DARIEN, Conn. (May 6, 2008)--On a day when swirling winds made for very difficult scoring conditions, 2005 Met Amateur champion and first-round leader Ron Vannelli of Metuchen Golf & Country Club (N.J.) captured a one-stroke victory in the 81st MGA Senior Amateur Championship at Wee Burn Country Club.
Vannelli carried a three-stroke lead into today’s final round after posting an even-par 72 in Monday’s first round. However, after a bogey-bogey start and a five-over 40 on the front nine, Vannelli saw his cushion evaporate as Joe Sommers of Winged Foot was playing solidly and moved into a two-stroke lead. But the 60-year-old Vannelli would rally with birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to pull even, and when Sommers bogeyed the 487-yard, par-five finishing hole, Vannelli regained his lead and managed a two-putt par on the 18th to finish with a 77 and a two-round total of five-over 149.
“I felt relieved, for sure,” said Vannelli. “I thought I would have to birdie the last three holes to have a chance to win, and I sure tried to. But Joe kind of gave one back there and I was just happy to make a par.”
Vannelli, the 2005 MGA Player of the Year, is no stranger to the winners’ circle, and the MGA Senior Amateur marks his second significant victory in as many weeks. He also won the Senior Division of the Richardson Invitational at Seawane Country Club on Long Island last week.
“This ranks right up there, and it’s always a great feeling to win an MGA event," he said.
Vannelli will take the confidence from this victory into the Ike Championship, which will be played at Mountain Ridge Country Club in West Caldwell, N.J.
“That’s a great course, and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Vannelli. “I can’t hit it as long as those young guys anymore, but I still enjoy competing against them.”
Sommers, a former Westchester and NYC Amateur champion and two-time club champion at Winged Foot, looked to be in good position to claim his first individual MGA championship (he is a past Ike team winner). On the 18th hole, Sommers hit a good drive but pushed his second shot into a deep bunker 50 yards short of the green, and took two more shots to get on. He then hit his par putt four feet by the hole, and sunk the comeback putt for a bogey six and a six-over 150 total. It was typical on a day when many players struggled to stay close to par.
James Hamburger of Red Hook Golf Club finished in third place with a total of 153. The top three finishers in this event gain automatic entry to the MGA Mid-Amateur Championship, which will be played at Bayonne Golf Club in October.
The 6,602-yard, par-72 Wee Burn layout played much tougher than the yardage would indicate. The two-day event is the first MGA championship to be played on the newly renovated Wee Burn track since the MGA last visited the club in 2003 for the Father & Son Championship.
Winged Foot Golf Club had a record six players survive the 18-hole cut, which came at eight-over par 80. A total of 32 players out of 184 who began Monday’s first round made it to today’s final round, and among the other players in the top 10 were James Graham of Winged Foot (T-4), Robert McIntyre of Plainfield (T-4), and two-time Senior Amateur champion Steve Rose of Fresh Meadow (T-7). Last year’s champion, Jay Blumenfeld of Mountain Ridge, missed the cut by a stroke.