HUNTINGDON VALLEY, Pa. (Sept. 4, 2013) –Anyone who has seen Thomas Bartolacci, Jr. swing a golf club lately knows something is amiss. A once fluid, freewheeling stroke looks a little cranky these days. He’s grappled with lower back pain since last August and Bartolacci’s golf game has paid the price.
In the 43rd Senior Amateur Championship Wednesday at Huntingdon Valley Country Club (par 70, 6,480 yards), the 62-year-old Bartolacci looked like his old self, fresh and free. Bartolacci birdied the first playoff hole, No. 1 (par 4, 374 yards), to defeat Ray Thompson of Overbrook Golf Club for a second Senior Amateur title. Bartolacci won the 2008 rendition at The Springhaven Club.
Bartolacci and Thompson, a two-time Senior Amateur Champion himself, finished the 36 holes of regulation at 4-over par. Bartolacci carded a second consecutive and closing round 72. Thompson posted the tournament’s low score on Day 2, a 1-under-par 69.
In the playoff, Bartolacci knocked a sand wedge from 80 yards to 15 feet before rolling in the birdie 3. Thompson underestimated his second shot in the playoff, a wedge from 115 yards, and came up 40 feet short of the hole. Playing first, Thompson’s birdie try rolled past the left edge before stopping three feet away.
“[This] is totally unexpected,” said Bartolacci of Washington Crossing, Pa. “This is probably my best accomplishment in golf to be quite honest. To play this golf course and to win with this field that includes Chip Lutz and Ray Thompson, I’m real lucky.
“It is lower disc stuff,” Bartolacci added of his issues.” I’ve just kind of wore it out. This is unbelievable. To play this golf course in 4-over par. It’s one of my favorite golf courses. To win here is so special.”
Despite the playoff defeat, all was not lost for Thompson. He grabbed his third Senior Silver Cross Award, edging clear of three-time reigning Senior Player of the Year Lutz.
“That was important to me,” said Thompson, who won the Senior Silver Cross in 2008 and 2011. “That was my goal today. I didn’t think I had a chance starting out to win the tournament. I said if I could win the Silver Cross that was really my goal.”
Bartolacci opened the day two shots behind first-round leader Thomas Humphrey of Wilmington Country Club. Thompson began five strokes behind.
Difficult scoring conditions mixed with challenging putting surfaces created a leaderboard logjam most of the day. In fact, with all groups reporting nine-hole scores nine players stood within three shots of the lead.
Thompson grabbed the clubhouse lead first. He carded five birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. He made the turn at 1 under and registered a birdie, a bogey and seven pars to finish. His last red figure was a 3 on No. 16 (par 4. 320 yards) when he hit a sand wedge from 66 yards to a foot.
“I figured with the 1 under on the front I had a shot,” said Thompson, 61, of Drexel Hill, Pa. “The course was hard I thought. The wind was blowing. I figured 3 or 4 over was going to be close. I figured I’d be right there. I was grinding hard.”
Bartolacci was two groups behind Thompson and Mr. Steady all tournament long. He recorded a birdie and three bogeys, including one on the closing 18th (par 4, 400 yards). His approach on the last hole came up just short and his chip left him with 15-feet of work remaining. Bartolacci gave the par putt a run, but watched it miss to the high side and stop three feet from the cup.
“I hit a real good tee shot and I was kind of in between clubs and took the shorter club,” said Bartolacci of his approach on No. 18. “I hit a 5-iron. I had 187 yards uphill to the pin. I didn’t want to mess with the pin though. I just wanted to get the ball anywhere on the green. I hit a good chip. I gave the first putt a run. Those three footers aren’t easy for old guys.”
Bartolacci made five bogeys, three birdies and a double bogey over the course of 36 holes.
Humphrey, an Association newcomer and Day 1 leader, remained in the fray until the end. However, bogeys on his final two holes led to a 6-over finish.
Last year’s winner Mike Vassil placed ninth at 10 over.
View results for Philadelphia Senior Amateur Golf Championship