Brad Valois defends title at Rhode Island Stroke Play
Brad Valois
Brad Valois
PORTSMOUTH, R.I. — Brad Valois found still another new way to win a golf tournament on Tuesday.

The four-time Rhode Island Amateur champion took a wilder route than usual on the way to successfully defending his title in the Association’s Stroke Play Championship. The lefty put together rounds of 70-67 at Green Valley to finish at 5-under 137 and edge Bobby Leopold and Jake Bauer by one stroke.

Valois did not have his `A’ game. Rarely, if ever, has he won a tournament when he has hit two balls out of bounds on the same day. Never has he won a championship on a day when he made a double bogey and a triple bogey. Not until Tuesday that is. The fact that he still was able to add another crown to his already lengthy list of championships made the day a rewarding one.

He did not let his problems, and the big challenge posed by Bauer and Leopold affect him.

"I just tried to keep my head down and play my game, not worry about anybody else,’’ Valois said.

His wild day was fitting since the event itself was unusual. The first day, on Monday, was rained out. That forced cutting the event to one- day and 36 holes. But that was even extended as a severe weather delay that included rain and lightning, forced a stoppage in play for just over an hour late in the afternoon.

Valois’ day was as wild as the weather. The morning round was memorable, although not all the memories will be positive. The defending champion posted a 1-under 70 which included an eagle, five birdies, a bogey, a double and a triple. The triple bogey came on his fifth hole and jumped him to 2-over. He had three birdies and an eagle over the next eight holes to get to 3-under, but then doubled the par-4 seventh, his 16th hole of the round. His 70 left him two strokes behind.

Valois was steadier in the afternoon with five birds and only one bogey for his 67, although he said he was fortunate.

"On one of the same holes I hit it out of bounds this morning, I hit the same shot. But this time it hit a tree and stayed in,’’ he said. His steady play at one time built his lead to four strokes.

While he was running off pars late, Leopold and Bauer made the finish interesting. Playing several groups ahead of Valois, Bauer closed fast. The lefty who just finished his freshman year at Johnson & Wales in Miami was even for the day before he nearly aced the par-3 12th. He then hit approaches on both 13 and 15 within three feet for easy birds and added one more with a 12-footer on 16 to finish with a 67 for the round and 138 total.

Bauer, who was the only Rhode Islander to make the cut in last week’s New England Amateur in New Hampshire, was disappointed only with what happened in the par-5 17th. His birdie putt there hit the hole but spun out.

Leopold, playing in the same threesome with Valois, looked out of it, but birdied 15, 16 and 17 in the second round to pull within one. His 20-footer for bird to get into a playoff on 18 missed by inches.

The scoreboard after the first round looked as if it was straight out of the 1990s. The co- leaders were Charlie Blanchard and Paul Quigley at 3-under 68.

The 70-year-old Quigley was competing in the Senior Division, playing from the forward tees. Still, his performance was impressive. It was the third time this summer and fifth time over that Quigley has matched or bettered his age.

It brought back memories for Quigley in this event. He won it a record nine times from 1988 to 2000.

After Monday’s rainout, Tuesday was fine until 4:30. By then Bob Ward, the RIGA’s executive director, had put on his meteorologist hat. He abandoned the scoreboard and instead went inside the clubhouse to monitor the approaching storms.

"It’s coming,’’ he said as he studied the radar map. "It doesn’t look as if we can miss it.’’

As he was heading out about 4:40 to sound the horn to call in the players, the first lightning strike was seen in the distance. All the players quickly came to the shelter of the clubhouse. It all happened just as the first group off the tee was finishing. That threesome included a real meteorologist, Herb Stevens.

"We were in the 18th fairway and I saw this bolt of lightning come down surrounded by blue sky,’’ Stevens said. "I said, 'Fellas, we better get the heck out of here.' ’’

They managed to finish as they came to the clubhouse. Everyone was safely inside before the rain began.

"I know it hasn’t started raining yet, but there is lightning in the area. We want everyone to be safe,’’ Ward told the players. Less than 10 minutes later, the rain began. About 40 minutes later, with the rain coming down heavily. Ward made another announcement.

"We just spoke with Montaup (down Route 114 from Green Valley) and the sun already is out there,’’ Ward said. He told the players that Jim McKenna, the RIGA’s tournament director, and Joe Oliveira, the Green Valley superintendent, were headed out to inspect the course and see if it was playable and that another announcement would be made in about 10 minutes.

Ten minutes later, as promised, Ward gathered the players again. By then the rain had stopped and the skies were clearing.

"The 16th green has standing water. Jim McKenna and the superintendent are clearing it now,’’ Ward said. "We’re going to resume play at 5:45, 12 minutes from now. Be careful driving golf carts. Help the superintendent out a little.’’

All the commotion on Tuesday followed a postponement on Monday, causing the event to be reduced to 36 holes for only the second time in its 32-year history. "It was an easy decision,’’ Ward said of calling off play on the first day. "It rained as hard as I’ve ever seen it rain for three straight hours.’’ "The putting green was under water and it goes downhill,’’ pointed out Gary Dorsi, the club pro. "The driving range was under water. Everything was under water.’’ The good news is that the rain stopped by 11 a.m. so the course had 20 hours to recover. It was fine by the time the first shot was struck on Tuesday.

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