ALPINE, NJ (June 9, 2016) -- Thomas La Morte was certainly feeling the heat, having seen a four-stroke lead with six holes remaining dwindle down to a single shot.
But his par save with a 13-yard chip from the rough to four feet on the par-3 17th hole, followed by a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole, sealed the victory by two shots over defending champion Max Greyserman of Crestmont in the 115th NJSGA Amateur Championship at 6,554-yard Montammy Golf Club in Alpine.
La Morte fired a two-under-par 68 that came on the heels of his 69 in the morning round for a 280 total in very windy conditions at the Bergen County course. Greyserman, who had three birdies and a bogey over his final nine holes, finished with a 69-282. Kieran Purcell of Essex County (69-289) and 2010 champion Brian Komline of Black Oak (73-289) tied for third. Dylan Stein, 19, of Copper Hill was fifth at 71-290.
"I looked at the (roving) leaderboard and saw that my lead was down to one shot. I was really nervous because I know Max is a heck of a player nad he's proven he can come back on people," said La Morte, who attends Campebll College in North Carolina after a sgterling career at Demarest High School. "I just stepped up over the final two holes. I knew it was in me to do it."
Any chance of a Greyserman comeback this year - after his tremendous rally in 2015 when he overcame a six-shot deficit over the final 18 holes - was snuffed when he incurred an unfortunate bogey at the par-4 16th hole. His drive ended in a left-side bunker, and his next shot flew the green, hit a drain cover and ended in the rough 120 feet from the hole. He still chipped within 10 feet but failed to get up and down.
"I was only one shot down at that point and took the wrong club, a 5-iron off the tee that ran across the fairway into the bunker. It was the same club I hit in the morning but the conditons had changed. What hurt me the most were holes two and three when I had a possible eagle turn into a par and a make-able par turn into a bogey," Greyserman said.
"I really fought hard in the final round, but one shot was too much to come all the way back from. Those little things cost me throughout the tournament. I struck the ball well all week. It was just my short game. I give credit to Thomas. He played really well and won the tournament," said Greyserman ,who is thinking of turning pro in a year if he has a solid senior season at Duke University.
La Morte won the NJSGA Boys' Championship in 2011 but has come so far since then. He said once he joined the golf team at Campbell, coach John Crooks's mentoring has had a big impact.
"In college, I went from being happy to shoot 75 to not settling for anything other than par or under par. It's all about chipping and putting and wedges. Winning this was about my confidence and ball striking. I felt I could make any shot i looked at. I knew I had a good final round in me," La Morte said. "I had a couple top fives in college, but this is the highight for me. You can't top this."
Heading into the final 18 holes, it was 20-year-old LaMorte (71-72-69-212) who was holding a slim one-shot margin over defending champion Max Greyserman of Crestmont (70-72-71-213). Jared Mactas of Edgewood, a rising senior at Elon, was in third place at 71-71-73-215. Greyserman’s playing partner, Brian Komline (69-73-74-216) was fourth.
Next year's NJSGA Amateur will take place at Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield, June 6-8, 2017.
LaMorte shot the low score of Thursday morning’s third round when he carded a one-under par 69 to forge ahead of a crowded group at the top of the leaderboard. LaMorte, a rising junior at Campbell College (S.C.), who won the 2011 NJSGA Boys’ Championship in 2011, held a brief lead during Wednesday’s second round before he suffered a triple bogey on the par-3 17th hole.
LaMorte held his own in the third round that was played in such gusty, windy conditions that the par-3 13thhole was closed (giving each player a par) because the green was deemed unplayable. The 13th hole was reopened for the final round after the hole was moved. During the round, LaMorte carded four birdies and three bogeys.
Obviously really tough conditions today,” said La Morte, 20, a Demarest resident. “I don’t think anyone was expecting to go out and shoot a really solid round. A bunch of other people are putting up good numbers, too.”
“I’m really happy I played well this morning and I’m hoping I can put in a good effort this afternoon,” said.
Greyserman, who felt he putted poorly on Wednesday, seemed more concerned with hitting good shots in the windy conditions. In the third round, he carded four bogeys and three birdies.
In winning in 2015 at Morris County Golf Club, Greyserman overcame a six-shot deficit heading into the final 18 holes when he shot a course-record 64.
“You have to hit it straight in these conditions. Sometimes you have to hit it low into the wind and also take a lot of extra club,” Greyserman said. “I’m hitting it well. I’ll be fine. I just want to keep doing what I’m doing,” said Greyserman before heading out for the final holes on Thursday afternoon.
View results for New Jersey State Amateur Golf Championship