MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (Sept. 22, 2014) — Tom Collins of Spring Brook, a former NFL tight end, fired a round of two-under-par 69 to wrest medlist honors by one shot from defending champion Trevor Randolph of Arcola in qualifying for the 31st Mid-Amateur Championship at Laurel Creek Country Club in Mount Laurel.
Collins, 34, a resident of Morristown and a wealth mananger for RBC in Florham Park, recorded six birdies and four bogeys on a blustery day at the 6,687-yard links-style venue located in Burlington County. He is also a former football player for the University of Connecticut.
Collins, runner-up last year for the club championship at Fiddler's Elbow and a semifinalist for the same title this year at Spring Brook, had six birdies and four bogeys at Laurel Creek.
"I really didn't take playing golf seriously until this year," said Collins, a native of Jacksonville, Fla., whose wife, Corinne, is from Whppany, N.J.. "It's a different animal when you're concentrating on it. But with my sports background having played in front of 80,000 fans, what's the worst that could happen. It's no big deal if you hit a bad shot. It's a lot better than a 300-pound lineman bearing down on you."
Collins said two of his birdies came on putts of 20-plus feet.
"I was just trying to get the putts within a three-foot circle. I just wanted to get it close and not be a hero on the greens," said Collins, whose former football teammate at UConn, Brian Krause, served as his caddie. "I had trouble off the tee on my first nine. I was hooking some drives. But my approach shots were very accurate.I was able to get out of trouble."
Randolph fired a round of 1-under-par 70 on a course he had never seen before. Jamie Slonis of Tavistock, a former assistant pro at Laurel Creek, carded a 72 and Ryan Chin of Essex County a 73 on the links-style track.
The top 16 from the field of 61 advance to Tuesday’s match-play Round of 16 in the morning and quarterfinals in the afternoon. The semifinals and final will take place on Wednesday. The championship is for amateur golfers age 30 and above.A playoff between six golfers who shot 78 decided the final match-play qualifier which was garnered by Dan Levinson of Bayonne, who birdied both playoff holes.
‘I didn’t have a practice round. I thought this was a tough course, particularly with the wind. You need to have a lot of trust with your swing. Inmatch play, I’ll play differently. I used my driver on every hole, but you don’t need driver as much. There’s definitely some tricky putts out here,” stated Randolph, who tied for runner-up at the State Amateur at Knickerbocker. He also qualified for match-play at the U.S. Mid-Amateur, losing to Michael Castleforte of Illinois, 1 up, when Castleforte drained eight putts of 30-plus feet.
“Even without the wind here, you have to hit it straight. There’s heavy fescue and you can easily lose your ball,” Randolph said.
Randolph, 41, managed to hit 15 greens in regulation. His round included four birdies, a double bogey and a bogey. The birdies came at the par-4 fourth hole, the par-5 fifth hole, the par-5 15th hole and the par-4 18th.
The bogey occurred at the par-4 11th, when he missed the green and two-putted. The double-bogey came at the par-4 second hole when he topped a drive that barely cleared the fescue.
“I’m playing well. I’m very proud to be the returning champion from last year, but it didn’t affect me at all today,” Randolph noted. He is serving as captain of the three-man New Jersey team that will compete Sept. 30-Oct. 2 in the U.S. State Team Championship in French Lick, Ind. He will be joined by amateur champion Mike Stamberger and Steve Zychowski, State amateur co-runner-up.
Randolph, the runner-up at the Met Amateur in 2013 to Pat Wilson of Panther Valley, unleashed a birdie barrage at the 2013 Mid-Amateur at Trump National in Bedminster. Including the qualifier and four subsequent matches, Randolph accumulated an amazing 25 birdies for the week.
Randolph, is a native of Bethesda, Md., and four-time club champion at Congressional who works in finance in New York.
Randolph played golf at Rice University after attending St. Alban’s School in Washington, D.C.
He played in a U.S. Junior in 1990 and U.S. Amateurs in 1992 and ’97. He also competed in the 2012 U.S. Mid-Amateur at Conway Farms in Illinois.
“On a day like this one, you have to drive it well and keep your ball out of trouble,” said Slonis, 45, of Sewell, a sales and marketing representative for Callaway Golf. “For match play, it’s all about fairways and greens. If it blows like it did today, that’s even more important.”
Slonis was the assistant pro when Laurel Creek opened in 1991, fresh out of Campbell College in North Carolina.
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