New York Mid-Am: Riter Birdies 18 to Win

GLENS FALLS, NY (September 27, 2009)--A steady stream of showers coated the course at Glens Falls Country Club in the final round of the 26th Mid-Amateur Championship on Sunday. Kenneth Riter, of the Park Club, handled the inclement weather with yet another round of consistent play and avoided a potential four-man playoff with a birdie at the 18th hole in front of a gallery of spectators for the victorious three-day total of 218.

The leaderboard fluctuated throughout the day as several names floated to the top at one point or another. After all ten groups had made the turn, there were ten individuals within two shots of the lead. A playoff atmosphere was brewing with four individuals sharing a tie of the lead at 6-over-par with four holes to play.

Jim Roy, who began the day three shots back of the lead, played the final round at even-par and waited as the leader in the clubhouse with three groups still left to finish. John Vaccaro also found himself in the mix of the playoff buzz following a 1-over-par performance that pitted him at 6-over-par 219 for the championship. Finally, Dennis Lynch, who started five shots back, turned up the heat with six birdies to close his round and fired the lowest total of the three-day event with a 69 to put the pressure on Riter.

But it was Riter who controlled his own destiny as he stepped to the 18th tee with a 53-hole total of 216, and one more left to play. “I was really peaceful at mind,” says Riter, on his mindset at the 18th tee. “I was focused on a strong shot to make a birdie putt.”

It turns out that the 36-hole leader and fellow final group player Kevin VandenBerg provided an epiphany of sorts in the mind frame of Riter. “When I missed the putt on 17, VandenBerg looks at me and said are you trying to win this tournament or what.” “It woke me up because it made me realize that I have this in my hands and all I have to do is birdie this last hole.”

VandenBerg would later help Riter even more at the next green since his tee-shot landed behind Riter’s ball, creating a perfect read for Riter on the most important stroke of his day. “VandenBerg’s ball was behind mine with the same line,” says Riter. “Mine was about eight feet and his was around 20 feet so I got a great read from him. And it was a real easy putt. I mean nothing is easy but when you play these greens you don’t get too many straight putts in a day and that was probably the straightest putt I had all day.”

On Saturday, Riter nearly put the finishing touches on a round of 1-under-par 70 but carded three straight bogeys to close his second round at 73. He atoned for his bogey barrage at the end of Saturday’s second round on those same final three holes with two clutch birdies; one on the 16th to give him a share of the lead, and one at the par-3 18th to seal his first victory in state competition. “After yesterday’s finish, bogey-bogey-bogey, I was trying to fix that one,” says Riter.

With three-day totals of 219 already turned in by Lynch, Roy, and Vaccaro, the Park Club’s Riter strived to avoid a playoff scenario, based on his previous luck with them this season. “I didn’t want to go to a playoff,” says Riter. “I’ve had a rough year with a couple playoffs so I tried hard to hit a good iron shot into the last hole.” Earlier this season, Riter lost in a playoff at his club championship (The Park Club).

Riter entered the final round trailing Saturday’s second round leader Kevin VandenBerg by one stroke. Despite the added pressure of competing in the last group, Riter was able to put together his lowest round of the event at 1-over-par 72. “Playing in the final group can get a little overwhelming but with all the rain there weren’t a lot of carts or a lot of people so it was easy to settle down,” says Riter.

“It was a really relaxing round,” says Riter. “I walked – because I just needed to be within myself. It’s something I like to do. You really got to manage yourself and organize yourself which is really important.”

At the par-5 16th, Riter returned to 6-over-par and was back in the hunt with three holes to play. He pulled driver on his first shot and then hit a 6-iron to where he could land a wedge shot close to reach the green in three strokes. Riter’s wedge shot ran about eight feet past the hole where he then made a right-to-left curling putt for birdie.

This year’s Mid-Amateur Championship marks the first state victory for Riter, who has competed in numerous state events over the years. Prior to this year, Riter’s best finish at the state level was 10th, which was three years ago at another Mid-Am event.

“It’s just surreal and I’m looking forward to enjoying it,” says Riter.

By Kevin Solan, NYSGA Media Intern

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