Dan Ayars (L) and Andy Kerestesy (R)
SKILLMAN, NJ (August 28, 2018) - Five teams fighting in a sudden-death playoff, featuring furnacing playing temperatures, for the Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship title.
That’s how it all played out Monday at a searing Cherry Valley Country Club (par 72, 6,287 yards). For a single team out of a packed field of 61, the enduring day was all worth it.
Running Deer Golf Club’s Dan Ayars jarred a seven-foot birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 330 yards), the fifth playoff hole, to emerge victorious alongside clubmate Andy Kerestesy in the 47th Four-Ball rendition, a better-ball of partners event.
“Boy, that was fun,” said Ayars walking off the winning green. “But now we need to go home.”
The challenging day hosted a multitude of fantastic rounds posted in both the morning and afternoon waves.
The first Four-Ball group out, Little Mill Country Club’s Vince Kwon and Bradley Roberts, posted an impressive 10-under 62 to grab the morning clubhouse lead. That mark wouldn’t, by any means, go unmatched in the second wave. First came Concord Country Club’s Jim Allen and Larry Benedetto, followed by the team of Yardley Country Club’s John Buliga and Coatesville Country Club’s David Kimbley, and eventually Lebanon Country Club’s John Digiacomo and Alan Kliewer.
Ayars and Kerestesy were the final of five 10 unders to make their way in to the huddled scoring table. The champion's 18 was a bit of a roller coaster ride, including peak moments (three eagles, six birdies) and lows (two bogeys).
“[Andy] played incredible out there today. I played well, too. The course and flagsticks really seemed to just fit our eye and games,” said Ayars. “Those eagles were the key, though.”
“Those really got us going. They kickstarted us,” said Kerestesy, 36, of Vineland, N.J. “We knew after the two back-to-back eagles on Nos. 9 (par 5, 515 yards) and 10 (par 5, 485 yards) that we had a legit chance of winning this.”
The up-and-down round ended on Cherry Valley’s finisher (par 4, 380 yards), where the duo had a chance to win in regulation. Kerestesy rolled a tremendous birdie putt from 25 feet out, but the ball snuck around the back lip instead of dropping.
“I really thought that one was in the bottom of the cup,” he said.
Soon after, a five-team playoff began on No. 1 amidst the setting sun. Five approach shots landed within 12 feet there. Only two of those birdies looks went down: a three-footer by Ayars and five-footer by Roberts. The playoff was cut to just two dueling duos.
On the par-3, 185-yard 2nd, Kerestesy found tree trouble right but played a beautiful chip that rolled to three feet. Kwon, finding the green right, rolled a 40-foot birdie putt to the same distance. Both players missed the short looks, shaking their heads in disbelief.
Next came No. 3 (par 5, 488 yards), where Kerestesy’s two-putt 4 was matched by a 30-foot birdie bomb by Ayars. More missed opportunities arrived on No. 4 (par 4, 375 yards), with two-putt pars being recorded for both teams. The playoff headed back to where it all began.
All four players enlisted their drivers off the tee, leaving minimal, wedge approach shots in. Ayars found himself with a tough lie on the right downslope, but tossed a wedge onto the front of the putting surface, letting it roll out to seven feet. After both Little Mill looks failed to drop, the stage was set. Ayars stepped up and drained his third birdie on No. 1, this time for the win.
“I had two tap-in birdies there, and then that seven footer to clinch it. I loved that hole, obviously,” said Ayars, 41, of Millville, N.J. “I was really nervous on the first tee at the beginning, teeing off in front of all those guys, but I played it so well.”
The former PGA apprentice was playing in his first competitive amateur tournament since regaining his status a month ago. It was a big return to the amateur game, and one that will keep him coming back for more.
“I was in the PGA program when I was younger, but then stepped away from the game. I still played casually, but when I joined Running Deer three years ago, I started to want to play again,” said Ayars. “There’s so much talent at the club now, plus it's close to my house. We’ve got some good players there. I’m just happy to have my status back so I can play in these events.”
Kerestesy says bringing home a title to Running Deer is what he is most excited about.
“We’re thrilled to have gotten a trophy, especially after how tough of a day it was. It was a battle,” said Kerestesy. “It’s going to be really fun to bring home a trophy to the club and the guys.”
“Seriously, my phones already buzzing in my pocket,” said Ayars.
Buliga holed out with an 8-iron on No. 10 (par 5, 485 yards) for an albatross. His ball landed fiercely in the cup on the fly, leaving a damaged lip. GAP officials came to the cup’s rescue soon after.View results for Philadelphia Four-Ball