RJ Nakashian captures another FSGA title with Florida Senior Match Play
RJ Nakashian (FSGA Photo)
RJ Nakashian (FSGA Photo)

Competitors battled through 36 holes of stroke play and 5 matches for the chance to be crowned the Senior Amateur Match Play Champion. At the end of the week, Palm Beach Gardens native RJ Nakashian would capture the Championship.

Stroke Play Qualifying
In stroke play qualifying, it was a quest to make the top 32 in order to be a part of the match play proceedings. Reigning Senior Amateur Champion, RJ Nakashian, continued his great form in 2024 as he finished as the medalist and earned the top seed. 35 players would finish the two rounds at 12-over or better, necessitating a 5 for 2 playoff to determine the final spots in match play. On the second playoff hole, Bill Barnes would earn his spot as the 31st seed and a hole later Todd Mudge would clinch the final spot.

Match Play
RJ Nakashian continued his great play as he got through his first three matches with relative ease. An 8 & 6 victory in the first round was followed with 3 & 2 and 7 & 6 victories on Tuesday. In Nakashian’s side of the bracket, Michael Nealy would face slightly more resistance but never saw the 18th hole in any match on his way to the semifinals.

On the bottom half of the bracket, the 3 seed Michael Kelley would hold serve in his region. Kelley advanced with a 3 & 1 victory in the Round of 32 and closed both his matches out on the 18th hole Tuesday to book a ticket to the Semifinals. Matching up against Kelley Wednesday morning, David Anthony continued his match play success in FSGA events. The three-time Super-Senior Player of the Year and reigning Super-Senior Amateur Champion secured a 1 up victory in the Round of 32 and never saw past the 16th hole on Tuesday with victories of 5 & 4 and 4 & 2.

In the first semifinal match, RJ Nakashian would take a quick lead with an eagle on the par-5 second hole. Unfazed, Michael Nealy’s birdie putt from 10 feet on the 4th hole would find the bottom of the cup to square the match. A par on the 5th for Nakashian would be enough to take back the lead and after reaching the par-5 6th in two shots, Nealy would concede the hole after being forced to chip out from where his drive left him and never get back into a scoring position.

Nealy would also drop a hole after a bogey to close out the front nine which would leave him 3 down at the turn. A bogey on the par-3 13th by Nakashian dropped his lead to 2-up.  After a pair of halved holes, the duo would come to the par-3 16th with a tricky back right hole location. Both players would find the green but a 3-putt from Michael Neely would book RJ Nakashian’s trip to the finals.

On the other side of the bracket, after par’s on 1 & 2 from both David Anthony and Michael Kelley, Kelley would jump start the action by winning holes #3 & #4. Anthony would respond with a victory on the 5th hole but would give it back on the par-3 7th with a bogey. 2-down through 8 holes, Anthony would kick start his round winning three of the next four holes to flip the match to 1-up for the Jacksonville native.

The 14th hole would be pivotal as Kelley hit his approach to within five feet while Anthony would be outside of him at 15 feet. Anthony’s birdie putt would roll in the back of the cup to put the pressure on Kelley. As Kelley’s birdie putt rolled by the hole, he would be 2-down with four holes to play. After trading wins on the 15th and 16th holes, the semifinalists would come to the par-5 17th.

Kelley would leave himself a long birdie putt from the front of the green while Anthony had 30 feet for birdie. Kelley gave it a great roll but just narrowly missed leaving Anthony with two putts to win the match. Anthony’s birdie putt would slide by the hole but would be enough to secure a birth to the finals.

Championship Match

The Championship Match would be a matchup of the reigning Senior Amateur and Super-Senior Amateur Champions. After opening pars, RJ Nakashian would get the proceedings started with a birdie on the second hole. A short range miss on the third hole by Anthony would see himself 2-down through three holes. After getting to 3-up through six holes, RJ would miss the green on the 8th hole and leave himself a pitch shot from 30 yards short of the green.

With Anthony on the green in regulation, Nakashian had to take a chance by flying it up on the green with the pin tucked in the front. His pitch would land and release to 15 feet and as his par putt slid by Anthony’s two-putt par would be good enough for his first hole won in the final match.

As they made the turn with Nakashian, things quieted down as the pair traded pars on 10-12. A quality iron shot from Nakashian on the par-3 13th was close enough to be conceded by Anthony. Anthony’s birdie putt would miss low, and Nakashian would go back to 3-up with just five holes to play. However, back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15 would allow Anthony to cut the deficit to 1-down with two to play.

Both players were able to get around the green in two shots on the par-5 17th. Nakashian had a straight forward chip shot from in front of the green while Anthony was in a spot of bother on the edge of the bunker. Nakashian’s chip would go to eight feet for birdie. A sandy lie made the downhill chip extremely difficult but that would not faze the Super-Senior Amateur Champion.

Anthony would hit his chip to 10 feet which from was met with applause from the Legacy Golf & Tennis Club Superintendent, showing the difficulty of what he was facing. However, his birdie putt would miss giving Nakashian a putt for the title. Nakashian, like Anthony, could not convert his birdie and the duo would head to the 18th tee.

Both drives would find the fairway, Nakashian about 20 yards ahead of Anthony. Approaches that missed the green right by both players put them in a tough spot as the 18th green sits well above the bunker that Nakashian was in and the run-off Anthony found. Anthony would hit another stellar chip to five feet to put the pressure back on Nakashian. RJ hit a great bunker shot to within three feet of the hole setting up a putt to win the Championship.

When Nakashian’s final putt hit the bottom of the cup he would become the 2024 Senior Amateur Match Play Champion. With this win, Nakashian takes home his second FSGA victory of 2024 after winning the 63rd Senior Amateur Championship at Innisbrook earlier this year.

View results for Florida Senior Match Play
ABOUT THE Florida Senior Match Play

The Senior Championship is for those individuals over the age of 55. Two age divisions, 55-64 and 65 and over, will compete with one round of stroke play qualifying followed by single elimination match play rounds to determine winners in each division.

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