- NJSGA photo
The team of Chuck Anttonen and Morten Gotterup of Rumson Country Club carded three birdies in the first seven holes, all by Anttonen, and never trailed en route to defeating brothers Steve and Brian Zychowski of Mendham Golf and Tennis Club, 2 and 1, in the final of the 88th NJSGA Four-Ball Championship on Saturday at the par-72, 6,934-yard Manasquan River Golf Club in Brielle.
The long day began at 8:45 a.m. after a 45 minute frost delay with temperatures in the mid-30s and ended at 6:02 p.m. with oncoming darkness and temperatures in the mid-40s. The Four-Ball championship was originally scheduled for the first week in May, but was rescheduled because of the pandemic. It's conclusion on Saturday signaled the end of the NJSGA tournament season.
In the semifinals, Gotterup and Anttonen needed 20 holes to defeat local favorites Chris Housen and Mike Stamberger of the host club, while the Zychowski brothers enjoyed a 6 and 5 victory over John Meyers of Moggy Brook Golf Club and Brett Sinofsky of Raritan Valley Country Club.
In the afternoon final match, Anttonen, 33, birdied the par-4, fourth hole, dropping a 30-foot birdie putt. He drained a short putt for birdie on the par-5, fifth hole, keeping the match tied. Two holes later, he sank a 10-foot downhill putt for birdie on the par-5, seventh hole to provide a 1-up lead. When Gotterup parred the par-4 ninth hole for a win, the lead stretched to 2-up.
Steve Zychowski came through with a par and a victory on the par-4, 10th hole, to cut the lead in half. But Anttonen’s par victory on the par-4, 12th hole again stretched the lead to two holes. Both sides parred to halve each hole the rest of the way.
“For some reason I felt more comfortable in the final than I did in the semifinals. It just flowed from there,” said Anttonen, 33, who played collegiately at Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. “The closing holes are tough. You have to put it in play and you have to hit a good long iron in. We were able to do that a lot.
“We knew coming in we were a good team - and after we qualified, I had an idea we could win,” he said.
Gotterup, 53, etched his name on a second trophy. He won the 2012 NJSGA Pre-Senior Championship at Morris County Golf Club.
“To win a championship with another Rumson member means more to me. To come to an away course and first beat two really good friends, Stamberger and Housen, and then beat two good young kids (the Zychowski brothers) who can really rip it, I think it shows we have game. We love this golf course. We love playing at Manasquan River. It was in fantastic shape,” Gotterup said.
The Zychowski brothers reached the semifinals in 2019 and moved one step closer to a title in 2020.
“It was tough. They had two guys in every hole. They were so steady. We missed a lot of putts, putts we had to make. And they didn’t give us anything,” Steve Zychowski said.
The semifinals began on the 10th hole, as the back nine was deemed the better option in the cool weather since the frost melted faster than it did on the early front holes. The match ended with Gotterup’s conceded birdie on the 20th hole, the par-5 11th. It came after both Housen and Stamberger settled for bogeys. Gotterup had placed a 40-foot putt to within five feet.
Earlier, he and Anttonen had taken a 1-up lead on the 17th hole, the par-4 eighth hole, when Anttonen’s wedge from 125 yards landed on the green, bounced up and bounded off the back of a right-side bunker to three feet from the cup. He birdied from there.
Stamberger won the 18th hole, the par-4 ninth, with a par to send the match to extra holes.
Stamberger and Housen were the early leaders in the back-and-forth match. Following a birdie for Anttonen on the first hole, the par-4 10th, Stamberger and Housen won three on the next four holes, including an eagle by Stamberger on the 11th, for a 2-up lead. A birdie by Anttonen on the sixth hole, the par-3 15th, pulled the Rumson duo within one hole.
Gotterup rolled in a curling uphill 35-foot birdie putt on the 12th hole, the par-3 third hole, to even the match. Each team won a hole with pars before Anttonen’s birdie victory on the 17th hole.
“Chuck comes out comes out and birdies the first hole and it was really cold. Then Stamberger eagles the second hole and I knew we were in for a dogfight. But it was a great match,” said Gotterup.
“It was nice playing with Chris (Housen) and Mike (Stamberger). I’m friends with both of them, and they are great guys. Honestly, it was a great walk and it felt like it was just a regular match out here.”
Added Anttonen: “It kept going back and forth. A lot of the holes were won with birdies.”
“The course was set up hard. There was no advantage with local knowledge. Some pin placements were really tough to get to,” Stamberger noted.
Said Housen: “We didn’t make enough birdies and really didn’t putt well. It’s disappointing to lose on our home course.”
The Zychowskis won the first four holes in their semifinal match with pars, and then Steve Zychowski birdied the fifth hole, the short par-4, 14th hole, when he reached the front edge of the green and two-putted. They were never in trouble. Steve Zychowski added another birdie on the ninth hole (par-4 18th) when his approach from 115 yards landed six inches from the cup.
“It was so cold this morning. It was going to be tough to make some really low scores. We wanted to stay steady, make some pars and be patient because the pins were in some really tough spots. Brian started us off with a couple really nice pars. That settled us down and from there we started rolling," stated Steve.
“We wanted to stay aggressive. It’s what we’ve been doing all week.,” Brian Zychowski stated. “We pick the right holes to attack. Pars are a good thing, but birdies are a nice option and that’s what we’re trying to do.”