From the Rhode Island Golf Association
By Paul Kenyon
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (July 11, 2014) -- There is an old adage among athletes who win multiple championships that the first one is always the best. After what happened in the past five days at Montaup, Bobby Leopold does not agree.
``It’s way better,’’ said Leopold of title number two in the RIGA Amateur on Friday, a 4-and-2 victory over Andrew Fiorenzano in the scheduled 36-hole title match. ``I know what it means now.’’
Leopold won his first crown in 2009, the first year in which he competed. He grew up in England and went to college at Rollins in Florida. He met Potowomut’s Taylor Cooke at school and the two married after graduating and moved to Rhode Island. While it was great to win in his first try, the impact did not fully hit home.
``When I first played in it, I hadn’t played much RIGA golf. I was a young kid. Well I was 24 or whatever. I didn’t really have many expectations,’’ he offered.
Since 2009, he has reached the Amateur semifinals three other times and captured numerous other events. He has established himself as one of the area’s premier amateurs. He also has a family that rooted him on in the title match, including his wife, 19-month-old son Grayson and his number one fan, his grandmother-in-law Jean Cooke. His caddy is his father-in-law, Scott Cooke, who also is his golf instructor and boss at the family insurance business.
``Now every year when I play in this you’re expected to win a match,’’ he said. ``Then when you win a match, you’re expected to win the next one. So no matter what it is, you’re always fighting that battle with yourself. And it’s hard. For Brad (Valois) and I and Charlie (Blanchard) it’s the same thing. People want to beat us. That’s nice, but at the same time it’s hard to play that way because you have to play well.
``In Rhode Island it’s getting so much deeper in strength of players now. On any given day there are loads of players that are good enough to beat anyone. That’s just the way it is. You have to keep telling yourself that,’’ he added.
Fiorenzano is one of those players Leopold is talking about who is looking to step up to the next level. He just finished a solid career at URI but has yet to get himself a title he can hang his hat on. In the biggest match of his career, he made Leopold earn the victory. The 5-foot-7, 145-pounder has a short, compact swing that allows him to keep up with almost anyone off the tee. He led only once in the match, when he birdied the first hole but made it an interesting contest. Leopold was only 1-up at the lunch break after an unusual morning 18. What made it unusual was that Leopold won three of the par-3s, Fiorenzano three of the par-5s, all with birds.
Leopold won three holes in a five-hole stretch early in the afternoon to build his advantage to 4-up through 28. When Leopold nearly holed out his approach on the par-4 11th _ it looked as if Leopold was ready to blow it open. But Fiorenzano hit his approach 20 feet left of the hole. Faced with a left to right breaking putt, he drained it to halve the hole.
He then birdied the 12th and 13th, too, for three straight birdies. But he picked up only one hole in that stretch because Leopold birdied two of the three holes, as well.
`` We played some good golf on the back nine. It was exciting and fun,’’ said Fiorenzano, who had his URI coach, Gregg Burke, and four of his Rhody teammates rooting him on. ``All in all he’s was the better player today, so hat’s off to him.’’
``He’s not going to beat himself. I knew that,’’ he added. ``I guess what I can take out of it is that I’m good enough to win one. Hopefully I’ll have a lot more chances.’’
After Fiorenzano made his three straight birds at 11, 12 and 13, he had a chance to win 14 with a par. Leopold had missed the green on the 170-yard hole and chipped about five feet past. He had a sliding putt coming back.
``That was the biggest putt,’’ Leopold related. A miss would have cut his lead to two.
``I hadn’t been making putts all day,’’ he said. ``I putted well all week then today, for whatever reason it abandoned me.’’
But when he needed it most, he made the one on 14 to keep the advantage at three. When he won 16, he had his second title.
View results for Rhode Island Amateur Golf Championship