Kevin Silva victorious at Rhode Island Amateur
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Kevin Silva left no doubt on Friday that he was the best player in the 110th RIGA Amateur Championship.

The 31-year-old former pro who lives in New Bedford and plays out of Montaup, hit his first approach shot in the scheduled 36-hole title match against John Jacopsic within one foot of the hole for a kick in birdie.

He then birdied the second hole as well. Then took the third with a par. Before many had finished their first cup of morning coffee, Silva had a three-hole lead. Playing steady, methodical, almost mistake- free golf, the former University of North Carolina star went on from there to a 6-and-5 triumph. He was 4-under for the 31 holes.

While Silva piled up numerous honors in high school and college and then played seven years as a professional, he spoke about how the victory was satisfying in that, less than two years after regaining his amateur status, he was able to put on a true championship display. Beyond pure talent, he showed newfound maturity.

"I was talking with my father last night last night and told him this was the difference between the 21-year-old Kevin and the 31-year-old Kevin,’’ he related. "Both of my matches yesterday went down to the wire and I was able to muster a couple of wins.

"I was able to stay within myself. I thought, `If this guy beats me, he beats me.’ When I was younger, I tried to force things. Now I know I just play my game and if someone beats me, he beats me.’’

Silva works for a field engineer for a company that builds cell phone towers. He travels throughout New England and does not get to play as much as he used, too, often just practice at night after work.

"It’s for the love of the game,’’ he said of why he plays. "I really and truly love the competition. I love the game of golf.’’

"I can’t say that enough, just the grind of it,’’ he said of the joy of competing. "It’s going through your pre-shot routine every time. It’s visualizing shots. It’s playing on greens that are phenomenal that are rolling 12 ½ out here. You’ve got to have some imagination on how you putt.

"I’ve enjoyed that aspect of just grinding, really trying to do my absolute best,’’ he went on. "If the outcome were maybe to be a negative one, all I know is that I did my best . My pre-shot routine was solid every time. And my concentration was solid as far as what targets I wanted to hit at. You can’t force an outcome. I just tried to do as best I could with what I could control.’’

The 5-foot-8, 140-pounder is surprisingly long. While he played well all week, he seemed to play better as the pressure grew.

"As I got up, that was the time I focused the hardest. I didn’t want to give him the opportunity to come back,’’ he said. "I just tried to keep myself thinking I was even in the match.’’

"He just didn’t make many mistakes,’’ Jackopsic said. "I was able to cut it to one late in the first round then he made birdie on 17 and 18 to win those holes.’’

Any hope Jackopsic might have held on to was dashed at the 29th hole. Silva’s lead was 5-up. Jackopsic hit his approach on the par-4 within four feet. Silva watched, then drilled his approach just past the hole. It spun back and nearly went in for a deuce. It ended up inches from the cup for a conceded bird. When Jackopsic missed his birdie putt the issue was all but settled.

Silva, the first player ever from Montaup to win the title, spoke about his he was able to only because he won the lottery. The Montaup lottery that is. He was a member of New Bedford Country Club last year. But fees go up for anyone over age 30. He would have had to pay more money to belong and he was thinking of doing it.

Friends told him about how Montaup has a drawing every few years to decide which members from its waiting list to offer memberships.

"I won it,’’ he said. "I was able to get in an associate member. I love it there.’’ Because of him, Montaup will have a new championship trophy to display in the clubhouse.

ABOUT THE Rhode Island Amateur

Rhode Island-sanctioned event running for over 100 years. 36-holes of stroke play qualifying to determine a match play bracket of 32 players.

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