Armed with a torrid putter and a sharp short game, Matt Stasiak stole the 91st New York State Amateur Golf Championship from Victor Fox.
Although Fox grabbed a two-shot cushion after Stasiak suffered a double bogey on the 17th hole, the 24-year-old Stasiak stormed back with a clutch birdie on the
final hole. When Fox failed to make a four-foot bogey putt to force a playoff, Stasiak walked away with the most prestigious title of his amateur career Thursday at Schuyler Meadows Club.
Fox finished with a final-round 74 and a 285 total, while Stasiak had a 69-284. Trevor Sluman, nephew of former PGA Championship winner Jeff Sluman, was third with a 70-286.
Stasiak’s misfortune on the 17th hole came after he hit his tee shot into fairway bunker. He blasted out, but hit his approach shot over the green. His pitch shot went back over the elevated green and rolled down the fairway. His next pitch shot to a precarious pin came right back at him. He finally chipped up and made a five-foot putt for double bogey.
All Fox needed to win the biggest title of his young career was a par on the final hole. He grabbed his 3-wood, the same club he used on the final hole during the first three rounds. But he pulled the tee shot into a fairway bunker. After hitting out, he left himself a short pitch to the green, but his flip wedge shot settled in the rough just over the putting surface. He chipped up and left himself a four-footer that he thought he made, but he misread the break.
Meanwhile, the resilient Stasiak boomed a huge drive and then hit his gap wedge from 121 yards out to set up the winning putt.
“I still thought I could make a birdie on the 18th hole and force a playoff,” said Stasiak, who refused to give up after the damage on No. 17. “I really boomed that drive and left myself a perfect distance with my gap wedge.”
“He made a heckuva shot on 18, and he made a good putt,” said Fox. “He made a lot of great putts today.”
Stasiak, a Miami of Ohio graduate who plays out of Fox Valley Club in Buffalo, plans on turning pro soon. His previous best finish in a State Amateur was a fifth, which he accomplished twice.
“This tournament victory gives me confidence going forward,” said Stasiak, whose mother and sister were on hand to root him on. “All the hard work on my game has really paid off.”
Fox, who led after first, second and third rounds, was attempting to become the first Capital Region golfer to win the State Amateur since Jay Gunning of Town of Colonie captured the prestigious title in 1986.
And for most of the day, it appeared that the Bethlehem High School graduate and Normanside Country Club member was in the driver’s seat.
But the final pairing of the 36-hole finale turned out to be a match-play battle from the beginning of the fourth round on.
“Honestly, the whole day felt like match play,” said Stasiak.
Fox, who has an American Junior Golf Association national title under his belt along with this year’s Albany County Amateur, was five-under-par through the first two rounds Tuesday and Wednesday, and he stayed that way through the first 18 holes on Thursday. But he ran into trouble early during the final 18 holes. After a bogey on the third hole, he suffered a triple
bogey on the par-3 fourth hole, which played about 210 yards uphill. Fox’s tee shot landed in the middle of the green and bounced long, out of bounds.
“I figured this was the last round of the championship, and I didn’t want to give up,” said Fox. “So I started shooting for the pin.”
Fox birdied the sixth, ninth and 10th holes to rebuild his lead against Stasiak, who had to make a key up-and-down for par on the 10th hole to stay within two strokes.
But Stasiak went on a tear over the final nine holes. He chipped in for birdie on the par-3 12th hole, and rolled in birdie putts of 15 feet and 45 feet on the 14th and 15th holes, respectively, before adding his final birdie on the 18th hole.
Fox, who will play for Maryland in the fall, admitted that it will take a while to recover from his heartbreak.
“This is the biggest disappointment of my career, but I’ll get over it,” he said. “I played great for most of the tournament. I would love to ask the pro if I can have that last putt back, but I’m pleased overall with the way I played.”
Rolling Hills at Antlers Country Club standout Dan Russo (75-297) tied for 10th.
Leaders — Matt Stasiak (Fox Valley Club) 69-284, Victor Fox (Normanside CC) 74-285, Trevor Sluman (Oak Hill CC) 70-286, Jim Scorse (Stafford CC 75-291, Shane Dobesh (Penfield CC) 74-291, Andrew Lane (Oak Hill CC) 69-292, Nicholas Dillio (Casperkill CC) 74-293, Ryan Hager (Monroe GC) 70-294, Jonathan Renza (Hollow Brook GC) 71-294, Denver Brown (Associate Member) 75-297, Dan Russo (Rolling Hills at Antlers CC) 75-297, Max Christiana (Westchester CC) 75-297, Brett Cooper (Seawane G&CC) 71-297.
Other top local players — Jim Gifford (Mohawk GC) 76-301, David Hayes (Schuyler Meadows) 75-301, Louis Walsh (Balston Spa CC) 78-302, David Pallas (Saratoga Spa) 75-304,,Davis Jensen (Schuyler Meadows) 80-311, Matt Canavan (Saratoga National) 82-311, Ben Bates (Mohawk GC) 83-312, Robby Bigley (Pinehaven CC) 78-314, Alex Kinkaid (eClub Capital District) 80-319.