State Men’s Amateur: Eight local golfers set for match play

Eight is enough.

At least that’s the way it turned out in Wednesday’s second round of qualif


Eight is enough.

At least that’s the way it turned out in Wednesday’s second round of qualifying in the 86th annual State Amateur Golf Championship. A quarter of today’s 32 match-play contestants at Pinehaven Country Club will be comprised of a Capital Region “elite eight.”

Jim Gifford of The Edison Club grabbed the last local berth by winning one of three spots in a four-player playoff for golfers who posted a two-round score of eight-over-par 150. Gifford, winner of this year’s Tri-County Match Play championship, boomed a big drive on the first playoff hole and then hit a lob wedge to 21⁄2 feet to set up a birdie putt that secured his place in match play.

Also advancing from the Cap­ital Region were Country Club of Troy’s Nick Feinberg (74-146), Justin Deitz of The Edison Club (68-146), Chris Barach of Mohawk Golf Club (75-147), John Vaccaro of Wolferts Roost Country Club

(76-148), Greg Levings of Burden Lake Counry Club (74-148), Paul Pratico of Schenectady Munic­ipal (72-148) and Jim Mueller of

Orchard Creek (77-149).

First-round leader Matt Stasiak of Fox Valley Club (73-140), Dom­inic Bozzelli of Locust Hill Country Club (70-140) and Tom Muto Jr. of Sodus Bay Heights Golf Club (69-140) shared medalist qualifying honors.

There will be two rounds of match play today and Friday, followed by Saturday’s 36-hole finals. No Capital Region golfer has won the State Am title since Jay Gunning in 1986.

Deitz, like Gifford a Shenendehowa High School graduate who will be competing for Siena College, shot the best round of the day with a three-under-par 68.

“It was a lot better than yesterday,” said Deitz, who shot a 78 Tuesday. “I still didn’t hit a lot of greens, maybe six or seven, but I made a lot of up-and-downs, and I putted well.”

Deitz birdied the ninth, 13th, 15th and 17th holes. His only bogey was on the par-3 14th, when his tee shot hit the green, but spun back.

Feinberg posted a pair of eagles, on the 13th and 17th, and chipped in for birdie on the third hole en route to a 74.

“I managed my shots yesterday, but today, I hit it poorly and mismanaged my shots,” he said. “I only hit three greens on the front, and made a 38. When I bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes, I was five-over-par, but then I finished up strong on the back.”

Barach battled a balky swing to post a 75, but it was good enough to advance.

“I didn’t bring my swing to the golf course. I was four-over-par after the first three holes,” he said. “But I made some long birdie putts, and I held it together. I made some birdies on the way in.”

Barach, who started his golf

career at Old Dominion but is looking to transfer closer to home, birdied the fifth, sixth, 15th and 17th.

Vaccaro, a senior standout who is the defending State Mid-Amateur champion, rolled in birdies on the fourth, sixth, 15th and 17th, but one hole almost eliminated him from match play.

“All I had was a wedge into the 16th hole, and I thought it was going straight for the middle of the green, but I hit it over the green and into the pond. I ended up with a triple-bogey,” he said.

But he rebounded with his birdie on the 17th.

Levings, a 21-year-old Springfield College student who is a graduate of Averill Park High School, birdied the seventh, 13th and 15th holes.

“I wanted to shoot par, but I’m ready to go. I’m ready to take on anyone in match play,” he said.

Pratico, a five Gazette County Amateur titlist and a former professional, shot a one-over-par 72.

“This is my first time making match play,” he said. “It’s my third time making the states. I felt kind of relaxed today. I think there is more pressure on someone who shoots a low score in the first round, because they are trying to protect their place.”

Pratico birdied the sixth, 10th and 12th holes.

Mueller, also a five-time Gazette County Amateur champion and a former member of Pinehaven CC, struggled on the back nine.

After a solid front nine, he

bogeyed the 11th hole, double-

bogeyed the 12th and three-putted for bogey on the 13th. He birdied the 15th, but then double-bogeyed the 16th and bogeyed the 18th.

Gifford, who birdied the eighth, ninth, 10th and 12th holes during regulation play, said he wasn’t nervous in the playoff.

“If it was seven players for one spot, I might have been nervous, but I knew I could make a par. After two guys hit trees with their drives and I was hitting last, I just relaxed. I killed my drive.

“Winning the Tri-County Match Play gave me a lot of confidence,” he said. “I don’t care who I play. You can win with a 68 or you can lose with a 68. It’s all head games in match play.”

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