Mike Hyland rides birdie binge to N.J. Mid-Amateur win
2015 winner Mike Hyland (NJSGA photo)
2015 winner Mike Hyland (NJSGA photo)

PARAMUS, N.J. — Mike Hyland of Little Mill fired six birdies in 16 holes and won his first NJSGA championship since winning the State Amateur as a 19-year-old in 1998, besting Matt Finger of Darlington, 3 and 2, in the final of the 32nd NJSGA Mid-Amateur Championship on Thursday, Sept. 10, at Arcola Country Club in Paramus.

Hyland won holes No. 15 and 16 with pars as Finger failed to get up and down each time.

“I can’t believe. It’s been such a long time since I won a big tournament. To get your name on any state trophy is great. And to do it on a course I love, plus it was one of the better fields this time. I had to qualify for the U.S. Amateur to get into the field,” said Hyland.

His shot of the day was an 8-iron approach from 181 yards on the par-5 No. 15 that landed on the green. His two-putt resulted in a birdie victory for a 2-up lead.

“I was coming off an 8-iron on 12 that I blocked when I started getting tired. But I made real good contact on the shot on 15. That was a big hole for me,” said Hyland, who works in real estate.

Finger said he was six under combined for his four match-play events. He will return to Arcola on Sunday for the Bergen County Amateur.

“He had all those birdies and I played even par. I played very well and lost to a guy who played great,” Finger said. “It’s been a great week. The course held up well and I love the changes they made here. What mattered was my opponent made more birdies than me,” he added.

The finalists are both currently South Jersey residents, Finger of Woolwich Township and Hyland of Medford who met to square off in the final on a rainy afternoon.

Both players won their morning semifinal matches during intermittent rain at Arcola. Finger, who is a native of nearby Oradell, located 10 minutes away, had the luxury of sleeping in his boyhood bed in his mother’s home there on Wednesday night.

He advanced by defeating John Browndorf of Deal, 3 and 2.

Little Mill’s Hyland, who has commuted for Burlington County, said he left his home shortly after 4 a.m. for the 7 a.m. tee time and went on to beat Nick Desai of Baltusrol, 3 and 1. Desai had ousted defending champion Trevor Randolph of Arcola in the quarterfinals, 1 up. Randolph was seeking to become the first to win three straight Mid-Amateur championships.

Finger, 38, a graduate of Bergen Catholic H.S., this summer has qualified for the U.S. Four-Ball championship with Michael Korcuba and said he has been playing well recently.

“I played pretty good. I got up early and continued to putt well,” said Finger following the semifinal victory.

Finger was 3 up through five holes, but the lead was reduced to 1 up when Finger double-bogeyed the par-4 No. 13 hole. But he righted the ship with a 40-foot birdie putt on no. 14 and a chip-in birdie on No. 15.

“I feel like I’m getting a great chance to win this,” said Finger, who won the NJSGA Mixed Pinehurst Championship with wife Cathleen in 2009. “Mike (Hyland) and I are great friends and know each other’s games well.”

Browndorf, 31, qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur this year and was a member of the Rutgers golf team that reached the NCAAs in 2005. He works in IT security for CTI Global in Rumson.

“I’m happy that I reached the semifinals, but I wish I could’ve made the final. But Matt deserved it,” he said.

Hyland twice found himself leading by two holes, after winning the initial holes and again by taking the eighth and ninth holes. Desai cut into the lead with a birdie victory on the par-4 No. 10 hole. But Hyland added to the lead with a par victory on the par-3 No. 14, and wrapped up the triumph with a birdie on the par-4 No. 17 hole.

“My goal was to shoot even par, and that’s exactly what I did. I had one birdie and one bogey. This is my third time in the Mid-Amateur and my first time in the finals after making the semifinals the other times,” said Hyland, who was 19 when he won the 1998 State Amateur championship at Baltusrol.

“I know Matt is a great guy and a very steady player. I’m going to have to beat him. He doesn’t make mistakes,” said Hyland, who lost in the second round of the U.S. Amateur this summer.

“I made the six-to-eight foot putts against Trevor, but today they were lipping out,” said Desai, the 2015 State Pre-Senior champion. “I had my chances today. Beating Trevor is always nice. I played with him a bunch of times.”

Randolph had just won his fifth club championship at Congressional in Maryland this past Monday.

“I made so many mental mistakes. I missed putts. He made putts,” Randolph said on Wednesday.

ABOUT THE New Jersey Mid-Amateur

Open to male amateurs age 30 or above who have qualified from one of two qualifying sites or have met the exemption criteria. Format consists of 18 holes of stroke play followed by round of 16 match play.

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