By Cassie Stein
PITTSFIELD, N.Y. (June 15, 2013) — History was made Saturday at the 73rd Monroe Invitational.
Nick Palladino, a senior at nearby University of Rochester, became the first Division III collegiate golfer to win the Monroe Invitational. He did so by winning in a one-hole playoff over Motin Yeung, who just finished his freshman year at Duke. Both players shot 4-under 206.
Hunter Stewart of Lexington, Ky., had the 36-hole lead at the rain-shortened tournament, which was reduced to 54-holes on Thursday after rain washed out the second round. Monroe Golf Club saw more than 2 inches of rain that day.
Stewart and Yeung battled for most of the morning on Saturday. The turning point of the tournament for all three players – Palladino included – was No. 7, a 385-yard par 4 that was either rewarding or treacherous.
Stewart was leading by three shots until an errant tee shot at No. 7 derailed his round. He made a double-bogey.
Yeung saved par by two-putting, but Palladino was really getting his round going just ahead. He birdied No. 7 from the rough with an 8-iron and made a solid bogey save on No. 8 after flying the green on the 149-yard par 3. He kept grinding.
Palladino missed a 6-footer on No. 10 – later thinking it was payback for the good bogey on eight.
Palladino made back-to-back birdies on Nos. 11 and 12, and made a long, downhill par save on No. 14.
“I told myself, if I keep playing I may have a shot at this,” Palladino said.
All the while, Stewart slowly crept out of the picture with bogeys on Nos. 10 and 13, and Yeung made a 30-foot eagle putt on 12 to tie Palladino at 4 under.
Ahead at 15, Palladino rolled in a 15-foot birdie only to be matched by Yeung with a 35 footer of his own. Yeung took a one-shot lead.
Both players had crucial up-and-down par saves on the par-3 16th. Palladino was left and short of the green and chipped it to 3 feet. Yeung was off the green above the hole, so he barely tapped the 8-footer for par and watched it roll in.
Palladio hit two crucial shots on Saturday. During the final round, his tee shot at 17 didn’t come back as much as he wanted and ended up behind a tree. He hit a 40-yard cut with a 6-iron around the tree and stuck it to 8 feet.
“I was in my own little world,” said Palladino. “I was kind of in my own zone. My Dad asked what I was going to do, but there was no questioning by him.”
He made the birdie putt to tie with Yeung heading into the final hole.
Palladino three-putted 18, and that put a sour taste in his mouth. He finished with a 4-under 66.
Yeung ended up bogeying 18, too. From 165 yards in the middle of the fairway, he was aiming toward the middle of the green. It was pin high until it rolled out to the back of the green and nestled in a hole in the rough. He eventually made a-7 footer for bogey and advanced into a playoff with Palladino.
“I feel like everything just became really fast place,” Yeung said of his last hole and the playoff. “I didn’t really have time to think. My head was kind of blank when I came here (to the last hole) and I tried not to think about golf.”
Yeung and Palladino went back to No. 18 – Yeung perfect in the middle of the fairway, Palladino left off the tee.
“I’m not going to lie and tell you I wasn’t nervous because I definitely was,” Palldino said.
But that’s where Palladino’s second miraculous shot appeared. Palladino hit a 5-iron from behind another tree that bounced just short of the green, took a big hop and rolled out to 25 feet. Yeung gave him a read on his line as he hit his same approach shot from 165 yards and put it to 30 feet.
Yeung three-putted and Palladino – who had the same short putt in the playoff as he did in the final round – made his par attempt.
“This is a huge victory,” Palladino said. “I expected to play well, but I don’t know if I expected to win. I expected to put a few good rounds together, but to win it is definitely an unbelievable feeling.”
Palladino added: “I actually wanted to come up here and show them that D-3 players can play. I wanted to prove that even though I’m not on scholarship to play college golf, I take it just as serious as them and that I can play and keep up with them.”
Point taken, and history made in the process.