Rhode Island CC
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21st Mid-Amateur Championship
Senior Division Results
By Paul Kenyon
BARRINGTON _ Jamie Lukowicz has been knocking on the door for a Rhode Island Golf Association Championship for nearly 20 years. On Tuesday, he finally walked through and joined the list of major champions.
The West Warwick native, who now plays out of Metacomet, took the lead early in the second round in the 21st annual Mid-Amateur Championship at Rhode Island Country Club and went on to a convincing four-stroke victory over Kyle Hoffman.
``It was fun. I played well,’’ Lukowicz said after matching the low round of the day, a 2-under 69, for a 4-under 138 total.
``There have been a lot of seconds,’’ Lukowicz said. ``I remember the last time this tournament was played here (in 2009) Charlie (Blanchard) beat me in a playoff. So this feels good.’’
The victory was a long time coming for the 40-year-old. Lukowicz has been a frequent contender and did win the state Public Links Championship several years ago. The long bomber has come close in numerous open field events. He challenged in the State Open three years ago at Kirkbrae, before a late chip-in by URI grad Mark Stevens beat him. He has been in the hunt in the Mid-Am before and three times combined with Rob Grossguth to finish second in the Four-Ball.
Grossguth, one of the first to congratulate Lukowicz after the victory, had an explanation for Lukowicz’ improvement. As much as he was sorry to see his friend leave West Warwick, it was good for his game.
``At Metcomet, he has to hit all his clubs. At West Warwick he was always hitting eight or nine irons,’’ Grossguth pointed out. ``And the greens at Metacomet are faster than those at West Warwick. It has helped him improve his putting.
``He’s playing better than I’ve ever seen him. Good for him. I’m happy for him,’’ said Grossguth, who finished fifth at 147.
Lukowicz began the day two strokes behind Ryan Pelletier but quickly took the lead with birds on three and four while Pelletier was suffering two early bogeys. Lukowicz had his lead to three by the turn and maintained full control down the stretch.
Hoffman completed what has been a breakout season for him. His 69tied for low score in the final round and earned him the runner-up spot.
George Cidade ran off nine straight pars on front side to hang in and move into second for a time before going 5-over on 10 through 12 and falling out of contention. First-day leader Pelletier never made a birdie and gradually fell with a 77 for 144 total and a tie for third with State Amateur champion Bobby Leopold. It clinched the player-of-the-year award in the process. Senior Amateur champion George Pirie won the Senior Division at 148 and clinched Senior player-of-the-year in the process.
The victory brings a double award for Lukowicz. He not only received the championship bowl from Bob Ward, the RIGA director, he also received an invitation to join the RIGA’s Tri-State team for the matches against Connecticut and Massachusetts in two weeks.
Each state sends players 12, including four seniors, to the matches, which have been held for the last 80 years. Lukowicz entered the Mid-Am in 17th place in the yearlong standings kept to help determine the association’s player of the year as well as the Tri State team. The 250 points in he earned for winning on Tuesday vaulted him into fifth place in the standings behind Leopold, Brad Valois, Hoffman and Pelletier.
Leopold, Valois and Blanchard leave this weekend to represent the RIGA in the USGA State Team Championship. That same threesome tied for second in that event two years ago.
Round 1 Summary
By Paul Kenyon
BARRINGTON _ The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same for tournament players in the Rhode Island Golf Association.
The final major event of the season, the Mid-Amateur, is a case in point. Change was one of the day’s big topics on Monday because of the site, Rhode Island Country Club, not because of the scoreboard.
The board reflected a typical RIGA event. So many familiar names who are frequent contenders are at it again. Pawtucket’s Ryan Pelletier led the way, using a chip-in eagle on the par-5 11th to boost himself to a 4-under 67 and a two-stroke lead. Playing in the final group in Tuesday’s second round will be familiar territory for Pelletier. He has been in the final group in four of the five RIGA events in which he has competed this year.
Jamie Lukowicz, the longtime West Warwick member who now plays out of Metacomet, was second with a 2-under 69 that included six birdies. Another Metacomet member, George Cidale, is third at 70, followed by senior champion George Pirie at 72.
State Amateur winner Bobby Leopold, 2013 Senior champion Mike Schmidt, the baseball Hall of Famer, and Four-Ball titlist Kyle Hoffman lead a group at 73 that also includes E.J. Wholey and Michael Petrarca.
It was beyond the scoreboard where the subject of change came up.
Rhode Island Country Club long has been one of the state’s most popular clubs. Any event at the bayside course designed by the great Donald Ross draws a big field. That was true this year, more than ever.
The event, for players aged 25 and older, is the first RIGA competition since the course underwent dramatic renovation last year that gave it a very different look.
``They removed 770 trees,’’ pointed out Bob Ward, the RIGA’s executive director. ``It’s a very different course now.’’
The course always has had a European feel. The removal of the trees makes that more obvious than ever. Sight lines are now wide open, allowing someone to be on one side of the course and see all the way across to the other side. The wind, always a factor along the water, now is a bigger factor than ever, especially when it is blowing as strongly as it was on Monday.
Figuring out the wind is more difficult than ever.
``I was just over on the other side of the course (behind the clubhouse, away from the water) and I swear the wind was blowing this way,’’ said George Fowler, one of the RIGA officials helping run the event. Fowler pointed straight at the water.
``But you go across the road and the wind is blowing this way,’’ Fowler said, pointing parallel to the water. ``It’s not that far away, but it’s blowing in two different directions.’’
The Mid-Am has not needed a qualifier in recent years because the field has not been that large. This year the entries climbed over 130 before RIGA officials realized what was happening, forcing play to be held in foursomes, something the association tries to avoid.
``It’s strictly because of the venue,’’ Ward said. ``Everyone wants to play here. We have more players here than we had for the stroke play where high school and college kids are eligible.’’
The three-bridge day (all three of the state’s major bridges are visible from the course on clear days) was difficult from the outset because of the wind that produced white caps on the water. Pirie, coming off a rousing performance in winning the Senior Championship in his last start, looked to be on his way to another lead. But a late double-bogey forced him to settle for a 72. Cidale had five birdies but a bogey on the 18th left him at 70.
Lukowicz had his struggles, too. He doubled the par-3 fifth hole. He hit a nine-iron that he thought was fine, but the ball hopped over the green and led to a five. Lukowicz had birds on 1, 2, 6 and 8 to overcome that.
Pelletier had the best day of all, a 67 that was all the more impressive considering that he was among the late starters.
``I had it going today,’’ he said of his work that included five birdies in addition to his eagle on 11. On 11, he could not get home in two.
``I left myself in good position for an easy chip,’’ he related. ``It was nice and straight and went right in.’’
The event is big for a number of players, including Lukowicz. The state’s Tri State team for next month’s matches against Connecticut and Massachusetts will be set after this event. Lukowicz currently is 17th in the standings for the team, which includes 12 players, including four seniors. Pelletier already has clinched a spot on that team, as has Pirie.
It took a score of 81 to advance to Tuesday’s final round.
Directions to: Rhode Island CC
Photo album courtesy of Greg Spirito