Back-to-back champ Ron Vannelli (MGA photo)
WESTFIELD, N.J. — It took four playoff holes, but Ron Vannelli of Forsgate defended his championship in the 4th Senior Masters Tournament, defeating Steve Rose at Echo Lake Country Club with a birdie three on the par-4 third. The playoff was the first in the tournament’s young history.
After matching rounds of 1-over 73, the pair battled on the par-4 18th three times to no avail. Both scored pars from left of the fairway the first time through, before providing fireworks on the second go-around. Rose stuffed his approach to six feet, but Vannelli nearly holed out for an eagle as his second shot struck the bottom of the flag stick and came to rest within three feet of the hole. Both calmly made the birdies to continue the battle. Vannelli had a look inside 10 feet the next time through, but both carded routine pars.
Vannelli then had the advantage on the par-4 third, having 60 yards from the fairway, while Rose faced 80 yards from the rough. With Rose’s second leaving more than 30 feet to the hole, Vannelli seized the opportunity and pitched it to just three feet. Rose’s lengthy try came up short and Vannelli calmly holed his birdie for his fifth career MGA title. He is the first to claim two Senior Masters titles, doing it in style in back-to-back years.
“That was great fun,” Vannelli said. “The last hole, I hit a really good wedge shot and it ran to about three feet past the hole and I was able to squeak that one in. I played as good as I could, really,” he concluded about the playoff with Rose.
Vannelli’s 73 featured three birdies, but he also admitted to having troubles on the greens with three, three putts. He was able to overcome the miscues though and turned it on during the playoff, in which he played the four holes in 2-under.
“It’s always great to win an MGA title, of course, and I hope there’s a few more in the future.” Vannelli also owns two MGA Senior Amateur titles (2008 and 2012) to go with his now two MGA Senior Masters wins, plus won the 2005 Met Am en route to Player of the Year honors the same year.
Rose also carded three birdies in his round, but had four bogeys in a six-hole stretch. While the runner-up finish is Rose's best result in the event, it is also his third-straight top-five finish.
The Senior Masters’ inaugural champion Bob Howe of Winged Foot led a four-way tie for third-place honors at 3-over 75. Long Island Golf Association’s Executive Director Doug Vergith of St. George’s, Allan Falvey of Panther Valley, and Richard Schmidt also carded 75s.
Falvey took the First Low Net and Al Sabini of Plainfield took Second Low Net honors.
Echo Lake served as a picturesque host for the 4th Senior Masters, as it welcomed its first MGA event since the 1934 Met Open. The par-72 played at 6,043 yards. It’s winding, narrow fairways give way to subtly contoured, well-manicured greens which played firm and fast to provide a stellar challenge for the field.
The MGA Senior Masters is open to golfers who are age 65 and older. Next year’s tournament will be held at Tuxedo Club, in Tuxedo, N.Y.
View results for Metropolitan Golf Association Senior Masters Golf Tournament