Jim Gifford’s memorable clutch shot helped cap off a joyous return to his old stomping grounds.
Gifford, a former member of The Edison Club before moving on to Saratoga National and eventually to Mohawk Golf Club this season, knocked his 60-degree lob wedge to within one foot and tapped in for birdie on the first extra hole to beat Dan Russo for the open division title of the Edison Invitational Monday.
Both Gifford, a former Siena College star, and Russo, the 54-year-old multiple Capital Region Amateur Golf Association player of the year out of Rolling Hills at Antlers, shot four-under-par 68 in regulation play.
Randy White carded a 69 to win the senior division, and Bruce Oswald shot a 77 to take the super senior division.
A solid field competed on the first and third nines at The Edison Club in what is generally considered the best one-day event for scratch amateur players.
“It feels great to come back to Edison and get a win,” said Gifford, a two-time Saratoga County Amateur champion and former Tri-County Golf Association Match Play winner.
“After a slow start, I played great on my back nine today, and the playoff was kind of a carryover of momentum.”
Gifford and Russo saw first-hand how each other was playing during regulation play, as they were paired together, starting on the 19th hole.
In the playoff, Gifford outdrove the long-hitting Russo by about 10 yards. Russo’s tee shot found the left rough.
Russo’s approach shot landed at the pin, but rolled out to about 20 feet. After congratulating his playing partner on his nice shot, Gifford zeroed in on the flag from 94 yards out and left just a tap-in for the victory.
“It was too close for me,” said Russo. “I told him I would have given him the putt if I could.”
Gifford got off to a horrible start with a double bogey on his first hole after losing a ball on his tee shot.
But he bounced back to birdie the 26th hole before stepping up his play on his back nine.
“On the back nine, I was covering the flag sticks the whole way,” he said.
Gifford tapped in for birdie on the second hole, missed an eight-foot birdie try on No. 3 and then closed his round with birds on the fourth, seventh, eighth and ninth holes.
Russo, the defending champion, was playing with a sore left wrist that kept him out of the CRAGA Stroke Play Championship at Schuyler Meadows last weekend.
“My wrist was so swollen that I couldn’t get my golf glove on over the weekend,” said Russo. “But it felt good enough to play today, Except for a few shots here and there, it wasn’t bad at all.”
Russo birdied the first, eighth, ninth, 20th and 21st holes. His only bogey was a three-putt on the seventh hole.
“I liked the course setup. The greens were nice, and the course was in great shape,” Russo said.
“The wrist was bothering me quite a bit over the weekend, and that’s too bad, because I hated missing two rounds of competitive golf. I just couldn’t hold onto the club.”
Chris Barach of Mohawk Golf Club and Jay Gargiulo of the host club each shot even-par 72. The highlight of Barach’s round was an eagle-2 on the first hole. He holed out with a lob wedge from 90 yards out.
x-Jim Gifford 68, Dan Russo 68, Jay Gargiulo 72, Chris Barach 72, Mike Wheeler 73, Mike McCarroll 74, David Pallas 74, Kevin Cassidy 74, Greg Ducharme 75, Steve Owens 76, Tom Salmon 76. x-Won playoff on first extra hole.
Randy White 69, Gary Grimaldi 73, Bill Paulsen 75, Rocky Cocca 79, Brad Griffin 79, John Deitz 80.
Super Senior Division
Bruce Oswald 77, Chuck Connolly 78, David LaFleche 7 8, Don Maki 78, Paul Matties 79, Ray Darmstadt 80, Bob Norton 80.