Maryland Amateur: Williams, Cusic move to finals

PHOENIX, Mary. (June 11, 2011) -- Brett Williams never led until he birdied the 18th hole for a 1-up decision over John Howson, and Mark Cusic was never behind during the last 13 holes as he put out 2008 champion Michael Mulieri, 2 and 1, in the semifinals of the 90th Maryland State Amateur championship at Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Baltimore County, June 11.

The two finalists were not among the favorites in the preliminary assessments of veteran Amateur watchers. Williams, 30, moved to Baltimore last December and plays from Baltimore Country Club. An Ohioan, he played golf at Ohio State and and last year lived in Northern Virginia prior to relocating because of his sales position with Worthington Steel Co. He was a Virginia State Amateur quarterfinalist last year and later won the Baltimore CC stroke-play championship.

Cusic, 32, has played in area events for at least a decade, was the MSGA Amateur medalist in 2002, and his best Amateur effort was reaching the quarterfinals one time. Additionally, he played on Breton Bay's two MSGA Team Match championship squads in 2006-07.

Against Howson, the two-time and defending Maryland Senior Open champion who is recognized for his bulldog determination and sharp short game, Williams never led until the 18th green, where his approach shot came to rest six feet from the cup and he made the putt at the 561-yard finisher. Howson's birdie putt just slid by the hole. Earlier, at the 16th, Howson had a putt -- normally a strength -- for a winning par but the four-footer rolled past. And later, both cited it as a key factor in the match.

In the Cusic-Mulieri match, during the first five holes, each won one with a par, but Cusic birdied the uphill sixth from five feet and the par-5 eighth from 15 feet above the hole after his opponent missed his first putt from the fringe. Two down, Mulieri got one back with a par at the 12th. He then struck a shot from the left rough onto the green of the 490 yard par 4 thirteen, only leave his 12 foot birdie putt short while Cusic saved par with a pitch from 100 yards to four feet. Cusic regained the lead when his tee shot at the 172-yard 15th stopped three feet from the cup for a conceded birdie. Mulieri still had a chance to stay in the hunt at the 16th, but his par putt from five feet never touched the hole and he then missed a birdie from 18 feet on the seventeenth green. "I couldn't make any putts; I putted really poorly," Mulieri said of his afternoon effort. In the morning -- "I was fine for 12 holes, then just hung on" -- it was he who made the birdie at 18 to sidetrack Charlie Winegardner, 1 up, in what had been a see-saw contest.

The other quarterfinal results saw Howson edge defending champion Sean Bosdosh, 1 up; Williams thwart 2008 finalist Steven Delmar, Jr., 2 and 1, and Cusic need all of his short-game heroics -- he was knocking everything close -- to outlast three-time Maryland Junior champion Josh Eure, who is currently a member of the University of Arkansas golf team. All square after regulation, Cusic sealed the win with a 35-yard pitch to a foot at the 525-yard first extra hole.

The scheduled 36-hole final will start at 7 a.m., Sunday, June 12.

ABOUT THE Maryland State Amateur

This tournament is open to male amateurs who are residents of Maryland or members of member clubs of the MSGA with an up-to-date USGA index at that club. 18 hole qualifying rounds will be held for those who do not meet exemption criteria. 18 holes of stroke play will determine the match play field of 32, with the defending champion automatically qualifying unless he elects to compete for the Medalist prize.

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