Wanumetonomy G&CC & Newport CC
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Senior Division Final Results
By Paul Kenyon
NEWPORT _ Brad Valois added another title to his rapidly growing list of RIGA championships on Wednesday.
The four-time State Amateur champion captured one of the few tournaments he had not won before, the 18th John Burke Memorial at Newport Country Club. Valois plodded his way through wet and windy conditions to an even-par 72 in the second round. Added to his opening 66 at Wanumetonomy on Tuesday, it gave Valois a 36-hole total of 4-under 138 and a five-stroke victory.
Four-time Burke champion Bobby Leopold took second with a 71 for 143 total. Metacomet’s Kevin Blaser had the best round of the day, a 4-under 68 for a 36-hole total of 3-over 144 and third place. Reigning player of the year Jamie Lukowicz had the most unusual round. He shot a 5-over 77 for 152. The 77 included an 11 on the par-4 16th after play had resumed in the rain.
State Amateur champion Kevin Silva and former Burke champion Billy Forcier, who was making his return to RIGA competition after living in New Hampshire for several years, tied for fourth at 145.
Dean Parziale of Metacomet birdied the first hole of a playoff with Dave McNally to win the Senior Division title. Both finished a 7-over 150. In the net division, Richard Salzman of North Kingstown posted a 68 at Wanumetonomy for a 142 total and a two-stroke victory.
As happens so often in the May event, held to raise money for the RIGA’s caddie scholarship fund, weather played a major factor. The day was dreary and windy throughout and become nasty in late afternoon when rain arrived. The rain became heavy enough that the horn was sounded at 4:02 p.m. with 20 players still on the course.
The rain subsided enough to allow play to resume 25 minutes later. By that time, Valois had let everyone know that he was not about to give away the four-stroke lead he earned with his opening 66.
Valois had one par and one bogey for an even-par 36 on the front side. He never made any serious mistakes and with conditions so difficult, no one was able to make a run at him.
``Considering the conditions, we all played pretty well,’’ Valois said. ``It was really tough out there.’’ It was so tough that Valois altered his game over the final nine.
``I hit a lot of four-irons almost like chip shots so I didn’t have to make a full swing,’’ Valois said. He finished his day in style in the rain and wind shortly after 6 p.m. when he hit a shot reminiscent of Tiger Woods’ last hole shot when Woods won the U.S. Amateur at Newport.
Woods hit his approach on the uphill par-4 18th to within three feet to clinch his victory over Buddy Marucci. Valois’ approach from 132 yards hit the stick and came to rest three feet below the pin. He tapped in for bird.
Even as he has won so many titles in the past 13 years, Valois often has spoken about how he was never quite happy with his game. Right now, he is as confident as he has ever been.
``I’ve been playing well,’’ he said. ``I’ve been working on my game for the last three weeks, on weekends and after work.’’
Valois said he tried to make major swing changes with a new coach last year, but they simply did not work out. The lefty has gone back to his old swing and is hitting the ball better than he did at any point last summer.
There was a reason, he noted, why he had never won the Burke before.
``I haven’t played very much,’’ he said. ``You can’t play while you’re in college and since then I really haven’t had much chance to play so early.’’ He said he had competed in the event two or three times before this year.
Round 1 Recap
By Paul Kenyon
MIDDLETOWN _ It was wet and it was cold. It was a difficult day all around to play golf on Tuesday as the RIGA launched its tournament season with the opening round of the 18th annual John Burke Memorial Scholarship Tournament at Wanumetonomy and Newport.
In many ways, though, it was business as usual. Many of the top players in the association fought through the conditions to put their name at or near the top of the leader board heading into Wednesday’s second and final round.
Four-time State Amateur champion Brad Valois led the way with a sparkling 4-under 66 at Wanumetonomy to open a four-stroke lead. Former Stroke Play champion Johnny Hayes IV was next with a 70 and reigning State Amateur Kevin Silva put himself in good shape at even-par 71. Bobby Leopold, a four-time winner of this event as well as twice the State Am champ, also matched par at 71. Jamie Lukowicz, last year’s player of the year., tied for seventh with a 75.
For the first day, though, the biggest story might have been about one of the state’s all-time greats who was at the bottom end of the leader board, in a spot never before seen in his more than 40 years of RIGA competition.
Hall of Famer and three-time State Amateur champion George Pirie posted an 87. That’s 17-over-par at Wanumetonomy, more above par than he has been in entire seasons. He had two triple bogeys, two double bogeys, seven bogeys and no birdies.
``It was frustrating,’’ he said, somehow managing to smile even as he discussed it. ``With the cold, my body just wouldn’t turn. I couldn’t finish swings. A lesser man might not have finished, but I persevered, I got through it.’’
While it was frustrating, in other ways it also was rewarding for the 66-year-old periodontist. He has a bit of a different perspective these days.
The day marked his return to competition after more heart surgery last fall, work that included the implanting of a pacemaker in his chest. There was a sense of pride in his voice as Pirie spoke about what he has been through since last competing in a RIGA event. The doctor had triple by-pass surgery in 2012. He returned after that and remained highly competitive. He was still going strong until last Labor Day weekend.
``I played that Saturday at Valley, from the back, shot 73 and beat everyone,’’ he said. ``But I rode. I never ride. I always walk. This time, though, I thought I better ride because I had had a couple of dizzy spells.’’
After he finished, he took his pulse. It was 40. So he called his doctor, a friend whose office is near his in Warwick. The doctor was on duty at the hospital and told Pirie to get in right away. Tests were done and it was discovered that Pirie had serious blockages. He was sent to Boston where his pulse rate reached as low as 24 before surgery could be done.
``Once they put in the pacemaker I was fine,’’ he said. ``I’m fine now except that I have eye problems. I’m having work done on my eye on Friday. I just don’t see as well as I should.’’
Even with all his issues, Pirie played from the back tees at Wanumetonomy, rejecting an RIGA plan that now allows seniors to play from the forward tees in many tournaments, including the Burke.
As difficult as conditions were, scoring was surprisingly good. Valois defied the weather. He played so well that he was not totally satisfied with his 66.
``It could have been lower,’’ he said.
The lefty said he began working seriously on his game about three weeks ago and has been very pleased with what has happened.
``I’ve been playing some of the best golf I’ve played since college,’’ the URI grad said. Considering that he has been one of the dominant players in the state for the past decade that has to scare the others who will compete with him for RIGA titles this summer.
Valois had seven pars and two birdies on the way to a 33 on the front. He had three bogeys on the back, yet he still had another 33 because he had five birds, at 11, 13, 14, 16 and 18.
The competitors in the gross championship move to Newport on Wednesday while the net play will be at Wanumetonomy.