EAST PROVIDENCE, RI (August 16, 2016) -- As head-to-head duels go, the one staged Tuesday by Bobby Leopold and Brad Valois will go down as one of the best the Rhode Island Golf Association has seen in years.
Rhode Island’s two dominant players put on a great show before Leopold took advantage of a late mistake by Valois and won by three. Leopold posted a closing 68, which added to his opening 66 gave him a dazzling 6-under-par 134 total at Metacomet Country Club. Valois registered a 69 despite a double-bogey six after tree trouble on the uphill par-4 17th and finished at 137.
The final member of the last threesome on the course, George Pirie, took third overall with a 72 and 139 total. Pirie also won the Senior Division, even though he competed from the back tees while most of the others in the 55-and-over division took advantage of the RIGA’s tee-it-forward program and played from the white tees.
The title was the third for Leopold in the event. He also won in 2011 and 2012. It was one of the most satisfying wins in his impressive RIGA career.
The insurance man did not make a bogey in the first 27 holes. But he had a battle all the way as he and Valois turned it into a horse race that saw both driving down the stretch. Not that the battle between the two is a surprise. The two have been the cream of the RIGA crop for some time and they played like it in breezy conditions over the beautifully conditioned Metacomet course.
"It was a pleasure watching them," said Pirie. "That was my dream pairing getting to play with them. They’re both sensational players and my friends. The put on a show."
Leopold and Valois two went at it from the start. Leopold, beginning the day with a one-stroke lead, birdied the first hole. So did Valois. Leopold birdied the par-5 second, too. And so did Valois. Leopold birdied the fifth and went out in 3-under 33. Valois birdied 8 and 9 for a 32 on the front, pulling him even and turning it into strictly a two-man race.
Leopold made his first bogey of the tournament on the long par-3 10th, and responded with birds at 11 and 12. Valois also birdied 11. Leopold got his lead to two strokes before Valois birdied the 16th to pull within one.
The 17th turned out to be the key swing. Valois drove through the trees and then hit a tree trying to come out. The ball dropped straight down. He punched out but still was not on the green in three. He chipped on and two putted for six.
The victory meant much for Leopold.
"I haven’t been winning anything," he said. "I was second in the New England's. I’ve had a lot of close chances but I haven’t won anything for a while. You begin to question if you’re doing something wrong. Why can’t I win? I go home and my son is always asking me if I won a trophy. Today I can tell him I won a trophy."
The Senior Division contest was just as good as the overall competition. Pirie won a terrific three-way battle in that one with Dean Parziale and Paul Quigley. The 66-year-old Pirie was one of the few players in the 55-and-over division who competed from the black tee while most of the others used the shorter blue tees. Parziale and Quigley, competing more than an hour ahead of Pirie, gave the doctor a target. Parziale added a 73 to his opening 67 to finish at even-par 140.
The age defying 71-year-old Quigley beat his age by four strokes, with a sparkling 67 for 141. It was the second time this year Quigley has shot his age. But he had to settle for third because Pirie shot a 72 for 139.
Pirie was not aware of where he stood in the senior race but he saw Parziale head out and join the fans watching him play with Leopold and Valois.
"I thought that might mean something but I didn’t know where I stood,’’ Pirie said. "I just knew I had to keep grinding." In a style he has displayed so often, he birdied 16 to pull even with Parziale, birdied 17 to go ahead then lipped out a 10-footer for still another bird on 18 and won by one.
Quigley, Parziale and Pirie are now the top three players in the Senior Player-of-the-Year contest head to the Senior Amateur Sept. 13-14 at Triggs.
View results for Rhode Island Mid-Amateur Golf Championship