- NJSGA photo
Following a three-hole aggregate playoff against William Huang, William Celiberti hoisted the Edwin M. Wild Trophy at Rockaway River Country Club in the 121st New Jersey Amateur Championship presented by Provident Bank. Celiberti started the third round at 1-under par, four strokes out of co-leaders, Pat Wilson and Chris DeJohn.
“I knew if I wanted to have a chance to win, I needed to go pretty low,” Celiberti said following his round. “I didn't think that was going to happen, but I went into today thinking to hit one shot at a time and try to make a lot of putts.”
Heading into the Amateur Championship, Celiberti had his eyes set on the trophy.
“I came in wanting to win,” Celiberti exclaimed. “I was hitting it ok and was getting a little better earlier in the summer. I was expecting to play as well as I did, but I wasn't expecting to win, but I knew if I played well enough, it could happen.”
En route to his first New Jersey major victory, Celiberti put together an immaculate opening 18 holes, tying the course record with an 8-under par 64. He joins current head golf professional Greg Baker, assistant golf professional Lowell Miller and former NJSGA board member John Puskar to the only three to notch a 64 at Rockaway River.
“Honestly, I don't even remember,” Celiberti said of the 64. “It’s my first course record, it's the lowest I’ve ever shot, so, I almost think it was like everything clicked. I almost like blacked out, I can’t even remember half the shots.”
Huang, an incoming sophomore at Princeton University had a standout Wednesday, recording back-to-back 4-under par 68s. The New Hampshire native started to make a charge on the back nine, notching three birdies on the final nine holes. Huang, 20, medaled in the qualifier at Quail Brook Golf Course.
“I was just out there and playing my own game,” Huang reflected. “The golf course doesn't change, regardless of whether he's (Celiberti) two strokes ahead of me, two strokes behind me, it’s about picking out spots and the course, it doesn't really matter either, it's just as long as you have a target and make a good committed swing.”
As Huang was hitting his stride, Celiberti struggled in his second 18 holes of the day, carding four bogeys and just two birdies. Most notably, Huang finished No. 18 with a birdie to force a playoff with Celiberti, who carded a bogey. Celiberti turned in a 2-over par 74 in the afternoon, requiring him to go up against Huang.
“I walked off after 18 making bogey and I thought that I lost, but I was happy I got in a playoff,” said Celiberti. “It was just cool, haven’t won this big of a tournament I think ever and haven’t won a tournament in a long time so it’s really awesome.On the first hole of the three-hole aggregate playoff, Huang hit an errant tee shot, landing in a penalty area, forcing him to take a 1-stroke drop. He proceeded to make a bogey while Celiberti tallied a par on the 583-yard par 5.
Celiberti, an incoming senior at the University of Maryland played flawlessly throughout the playoff, carding a birdie on the second playoff hole and a par on the third, and final playoff hole. He remained calm and steady over the finale, which had a gallery full of enthusiastic spectators.
“I just tried to keep with the next shot, recalled Celiberti. “My caddie Charlie, every single time I got ahead of myself would tell me to hit the shot close, try to hit the next one, so definitely props to him for keeping me calm. It was pretty awesome.”
Luckily for Celiberti, a friendly face was caddying for him throughout the championship.
"We’ve been family friends for forever,” said Celiberti. “He was basically the only kid I played with at Arcola. Right when I asked him, he was on board with everything. It’s just awesome to win with him on the bag.”
Huang, a rookie to NJSGA events, will take this momentum into the 102nd Open Championship at the Ridge at Back Brook on July 25-27.
“Finishing well doesn't really mean a lot to me,” Huang explained. “The results are cool, but it means more of how well I played. The result whether I finished T-40 this week or if I won the tournament, it doesn't really matter to me. I was really happy with the way that I hit my shots today on the golf course. I'm really happy how I made an adjustment after that first 36 with my putting and the speed control, so it's just all about kind of being confident in the fact that I can hit golf shots rather than the result.”
Max O’Hagan and Chris DeJohn both finished in third, recording 72-hole total of 4-under par 284.