Maryland Amateur: Cusic defeats Williams

PHOENIX, Mary. (June 12, 2011) -- Halfway through the final round of the 90th Maryland State Amateur championship, Mark Cusic, from Breton Bay Country Club, appeared to have things under control with a 3-up lead on Baltimore CC's Brett Williams at Hillendale Country Club in Phoenix, Baltimore County, June 12.

A superb 15-foot downhill birdie putt at the first hole of the second round sent Cusic to 4 up, but Williams responded with a birdie putt from a similar length at the second. It turned out to be the bell for what became a ding-dong match. Although he never led, Williams forced his foe to play it out to the end and Cusic hung on for a 2-up victory.

At the 561-yard 18th, with Cusic sitting eight feet from the cup, Williams had a 20-footer for birdie to prolong the issue, but when it ran by the hole, he shook Cusic's hand and it was alll over. "I'm just glad I didn't have to make my putt to win the match," a relieved Cusic said later. "I wasn't looking forward to that." However, almost every onlooker was certain he would have made the putt.

In the middle of the front nine in the afternoon round, Williams dented that 3-down deficit by winning the fifth with a par and the seventh with a birdie. He didn't know it at the time, but it was as close to the lead as he was going to get.

Cusic jacked the lead back to 3-up with birdies at the eighth and 12th but once again Williams battled back. He won the 13th with an up-and-down par from the right bunker after Cusic's shot from virtually the same spot rolled 15 feet from the hole and he missed the putt. At the par-3 15th, Williams stuck his tee shot inside a yard from the cup and the margin was back to one. They halved 16 and 17 to set up the climactic finish.

The winner, whose best previous showing in this event was as the medalist in 2002 and a spot in the quarterfinals, declared that his short game played a big part in his week. Although his approach shots were crisp and to the mark for the most part, he let some chances get away on the greens. "I've been playing well, just not putting," said Cusic, 32, who works in transportation at the Navy base near his California home in Southern Maryland. Cusic has been known as a tenacious battler for more than a decade.

Williams, 30, a first-time entry in the event, played solidly but, like his opponent, failed to ggain rewards for some fine ball-striking. For the rounds, Cusic shot 69-69 (-4), and Williams, 73-69 (even par). Each had one birdie over the final nine holes, but for the hot and mostly overcast day Cusic totaled eight and Williams six.

"I just wanted to make pars, but he forced me to make birdies," Cusic said. "My only real mistake was hitting a bad second shot at 13. That cost me and at 16 we both left birdie putts on the lip."

Williams said that, "I thought I played well. I gave myself an opportunity. It was fun, I just came up a little short." A big hitter with a solid overall game, he will be heard from in future area events.

The 91st Maryland Amateur will be contested June 7 - 10, 2012 at Chartwell Golf & Country Club. The qualifiers for the Amateur as well as the 91st Maryland Open to be played at Old South Country Club July 9 - 11 will be held at Rolling Road Golf Club and Holly Hills Country Club on Monday, May 7 as well as at Andrew AFB on Wednesday, May 16.

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