Billy Forcier and Michael Philipp
By Paul Kenyon
LINCOLN, RI (May 24, 2017) - Twice this month Billy Forcier has been involved in a dramatic finish to an RIGA tournament. He liked the ending to the Four-Ball Championship Wednesday at Kirkbrae a lot better than the one at the Burke Memorial two weeks ago.
Forcier calmly drained a seven-foot, par-saving putt on the long 18th hole at Kirkbrae to give him and his partner, Michael Philipp a one-stroke victory in the 68th Four-Ball.
Forcier was the last person to play. He knew that if he made his downhill slider he and Philipp would win. If he missed, the team would be in a playoff with Dave Carvara and Kevin Silva, their playing partners. Silva and Carvara already were in with pars on the final hole. A crowd was watching the goings on from the back porch of the Kirkbrae clubhouse. There were murmurs that Forcier’s putt was not an easy one. John Auclair, who with his son Brad had been in contention much of the day, had just missed from almost the same spot minutes earlier. His putt broke away from the hole and slide low in the final inches.
Forcier spoke later about how the situation helped him. Philipp had just narrowly missed a 10-footer coming back up the hill for his par. That putt slowed as it neared the hole and broke just low. Since Philipp already had five, Forcier could putt without worrying about sliding past the hole.
"I played it inside the hole," he said. He took any break out of it by hitting it firmly. It went dead in the center.
Philipp and Forcier shot 68 for an 8-under 134 total. Carvara and Silva had 70 for 135. Two-time champions Kyle Hoffman and Ryan Pelletier had 68 and tied for third with four-time Amateur champion Brad Valois and Greg Simoneau (69) at 137.
Forcier also won the tournament in 2008, while he was playing for URI, with partner Patrick O’Neill.
Wednesday’s finish was in contrast to two weeks ago when Forcier led the Burke Memorial with two holes to go, but his shot into the water on the par-3 17th at Shelter Harbor and tripled the hole.
"I kind of fumbled that one away," Forcier said. "But not today."
The other big story of the day was the withdrawal of the two-time defending champions, Bobby Leopold and Tyler Cooke.
Those two had recorded a 4-under 67 in the opening round to tie for third. However, their late starting time in the second round (1:50) made it impossible for them to complete the second round. They had a 6:30 p.m. flight Wednesday night from Green Airport Wednesday night to Pinehurst, N.C., where they have qualified for the USGA Four-Ball Championship.
Cooke and Leopold looked into changing their flight, but they could not get anything that would have gotten them to Pinehurst in time to play a practice round on Thursday. They debated playing as long as they could in the second round, then leaving. In the end, though, they decided it was best simply to withdraw before play in the second round and allow them and their families plenty of time to prepare for the trip to the national championship.
Their withdrawal insured that the tournament history of never having a team win three years in a row would continue. Eight teams, including Cooke and Leopold, have won the event two years in a row, a list that includes a host of RIGA Hall of Famers. The back-to-back winners are Bobby Allen and Don Carner in 1959-60, Fred Campanelli and Angelo Santilli 63-64, Fred Schick and Charlie Smith 70-71, Peter Brown and Marc Forbes 86-87, John Auclair and Joey Iaciofano 97-98, Ben Tuthill and Chad Spancer 03-04 and Kyle Hoffman and Ryan Pelletier 13-14.
First Round Recap
By Paul Kenyon
LINCOLN _ If Bobby Leopold and Tyler Cooke are going to become the first team to win the RIGA Four-Ball three years in a row, they are going to have to come from behind to do it. That is, if they are able to finish the tournament at all.
The two-time defending champions got off to a slow start Tuesday in the first round of the 68th annual Four-Ball at Kirkbrae. They were only even-par for the front nine, before posting four birdies on the back for a 32 on that side and 4-under 67 total.
That left them in a tie for third, two strokes behind leaders Kevin Silva and Dave Carvara. That team, boosted by three birdies by Cavara on the front side, posted a bogey-free 6-under 65. The team of Billy Forcier and Michael Philipp also went without a bogey on the way to a 66 and second place. Dr. Chris Roloff and his partner, Bernard Manchester, tied for third with Cooke and Leopold with a 67 despite a six on the par-5 14th hole.
In all, 16 of the 70 teams shot par or better, setting up for a nice finish. The question is whether the defending champions, bidding to do what no team has ever done with a third straight win, will be able to finish.
Cooke and Leopold have qualified for the third annual USGA Four-Ball that begins later this week in Pinehurst, N.C., at the No. 2 and No. 8 courses. Practice rounds are Thursday and Friday. The two brothers-in-law long ago booked flights Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. from Green Airport.
They originally were not going to sign up to defend their title at Kirbrae but Scott Cooke, Tyler’s father and Bobby father-in-law, encouraged them to play because they were not certain about the second day in the RIGA event.
"Scott thought getting in competition like this would be a great way to get ready for Pinehurst," Leopold related.
So they played Tuesday and put themselves in contention again, meaning they would have one of the last tee times, which would make it impossible to finish.
"Our thought was to play as many holes as we can, but leave to make sure we caught our plane," Leopold said. The two looked into leaving Thursday, but there was no way they could get to Pinehurst in time to get in their practice round.
Cooke and Leopold made RIGA officials away of their situation and they discussed the possibility of earlier tee times. Bob Ward, the RIGA director, said he sympathized with their situation, but that it would not be fair to the rest of the field if Cooke and Leopold were given special treatment. The end result was that Cooke and Leopold were going to think about their situation before making a final decision on what to do.
The leaders heading into the final round are not a big surprise. Carvara and Silva tied for second last year and had the lowest score on the second day. However, the way they got to the top was a bit of a surprise. It was Carvara, not former State Amateur champion Silva, who led the way.
"He played great, especially on the front nine," Silva said of Carvara. Carvara had three of the team’s four birds on the way to a 31 on the front.
Four-time State Amateur champion Brad Valois, playing with his friend and frequent caddie Greg Simoneau, shot 68 to stand in fifth place, three off the lead.View results for Rhode Island Four-Ball