Bradford Tilley (NYSGA photo)
Bradford Tilley came, saw and conquered this week during his debut at the 36th New York State Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Tuscarora Golf Club in Marcellus.
The player from Sleepy Hollow Country Club posted a record-setting 9-under 204 over 54 holes of stroke play, to secure his first state title by seven strokes.
He was the only competitor to shoot under par during all three rounds on the Seymour Dunn par-71 layout, posting 69-66-69, going wire-to-wire in the historic victory.
“It’s incredible, what a great feeling. It’s setting in now, I’m looking forward to talking to friends and family.”
Tom Linehan of Brook-Lea Country Club and David May of Highland Park Golf Club tied for runner-up at 2-under 211.
Tilley, 36, who had a lengthy drive to Central New York for the championship and had never seen the golf course, ensured he scheduled a practice round for Thursday.
“Woke up really early to get up here. Played a full 18 holes even though it was raining and mapped out a game plan for the course. I talked to the guy in the pro shop and he said put it in the fairway, lay it back, give yourself numbers into the green. I tried to stick to that all week. Be aggressive when I had to be but also keep it in play and below the hole. The greens are very difficult, you need to be putting uphill or else you’ll have a tough time two-putting.”
He held a five-stroke advantage after posting a tournament-low 66 during the second round. “It was hard to focus in the beginning of the day. I had a long afternoon and evening last night knowing I had a big lead and sleeping on it,” said Tilley, who was staying in nearby Hamilton with a close friend.
Players in contention needed a few slip ups from Tilley and to post a low number during the final round to have a chance at catching him.
“It’s tough, you go out and know that people are waiting for you to have a few hiccups. I had a couple early.”
He made bogey on Nos. 3 and 4, but regained momentum with only one other the rest of the way and five birdies. His highlights included a chip-in on the uphill par-3 eighth and a very lengthy putt for birdie on the par-3 thirteenth. “I knew I had a big lead still and was able to calm down after that (chip-in on 8). On thirteen I was just trying to make par. Really focused on the speed because it was up and then down, and as it crested the hill it was dead on line. I was not expecting it, but it sure helps push you forward,” he mentioned.
This was 27-year-old Linehan’s best finish in an NYSGA event. He started competing again in 2018 for the first time since graduating college in 2014. Last year at Wanakah, he finished T6. This year at the Men’s Amateur, he finished T11.
“It’s fun to learn how to play tournament golf again. Having fun being nervous again, practicing and grinding. I always want to finish the best I can and play the best round I’ve played yet.”
May, won two consecutive NYS Boys’ Junior titles in 2002 at Glens Falls and the following year at Tuscarora. After college, he turned professional for a period, before regaining his amateur status.
“It was a good week. The first round was a little sketchy and then It got better each day. Getting out there and playing, remembering where you need to miss on the course,” said the 32-year-old, referring to his rounds of 73-68-70.
First-round co-leader, Jim Gifford of NYSGA eClub – Capital District finished in solo fourth at 212.
Daniel Russo of Schuyler Meadows Club came in at 213, posting 68-68 during the final two rounds to climb up the leaderboard.
“I just love to compete. When I can’t I’ll be done, but for now at least I can still stay in the mix. I always want to see how I can stack up, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t but it’s always fun,” mentioned the 61-year-old, who captured the NYS Men’s Senior title earlier in the week at Cavalry Club in nearby Manlius.
Tuscarora member Kevin Vandenberg, who joined Tilley and Linehan in the final pairing on Sunday, finished at 214.
Kyle Downey of Locust Hill Country Club fired the low round of the day with 67 and finished tied for seventh at 216 with Danny Edwards of the NYSGA eClub – Central NY.
Five finished at 218 including two-time champion Jim Scorse of Stafford Country Club, last year’s runner-up Billy Hanes of Crag Burn Golf Club, Nick Dilio of The Links at Union Vale, Jacob Katz of Brookfield Country Club and Louis Walsh of Ballston Spa Country Club.
Those who finished in the top-10 will earn exemptions into next year’s 98th New York State Men’s Amateur Championship when the NYSGA heads to Syracuse’s Onondaga Golf & Country Club. Top-20 will be exempt into next year’s Mid-Am which will be conducted at The Seawane Club in Hewlett Harbor on the south shore of Long Island.
Fortunately for Tilley, he won’t have to make such a long voyage to defend his title in 2020. “That’s not an if, I’ll be there. There’s nothing like defending a championship. I can’t wait to get to Seawane next year.”