LOUDONVILLE — James Allen proved he deserved the special exemption he earned into the 98th annual NYS Men’s Amateur Golf Championship.
The left-hander from Scarsdale Golf Club caught fire after a 2 1/2-hour rain delay and then outdueled defending champion Ben Reichert from Western New York with a birdie barrage to win the prestigious title by one shot Thursday at Schuyler Meadows Club. The final day included 46 players competing for 36 holes, but just a few holes into the last 18, a fierce thunderstorm halted play. The rain took some of the sting out of the host club, which featured firm and fast fairways and greens.
Allen (8-under-par 280), who shot a sizzling 6-under-par 66 in the final round to go along with a 70 in the opening round and two even-par rounds in between, clinched the title when he two-putted for par from about 30 feet on the 18th hole. Reichert (70-281), playing in the group ahead of Allen, was tied for the lead, but he hit his approach shot over the green on the final hole and failed to get up and down for par. Allen knew what he had to do, and he rolled his birdie putt to within tap-in distance.
Sean Puleo of the host club led the local contingent by finishing fourth with a 4-under-par four-day total of 284, one stroke behind Aiden Spaminato of Locust Hill CC in Rochester. Jim Gifford of Mohawk Golf Club was tied for seventh (72-290) with former Siena College basketball player and Locust Hill CC member Kyle Downey (77-290), who led the tournament through the first two rounds.
Schuyler Meadows was a completely different course after the rain delay, as the players could shoot for the pins on very receptive greens. Both Allen and Reichert took advantage, especially in the final 18 holes. Each player seemed to match the other in heroics. Allen rolled in eight birdies in the final round, including a four-hole stretch from 12-15. Reichert was almost as hot, recording seven birdies, including stretches from 5-8 and from 13-15. On the 13th hole, his fabulous bunker shot on the par-5 set up his birdie. He also made another outstanding shot from the bunker on the par-3 15th, when he pitched in for birdie.
“I’ve always been a good bunker player. I’d rather be in the bunkers than in the rough, especially on this course,” Reichert said.
Allen understood his position most of the day.
“I started checking the scores on my phone consistently after the 13th hole,” Allen said. “I was 7-under at that point, and I thought Ben was 5-under. I thought I had a chance to be in the lead. But when I checked again, Ben was also 7-under. I said to myself, ‘Oh, my God,’ it’s going to be a shootout.”
Allen remained calm and focused throughout both rounds on Thursday to capture the biggest victory of his young career.
“It’s amazing,” Allen said. “I can’t believe it. I only got my exemption into this tournament five days ago. I guess I had some pretty good finishes this year to deserve it. I finished 10th in the Westchester Open and I played well at the Ike. It was definitely a different course out there after the rain delay. The greens were so much more receptive, and you could fire at the pin.”
Reichert, playing in his final amateur event before turning professional next month, was extremely disappointed in how he finished.
“I did know that I was tied with James,” Reichert said. “I think we were both 5-under-par through 12, and I thought I had the lead after that, when I birdied the next three holes. But James also kept making birdies, and we were still tied. I thought I hit all the shots I needed to win this tournament except for my second shot on the 18th hole.”
Reichert said he mis-hit a wedge shot from 112 yards.
“It’s the same shot I’ve been having problems with this season,” he said. “This isn’t the way I wanted to finish up my amateur career.”
Reichert not only won the last NYS Men’s Amateur in 2019, but he also won the 2018 Florida State Amateur and the prestigious Porter Cup.
Meanwhile, Puleo was thrilled with the way he played in the final two rounds. He capped off his play with a birdie on the 18th hole and received cheers from the partisan gallery.
“I definitely played well,” said Puleo, an Albany Academy and Washington & Lee graduate. “I played under par for this tournament, and that was my goal. I did notice that my chipping game wasn’t as good as some of the other players in the field, and I wasn’t hitting my wedges close. I’m not playing as much as I used to now that I’m ready to start my working career.”
Leaders — James Allen (Scarsdale GC) 66-280, Ben Reichert (NYSGA eClub-Western NY) 70-281, Aiden Spampinato (Locust Hill CC) 68-283, Sean Puleo (Schuyler Meadows) 70-284, Matt Ferrari (NYSGA Junior GC) 71-286, DJ Griffiths (NYSGA eClub-Southern Tier) 70-287, Luke Basile (MGA eClub-Hudson Valley) 70-290, Jim Gifford (Mohawk GC) 72-290, Jeff March (Penfield CC) 71-290, Jamie Miller (Crag Burn GC) 72-290, Kyle Downey (Locust Hills CC) 77-290, Nathan Han (Salem GC) 68-291, Danny Gianniny (CC of Rochester) 71-291, Jacob Katz (Brookfield CC) 73-292, Andre Chi (Deepdale GC) 70-292, Wills Reardon (The Onteora Club) 68-292, Tyler Gerbavsits (Huntington Crescent Club) 75-293, Alexander Kang (Harbor Links GC) 75-293, Ben Rublee (CC of Troy) 67-293, Jiarong Liu (RDGA eClub) 68-293.
Other local finishers — Dan Russo (Schuyler Meadows) 72-295, Joe Fitzsimmons (Shaker Ridge CC) 76-298, Steve Quillinan (CC of Troy) 78-300, Paul Goetz (The Edison Club) 78-304.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected]
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