Met Mid-Am: Rohlf in playoff

BAYONNE, N.J. (Oct. 7, 2008) – The conclusion of the second MGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Bayonne Golf Club was as dramatic as expected, culminating in a four-man, sudden-death playoff won by Greg Rohlf of Winged Foot Golf Club. Rohlf rolled in a double-breaking, 30-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to beat Mike Stamberger of Plainfield, John Ervasti of Winged Foot, and first-round co-leader Alan Specht of Wheatley Hills to win his fourth career MGA championship.

“I felt real comfortable hitting the ball today,” Rohlf said. “I knew the golf course a little better, and knew better where to hit shots today. It’s such a unique course, and it feels great to win this event."

Rohlf, 43, began the day five strokes out of the lead held by Specht, Ken Bakst of Friar’s Head, Steven Alex of North Jersey and Ed Gibstein of Engineers, who all shot even-par 71 in yesterday’s first round. Playing more than an hour in front of the leaders, Rohlf shot an even-par 71 for a two-round total of five-over-par 147.

That score looked good enough for a top-ten finish, but as the wind picked up and players struggled to make birdies, Rohlf’s name rose higher up the leaderboard until he was just one stroke out of the lead shared by Specht, Ervasti and Stamberger. All three players bogeyed the par-four 18th hole to fall one shot farther back, finishing at 147 to tie Rohlf.

The four players proceeded to the downhill, par-four 16th hole at Bayonne to begin the playoff, and Rohlf had a chance to end things there. After a 200-yard approach shot that settled 12 feet away from the hole, Rohlf narrowly missed his birdie putt, and all four competitors made par to advance to the second playoff hole.

On that hole, Rohlf hit a long drive in the middle of the fairway that left him a 9-iron to the very difficult green, which sits on a hillside fronting New York Harbor.

After Stamberger two-putted for a par, Rohlf lined up a twisting, downhill birdie attempt from 30 feet.

“I was actually pretty calm over the putt,” he said afterward. “I always write my kids’ names on my golf ball, and I looked at it just before I putted it and had a good feeling when I saw their names. I just felt relaxed and put a really good stroke on it.”

First-round co-leader Bakst shot a 77 to finish in fifth place alone at 148. Coming in tied for sixth at 149 were Pieter Hartong of Stanwich and Niall Handley of High Bridge Hills. Tying for eighth at 150 were Dan Goldstein of Mill River (N.Y.) and Ed Gibstein of Engineers. The victory was especially meaningful for the large crowd of competitors who stayed to watch the awards ceremony. The MGA Mid-Amateur is an invitational for players aged 35 years and over, and last year during the inaugural year of the championship, the permanent trophy was named after longtime MGA Senior Director of Rules and Competitions Gene Westmoreland.

Rohlf, who has played in MGA events since he his junior years in the late 1970s, said during the ceremony, “It means the world to me to have my name on the Westmoreland Cup. To be permanently linked to a trophy with Gene’s name on it is just really special.”

--Courtesy MGA

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