said Scorse. "Then, when I got to the tee, I saw that the pin was actually on the right side of the green, so I’m thinking ‘I should hit my driver.’ But, fortunately, it worked out. I guess the rescue into the trees was the right club."
When Condello missed his birdie putt at No. 6, Scorse immediately took advantage of the situation by draining a long birdie put to win the hole and take a 2-up lead.
"Yeah, I guess that (No. 6) was a big hole but he had plenty of opportunities after that to get it back. Me missing the putt on eight, then leaving it short on nine – that was sort of the low point of my round," said Scorse of missing a birdie putt on 8 to drop back to 1-up. "I was making most of my putts all week, but that was one that I just straight yanked it."
Condello birdied No. 10 to pull back to all square with Scorse and continued to put pressure on him - until they reached the par-4 12th hole.
"They had the tee, up, on No. 12 there, so I was able to get my drive up so that I had a lob wedge in my hand – that was definitely a good point," said Scorse of the birdie at 12 to regain a 1-up advantage. "Of course, he came back and birdied 13 right after that (to bring the match back to even), so I don’t think anyone really had an advantage."
At 14, Scorse took a 1-up lead with a birdie - a lead that he would not give up, despite a nerve-wracking final hole. Facing a 1-up deficit, Condello attempted a big tee shot on the long par-4 18th hole - a decision that quickly backfired.
"On 18 – both of us hitting bad tee shots was a killer – more of a killer for him, though, I guess," said Scorse. "That made it tough on us for that last hole."
Both players parred the final hole, giving Scorse a 1-up victory - as well as his eighth RDGA Match Play title in 20 years.
"Played good," Scorse said of the Championship match. "I finally put a good round together today – and I needed it, playing against Adam."
Despite having more titles in the District Match Play Championship than any other competition - aside from, perhaps, his Club Championship at Stafford - Scorse was just as pleased with title No. 8 as he was with No. 1, back in 1998."When you have the younger guys like (Colin) Dubnik, there, or Adam – he’s going to be around for a long time - I just like playing against the better players and this is definitely one of the (events) that you get a few of them to come," noted Scorse. "I played pretty solid – made a few more putts today – but it definitely was a good day."
For complete bracket results from the 2017 RDGA Match Play Championship, CLICK HERE.
Harris Earns First Senior Match Play Title
Stuart Harris of Locust Hill defeated Oak Hill's Brad McAreavy
in the Senior Match Play Finals at Clifton Springs.
Like the RDGA Match Play Championship, the 2017 RDGA Senior Match Play Championship - for players ages 55 and over - also featured a starting field of 24 golfers and, as in the Match Play Championship, the top eight seeded players received first round byes.
Following a recent move out of the area, 2016 champion Bob Chalanick was not back to defend his title this year. Instead, the top seed for the Senior Match Play Championship would fall to the next-highest senior point winner from the 2016 RDGA Player of the Year point standings.
Locust Hill Country Club member Stuart Harris, a very steady player in his first year competing in the Seniors bracket, stepped up to the challenge - buoyed by the confidence he gained from playing in his first senior event last summer.
"I came in second in the State Seniors this past year – I missed the District Senior Championship by a week, but I was able to play in the States over at Brookfield," said Harris. "I was runner-up there – so I've been looking forward to playing in a lot of senior events."
After the first day's rounds narrowed the field from 24, to 16 to eight players, Saturday's Senior Match Play Quarterfinals saw four veteran competitors - Stuart Harris, Paul Parrone, Brad McAreavy and Dave Benedict - each advancing to the semifinal round on Saturday morning. In the afternoon, Harris and McAreavy won to advance to the 2017 Senior Match Play Finals on Sunday.
"A slow start on Friday, played better the back nine, and then played really well against Brian Ward," Harris said of his early matches. "Struggled a little bit yesterday afternoon, but I was able to get it done. I can’t say I was never down in any matches. I was down in my first two matches – actually, I was down in all three – but overall, I played pretty well."
In the RDGA Senior Match Play Finals, Harris got out to an early lead against McAreavy and never looked back - although McAreavy staged a late round comeback that nearly derailed Harris' victory parade.
"I played really well right out of the box – got off to a quick start. Got the three birdies on the front nine – got to 5-up – and I held it together from there," Harris noted. "My putter – my short game – helped me a little bit today and it usually doesn’t do that, so I was thankful for that."
As his first RDGA title of any kind, Harris was very happy to claim victory - especially in his first full year of eligibility as a senior. And - later this year - Harris will attempt to become the third player in as many years to win the "Senior Slam" when he tees it up at the 2017 RDGA Senior Championship at the Country Club of Rochester.
"I’m very very happy – I haven’t won anything in a while – it feels good to win."
For complete bracket results from the 2017 RDGA Senior Match Play Championship, CLICK HERE.