Jamie Lukowicz (RIGA photo)
In last year’s John Burke Memorial (Gross), Jamie Lukowicz and Tyler Cooke were battling it out for the tournament title as well as the 2018 Rhode Island Golf Association Player of the Year.
But since the Burke had to finish in the fall due to weather, Lukowicz was unable to compete due to some prior obligations. Cooke won the rescheduled Burke and the Player of the Year also.
This year, Lukowicz bettered Cooke, and a few chasers to claim his first Burke (Gross) title after rounds of even-par 69 Tuesday at Pawtucket Country Club (6,420 yards) and a 1-under-par 70 at Shelter Harbor Golf Club (par 71, 6,464 yards) on Wednesday.
His two-day total of 139 was good enough for a three-shot victory over Pawtucket’s Andrew O’Leary who finished solo second.
Round 1 leader Cooke, of Wannamoisett Country Club, finished in a tie for third with Michael Philipp also of Pawtucket with a score of 143. A back-nine 40 took the defending champion Cooke out of contention.
“Winning the Burke is hard,” said Lukowicz, 45, of Providence, R.I. “I have come close a couple of times. It’s a good tournament and it is hard because of how early in the season it is. The weather is usually tough also. The greens were really quick and with the wind whipping on and off it was challenging.
“It was nice to win this one and battle with Tyler [Cooke] down the stretch like last year. Tuesday, I missed a good amount of putts and then I missed a 3-footer for birdie on the opening hole today. I made some good putts coming in. I had a lot of fun out there.”
Lukowicz drew even with Cooke after carding a 2 under 34 on the front nine to Cooke’s 35 and took the lead for good after a clutch par on No. 14 (par 4, 437 yards).
The 2014-15 RIGA Mid-Amateur champion, as well as the defending RIGA Stroke Play champion, made some key adjustments warming up before the final round. Learning from Tuesday’s mistakes to prepare Wednesday’s challenge.
“I knew that I needed to clean up some parts of my game after Tuesday and on the range this morning I made sure to focus on my wedges,” said Lukowicz, of Metacomet Golf Club. “I hit some fat wedges at Pawtucket and struggled on the greens. I found something in my putting stroke in the middle of the round that helped me make some putts. That was the difference.”
O’Leary, a rising sophomore at the University of Notre Dame carded a final round of 70 to put him alone in second.
He said his putting was outstanding in the final round and each of his three birdie putts on Nos. 6, (par 3, 178 yards) 10 (par 4, 458 yards) and 13 (par 4, 324 yards) were 15 feet.
“The conditions played a role in how I decided to attack the golf course today,” said O’Leary, 19, of Norfolk, Mass. “I felt like I could attack a little more than I could yesterday at Pawtucket since the weather was cold and raw. I felt better over the ball and my body felt better overall. I was able to make more confident swings.
“I was trying to steer my golf ball too much early. A lot of the tee shots here are intimidating. It’s important to be focused around here.”
O’Leary played 29 rounds at Notre Dame during the 2018-19 season and compiled a 73.17 stroke average. Good for fifth best on the team as a freshman.
“I learned a lot at Notre Dame this year,” said O’Leary. “Especially how to balance school and golf. Notre Dame’s curriculum is hard so I definitely learned a lot. I played a ton of cool places and played a lot of tournaments as a freshman which was huge for me.”
Lukowicz stamped his name on the trophy with a clutch birdie on No. 17 (par 3, 178 yards).
“No. 17 was significant for me,” said Lukowicz. “I hit a nicely-flighted 7-iron in there to 15 feet and then Tyler hit one inside me. Making that birdie gave me a three-shot lead and a nice way to finish.”
Shelter Harbor has always been a place Lukowicz has been fond of. Now he can say he’s an RIGA champion at the Charlestown club that hosts Rhode Island’s premier amateur event for the golfers in its state in June.
“Any time you win in Rhode Island it is good,” said Lukowicz. “Although Rhode Island isn’t the biggest state, we have a lot of great players. It was a great win for me. This gives me good momentum heading into the Rhode Island Amateur here in a few weeks. This prepares me well.”
Jon Fasick was lost with his driver on the front nine of the final round of the 21st John Burke Memorial (Gross) at Shelter Harbor. When he made the turn, something clicked.
Fasick, of New England Country Club, found each fairway on the back nine and recorded pars on the final 10 holes to close out his first Burke Senior title. Fasick backed up a 74 (5 over) at Pawtucket with another 74 (3 over) at Shelter Harbor for a total of 148.
“I believe you can score better on the back nine than the front,” said Fasick. “With the wind direction the back was easier today and I took advantage. I hit every fairway on the back. I didn’t feel right with my driver on the front but found something on the back.”
Fasick prevailed by a shot over Metacomet Country Club’s Bruce Heterick who finished with a two-day total of 149.
“There’s a lot of good senior players in the field,” said Fasick, 66, of Bellingham, Mass. “So it feels really good to come out on top. It’s early in the year so I was just trying to get my swing going. I am kind of surprised at how well I played on the back nine. I rolled a lot of putts over the edges.”
Fasick got off to a red-hot start when he stuffed a 60-degree wedge to 10 feet on No. 1 (par 5, 518 yards). But he said it was nice to start with a birdie because he always finds a way to bogey No. 2 (par 4, 379 yards) when he plays here.
Like many golfers in the New England states, finding good golf weather has been tough. Due to cool and rainy conditions, the ability to golf has been limited.
“The courses up here are so wet and are playing so long that it was a great treat to play a place that was dry as well as firm and fast,” said Fasick. “The course was in tour condition today.
“Most tournaments I try to get around even par. If I could shoot around par today, I thought that would be good considering the cold and windy conditions. I was pleased with how I plodded my way around Shelter Harbor today.”
Fasick said he would enjoy a beer or two after thinking back on his performance the past two days. But he said you couldn’t stay in the past for too long.
“All of the guys that play in events like these are great guys,” said Fasick. “I enjoy the camaraderie the most. If you win an event, it is gone in a couple of hours. You move forward to the next one and try to win that one.”
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