Bobby Leopold is the 118th RI State Amateur Champion (Credit: RIGA)
Bobby Leopold loves Montaup Country Club. And Montaup Country Club loves Bobby Leopold.
So, it’s fitting Leopold won the 118th Rhode Island Amateur Championship at Montaup, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. It’s also the fourth time he’s won this event, becoming only the sixth person to accomplish the feat, joining Daniel Fairchild, Robert W. Allen, Cameron P. Quinn, John Burke and Brad Valois.
Leopold also won here in 2014. This year, he dominated from start to finish. It wasn’t even close. He did everything right. In fact, he only lost seven holes during match play. His putting was on point, too. He defeated Harry Dessel, 9&8, Friday afternoon to secure the state championship.
“I can’t really believe it,” he said. “I won it here in 2014, and if you asked me if I could do it again, I’m not sure I could be honest and say that I could. I found something this week, something I’ve been working towards the last couple weeks."
The kids took it to him a few weeks back at Wannamoisett Country Club.
I played well at the Northeast (Amateur), and even though I got absolutely drummed by the young kids, but I love it here. I love this golf course. I love playing Rhode Island events and to put my name up there again is just special. It really is.”
Adding his name for a fourth time seems bizarre to him.
“To put my name up there again, especially a couple of years removed from doing it is even better. I know how hard it is to get to the finals and when you get there you really want to finish it off," Leopold said.
He knows the the pain of losing in the final match.
"Getting to the finals is awesome, but I’ve lost in the finals, and it doesn’t feel great," Leopold said. "Today, I tried my hardest to play good and the fact that I did it again, I can’t really believe it.”
The list of multiple winners is impressive. Fairchild posted six State Championships between 1907 and 1921. Allen won five times between 1949 and 1960, while Quinn, who is considered by many to be one of the best local amateur golfers, won it in 1956, 1962, 1966, 1967 and 1971. If Leopold continues to play the way he did this week, it won’t be long before he adds a fifth.
Leopold earned medalist honors this week when he posted a 9-under par during stroke play. So, that meant he had a target on his back during match play and he responded.
“I was so excited to be medalist. I wanted to be medalist again and then to finish it off is really special,” he said. “I putted well all week. The greens got a little slower today because we got so much rain, so Harry struggled with the speed a little bit.”
He only lost 7 holes in match play. His game plan was simple: Hit fairways, greens and make the putt.
“The thing about this place, if you hit fairways and greens, the greens are small enough where you always have a decent look,” he said. “If I can do that and not give my opponent any room to breath, or any sign that I might have a weakness.”
It was also special for Leopold, who coaches at Bishop Hendricken, to have one of his players, Gianni Fontenault, on the bag this week. Leopold said it was also an honor to play against Dessel, 20, who is a rising sophomore at Lafayette College.
“He’s come a long way since the last time I played with him,” admitted Leopold. “He’s bigger. He’s stronger. He hits it further. I feel like he has a very similar game to me . . . you’ll see his name up there again soon. He’s a very steady player.”
Dessel played outstanding all week, especially with his putting, but he struggled a bit in the final match.
“It was my first time making it to the final, and hopefully I can do it again, but with a better showing next time,” Dessel said. “I putted great all week, but you can’t putt (poorly) against Bobby Leopold because you won’t stand a chance."
Dessell knew he'd need a great day to compete with a legend like Leopold.
"The putter definitely let me down today. (Leopold’s) so solid. He never plays anywhere close to bad. He always plays well," Dessel said. "I’ve just got to get better to get to his level. I can play as good as him sometimes, but he’s way more consistent than I am. I just got to keep on practicing, keep on getting better.”
Even though Leopold dominated for the majority of the final match, Dessel started to gain some momentum after a win on the 20th hole. On the 21st hole (No. 3) Dessel hit an outstanding bunker shot to within two feet when Leopold gave him the par. Leopold then had to make a 30-footer to halve the hole and, of course, he drained it. That was the turning point, and then he finished the match on the 28th hole.
“That killed my momentum,” Dessel said.
Leopold didn’t stop until the match was over on the 28th hole, which was the No. 10 par-3.
“I love this place,” he said. “I play well here, and I like the greens here. Even coming from Wannamoisett where the greens are lightning fast, these remind me of home" Leopold said. "You can make putts. They’re smooth. They’re true. They do exactly what you expect them to do. I’ve always putted these greens pretty good. I love coming back to this place.”
And this place loves Bobby Leopold.