TENAFLY, N.J. (June 6, 2014) -- Defending champion Mike Stamberger‘s string of three straight birdies on the front nine of his final round enabled him to take a lead he would not relinquish on his way to the championship of the 113th New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur on Thursday at the par-71, 6,597-yard Knickerbocker Country Club in Tenafly.

Stamberger became the first back-to-back champion since Jeff Thomas of Plainfield West, who won a record eight State Amateurs, did it in 1990 and ’91.Stamberger became the 11th golfer to win back-to-back Amateur championships.

Stamberger (72-68-72-71), at one-under 283, was four shots better than 2013 Mid-Amateur champion Trevor Randolph of Arcola (68-70-76-73-287) and Steven Zychowski of Mendham (70-74-70-73-287). Alexander Hicks of Wildwood (71-288) was fourth while Lloyd Jefferson Go of fiddler’s Elbow, a Seton Hall sophomore-to-be (74-289) was fifth.

“I never conceived this as my event. It took me 25 years to mature,” said Stamberger, 42 an equity salesman who has four children and lives in Brielle. “I think it’s great to be the first to do this since Jeff. I was nervous coming in. I don’t play well with a lead.”

In the final round, a bogey on the par-3 fourth hole left him tied with Randolph. Things changed dramatically in Stamberger’s favor in a run of three consecutive birdies, each of which was impressive in its own right.

On the par-3 sixth hole, Stamberger rolled in a curving downhill left-to-right putt from 30 feet. On the next hole, the par-4 seventh, Stamberger holed out from a right-side bunker to open a two-shot lead. Then, on the 416-yard, par-4 eight hole, Stamberger’s wedge-shot approach ended two feet from the hole for a third straight birdie and a three-shot advantage.

“I was just holding on at that point. Finally something happened when I made that putt. I hadn’t made a putt longer than 10 feet all week,” he said.

“I was hitting it really good. I was hitting my irons lose. I just got hot at the right time.”

Zychowski, 22, playing three groups ahead of Stamberger, got within two strokes with a birdie on the par-5 10th hole, but fell back when he bogeyed three of the four succeeding holes. Stamberger eventually extended the lead to six shots late in his final round.

Stamberger, who won the 2008 NJSGA Mid-Amateur championship and the 2003 Met Amateur. who has also won .two New York City Amateurs.

Stamberger trailed second-round leader Ryan Snouffer of Panther Valley by three shots heading into Thursday’s 36-hole final. But he wrested the lead after 54 holes on the back of a 1-over-par 72 for 212 that gave him a two-stroke lead over first-round leader Randolph (76-214) and Zychowski (70-214). Snouffer (78-215) fell to third place.

“This morning the course played tougher and longer than the other days. And it had gotten more windy out there,” said Stamberger, whose previous best finish before his victory in the 2013 State Amateur was a tie for third place in 2001.

Stamberger is a graduate of Wardlaw School and Old Dominion University where he earned a golf scholarship.

“This course reminds me of the course I grew up on. I feel comfortable on Donald Ross greens. It makes me think out there.”

In 2013, Stamberger won by one stroke over 19-year-old Jimmy Dengler of Rumson with a four-round total of 292 at Canoe Brook C.C. in Summit. Stamberger had led by as many as eight shots late in the third round and struggled home with a 78 in the final round.

“I never thought I would win this because these college kids are so good,” Stamberger said after winning his first Amateur title.

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