PITTSFORD, N.Y. (June 17, 2006) -– Clemson University rising sophomore Phillip Mollica not only made history by becoming the third Tiger in the past five years to capture the 66th Annual Monroe Invitational Championship joining current PGA Tour player D.J. Trahan (2002 champion) and Brent Delahoussaye (2003 winner), but he also became the first wire-to-wire winner since the tournament went to a stroke-play event in 1998 with an 8-under-par 272 total Saturday afternoon on the 6,787-yard par-70 Donald Ross designed Monroe Golf Club..
Mollica, who began the day at 7-under-par, started his round with a nice up-and-down to save par on the first hole after his approach shot went in the left rough just off the green. The left-hander followed with a bogey with a three-putt on the par-4 2nd. His first putt was well short of the hole and then he pulled his second to the right of the hole.
After pars on Nos. 3 and 4, he birdied the next two holes to move to 8-under-par. On the par-4 5th, his approach shot was all over the hole and hit the flagstick and settled to the right of the hole six feet away. He sank the fairly flat putt to move to 7-under.
His tee shot on the par-3 6th was right of the hole about 20 feet away. Mollica drained this tricky putt which bent slightly from right-to-left. Following a par on the par-4 7th and a bogey on the par-3 8th which dropped him back to 7-under, he got back on track with a birdie on the par-5 9th. His approach shot was pulled into the trees on the right side of the hole, but fortunately the ball settled on a ridge just outside of the sand trap which guards the hole. His chip shot stopped about five feet from the hole and he sank it to make the turn at 1-under-par 34.
Mollica played clean golf throughout most of the back nine. He began with pars on Nos. 10 and 11 and drained a birdie on the par-5 12th to move to 9-under-par which expanded his lead to four strokes over junior player Brendan Gielow. However, Mollica parred the next two holes and bogeyed the par-4 15th to drop to 8-under and NCAA first-team All-American Dustin Johnson of Coastal Carolina also in the final group made a move to 6-under-par with two birdies and a par to trim the lead to two strokes with three holes to play. However, Mollica didn't let the bogey disrupt his play with a par on the par-3 16th, while Johnson was pressing to catch him and faltered with a double-bogey on the 16th. Mollica cruised home with two pars to end the day at 1-under-par 69.
Mollica proved he learned from his first time around the MGC track last year, improving from his tie for 59th at 21-over-par 301 when he didn't post one sub-par round (78-77-71-75=301).
Gielow, the 17th-ranked junior player in the nation in the Golfweek/Titleist Performance Index, evened the match early at 6-under-par following Mollica's bogey on the second hole, but bogeys on Nos. 3 and No. 7 dropped him to three strokes behind the leader after nine holes and just couldn't string together birdies to make up the ground.
Lurking in the shadows in the threesome behind the two final groups was Duke's Michael Quagliano. He entered the final round at even-par, but could have easily forced a playoff or stole the tournament if the top groups had faltered. The Ardsley, N.Y. native fired a tournament low round and final round best 6-under-par 64 to post a 274 total. He birdied four holes on the back nine including three of the last four to claim runner-up honors.
Gielow finished third at 275, Johnson was fourth at 277, Duke's Michael Schachner and Dawie Van der Walt shared fifth (278), Brad Marek of Indiana and Jamie Miller of Augusta State tied for 7th at 281, Jason Day of Forest Lake, Queensland, Australia was ninth at 282 and SMU's Colt Knost and Davidson's Alex Knoll claimed a share of 10th at 283.
Greece Athena's Andrew Dibitetto led the Rochester area players with a share of 12th at 285. Scott Harris, Jr. of Honeoye, N.Y. tied for 28th at 291, Mid-Amateur Tim Spitz of Pittsford posted a 294 for a share of 40th, Aquinas' Chris Agostinelli tied for 49th at 297, Rush-Henrietta's Mike Colosi shared 51st at 299, Greece Athena’s Tony DiBitetto was 53rd with a 300, McQuaid Jesuit grad J.P. Kircher was 56th at 303, Aquinas' Nick Sortino was 59th at 314 and High Point University’s (N.C.) Brad Riley was 61st at 324.
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