Brett Gottsegen and Zach Stark (NJSGA photo)
MONROE, N.J. — Zach Stark of Cedar Hill connected on a pair of late long-range putts and the 12th-seeded team of Stark and lifelong friend Brett Gottsegen of Essex County, the No. 12 seeds, won the 83rd NJSGA Four-Ball Championship on Wednesday, August 12, at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe.
In the final Wednesday afternoon, Stark and Gottsegen defeated Merv Smith of Neshanic Valley and partner Mike Ryan of Galloping Hill, 3 and 1.
In the morning semifinals, Stark and Gottsegen beat Dan Macdonald of Arcola and Devin Drobbin of Hollywood, 4 and 3, while Smith and Ryan ousted brothers Ethan and Jeremy Wall of Manasquan River, 21 holes.
Coming into the par-4 15th hole, the match stood all square, but Stark broke the tie when he knocked in a 20-footer from below the hole. He dropped another bomb on the par-4 16th hole, this one even longer, a slightly downhill 25-footer to give his team a 2-up lead with two holes to play.
The match ended when Gottsegen parred the par-3 No. 17 hole against bogeys for his opponents.
“I had the line the whole way, after Merv and mike nearly made their long putts,” said Stark of the putt on No. 15. “I knew I had to give it a free run. I saw the line.
“I had switched from a blade to a mallet putter after our first round of stroke play. I had good speed throughout with the new putter and my confidence kept building,” said Stark, who played on the Stetson University golf team but is transferring this year to Indiana University.
Stark, 20, and Gottsegen, 21, first met in grade school, then were teammates on the Livingston High School golf team.
“This was a good comeback story,” said Gottsegen, who is transferring from Ohio State to Rutgers. “We were the lowest seed in all four of our matches. It’s pretty cool to win this. It’s a good way to finish the season.”
The pair are considering qualifying for the U.S. Four-Ball Championship next summer.
“We got off to a shaky start. We were two down early,” Stark said. “We finally got it back to all square after winning 12 and 13 with a par and a birdie. I was a little frustrated because I was hitting good shots and not getting them to the pin.”
“We had a little talk between shots,” Gottsegen remembered. “We tried to calm each other down.”
“We were outplayed,” Smith, 48, said. “They made the putts down the stretch like we had been doing in the other matches. “
Last year’s champions, Max Greyserman and Jim Rosenthal of Crestmont did not compete this year.
Smith had also been in the finals in 2009 at Metedeconk when he and teammate Ron Cochran of High Mountain lost to the team of Frank DeCraine and Keith Graham, friends of Smith’s from Neshanic Valley.
In the Smith/Ryan vs. Wall/Wall semifinal, each team had opportunities to win. It looked like the Walls had it sewn up on the par-4 18th hole when Ethan Wall lined up his 15-foot putt try for birdie which just slipped off the left edge.
Smith/Ryan looked like a sure winner on the 20th hole (No. 2 on Banks Course) when Jeremy Wall was left with a 15-footer for par to keep the match alive after Smith had parred from 20 feet. Jeremy’s putt just had enough steam to catch the right edge of the cup and fall in.
“I thought the putt on 18 looked better than the one on the 20th hole,” said Jeremy Wall, 20, a rising sophomore at Loyola of Maryland where he will be joined on the team this year by his older brother Ethan, 21, a transfer from Lehigh. “We had a lot of opportunities.”
The Walls will be playing next Tuesday in a qualifier for the U.S. Four-Ball Championship at The Federal Club in Glen Allen, Va.
Smith finally gave his team the victory in extra holes – as he did in the quarterfinals – by making par from 25 feet as both Walls bogeyed after errant tee shots to the par-3 third hole.
“Every match goes overtime. This is familiar territory,” said Smith, 48, who works in the insurance industry with Ryan. “We have no real strategy. We’ve had our moments. It’s good that we trust each other.
“You don’t get to the finals with one guy. Mike Ryan covered the front nine and I covered the back nine,” Smith said of the match against the Walls.
Ryan of Galloping Hill 26, played on the golf team at Cabrini College and also at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange. In 2014, he qualified for the State Open and missed the cut by one stroke.
After losing the first hole, Smith/Ryan went ahead with a birdie on the par-5 eighth hole. The match stayed that way until the Walls birdie the par-4 15th and 16th holes. But Ryan’ s par vicgory on No. 17 got the match all square.
A run of three straight birdies on holes 9, 10 and 11 by Gottsegen on putts inside 10 feet, gave his team a 2-up lead.
Stark made a 20-foot birdie for a win on the par-3 No.. 13 to go 3 up. After halving No. 14, Gottsegen drained a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 15 for the 4-and-3 victory.
“We missed the cut last year so we have some motivation,” Gottsegen said.
“I feel we’ve gotten better each round,” said Stark.
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