- Rhode Island Golf Association photo
Every athlete dreams of coming through in the clutch when everything is on the line.
A game-winning shot, a last-second touchdown. In golf, it is a putt to win a tournament.
Jamie Lukowicz stepped up to an 18-footer on hole No. 35 (par 4, 434 yards) the 17th at Pawtucket Country Club (par 69, 6,420 yards) to win the 115th Rhode Island Golf Association Amateur Championship.
He and his caddie Rob Grossguth, a 2003 Finalist, read the putt perfectly and he rolled it in the center. And when that putt reached the bottom of the cup, he put himself in his position to get the missing notch in his belt.
“The putt was downhill, and I didn’t want to roll it four feet by,” said Lukowicz, 46, of Newport. “I knew exactly where I stood. I read it to break a little left to start and to the right at the end. It rolled it in dead center.”
The host club’s Andrew O’Leary still had a 15-footer to extend the match but was unable to respond.
No. 3 seed Lukowicz, aided by a brilliant tee-to-green game and a hot putter, claimed the 115th #RIAmateur at Pawtucket in Saturday’s 36-hole Final with a 2&1 victory over defending champion and No. 1 seed O’Leary.
Lukowicz hit his tee shot in the right trees on No. 35 and drew a break because he had a shot to the green. He said his 8-iron from 165 yards came out of the rough hot but held the green.
“I had no desire to play hole No. 36 (No. 18) (par 4, 379 yards),” said Lukowicz. “It was a great feeling to win it on hole No. 35. Andrew is a great player and a great kid.”
“That putt Jamie made to win was the story of the day,” said O’Leary, 20, of Norfolk, Mass. “Jamie made a lot of nice putts today and I didn’t.
“I was hitting the ball well on the range and was loose. I hit the ball solid all day. I didn’t have much fear when hitting my approach shots. I left a few putts short or I just missed them. My speed on the greens is usually good. You aren’t going to putt well the whole week and I didn’t have it at the right time.”
Lukowicz, a Finalist in 2017 at Valley Country Club, said on Friday he needed to come out and make birdies to beat O’Leary.
He did just that.
In the morning 18, Lukowicz shot 67 to O’Leary’s 69. He made three birdies to O’Leary’s one.
He closed out that 67 in style on No. 18 with a 20-footer after O’Leary made a 30-footer for par. A huge momentum boost heading into the afternoon being 2-up instead of 1-up.
After he and O’Leary each had two wins on Nos.19-23, he still stood 2-up. But then he made three consecutive birdies on Nos. 24 (No. 6) (par 4, 414 yards), 25 (No. 7) (par 3, 173 yards) and 26 (No. 8) (par 5, 542 yards). O’Leary birdied two of them, but it moved him to 3-up with 10 holes to play.
“You don’t think about how many birdies you have made in a row,” said Lukowicz, of Agawam Hunt. “You are trying to make one after the other. I was trying to get up as many holes as I could.”
The shot of the day for Lukowicz came on hole No. 25. He nearly aced it with a 7-iron and his birdie was conceded. Putting him in firm control of the match with the sun beating down on the both of them and their energy draining hole-by-hole.
He then converted a pressure-packed 4-footer on No. 26 to halve in birdie. He raced his first putt a little by and had to clean up after reaching the par 5 in two.
“In these types of situations, you tend to get a little quick and want to rush,” said Lukowicz. “But Rob [Grossguth] told me to be patient and I did that. It was good to be ahead in this match as opposed to having to come from behind against Billy [Forcier] in the 2017 Final.
They halved Nos. 26-30 in par and O’Leary won Nos. 32 (No. 14) (par 4, 414 yards) and 34 (No. 16) (par 4, 432 yards) with birdies and was knocking on the door until Lukowicz shut it with that 18-footer on No. 35.
O’Leary had a chance to make history through a few different avenues. He was looking to become the 13th player in the history of the event to win at least two-consecutive titles. The last time was Brad Valois in 2006-07.
He also was looking to win at his home club. The last player to do that was Mike Soucy at Metacomet Golf Club in 2001.
But what he’s done in his first two appearances in the #RIAmateur can’t be overlooked.
He was the qualifying medalist both years and won his first nine matches before falling to Lukowicz Saturday.
“This run I have had in this tournament has been a lot of fun,” said O’Leary, a rising junior at the University of Notre Dame. “Especially playing that year at Shelter Harbor and this year at my home club. I was happy to play well the last two years and I hope I can continue to make a run in this tournament for years to come.”
Lukowicz has won RIGA majors before. He won the Stroke Play in 2018, the John Burke (Gross) in 2018 and the Mid-Amateur in 2014 and 2015.
But saying you are the Rhode Island Amateur champion has a different ring to it.
“There’s so many great players in the history of this tournament that have won it,” said Lukowicz. “Hard work and practice pay off. I grind hard on my wedges and my putting. I hit a lot of balls.”
He played the 35 holes in 4 under, 33 of them were flawless.
“Under the circumstances, this is the best golf I have ever played,” said Lukowicz. “I am proud of myself. I have come a long way.”