It didn’t take long for Will Voetsch and Thomas Urciuoli to realize they comprised the kind of team that could go all the way in four-ball competition.
“We shot 8-under-par 63 in the qualifying round and we left a lot out there. We knew if we played our best, we’d be tough to beat,” Voetsch said.
His assessment was very accurate. Voetsch and Urciuoli never saw the 18th hole in sweeping four matches to win the 85th New Jersey State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship at Green Brook Country Club in North Caldwell.
Voetsch and Urciuoli, a pair of 20-year-olds from Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, closed out the championship with a 3-and-1 finals triumph over John Havay of High Bridge Hills and Dan O’Rourke of Oak Hill on Wednesday, August 9.
Urciuoli put an exclamation point on the victory when he drained a 40-foot left-to-right downhill breaking putt for a birdie to win hole No. 17 and end the match.
“One of the first things I thought was how great a driver of the ball Will is. When I tee off first and put it down the middle, then I know that Will will be right next to me and we’ll have to chances at going for birdie,” Urciuoli said.
In the final the champions birdied the first three holes. The lead grew to 4-up after eight holes. Bridie wins on holes No. 9 by Havay and No. 11 by O’Rourke, the State Amateur runner-up, pulled them within two holes.
The par-4, No. 12 tuned out to be decisive, Havay’s birdie putt from six feet rimmed the cup and instead of closing the gap to one hole, it remained at 2-up for Voetsch and Urciuoli and it would remain so until hole No. 17.
“Hole No. 12 was huge. We would’ve cut it to one hole. We just missed too many short putts. We let them get that early lead and could never close the gap. When we needed to make putts, we didn’t,” Havay surmised.
In the morning semifinals, Urciuoli and Voetsch ousted last year’s champions, Justin Chae and Evan Quinn, both of New Jersey National 3 and 2.
“It was a great match. There were a ton of birdies. We had three birdie halves,” said Urciuoli, a rising junior at Fairfield University.
“We never got behind to them. They’re both great players,” said Voetsch, who is a rising junior at Ohio State.
The match was all square through eight holes, but Urciuoli and Voetsch won No. 9 Urciouli hit an 8-iron to 10 feet and drained the birdie putt. Voetsch delivered a par win on the par-4 No. 11 and won No. 14 with a par. The match ended with a birdie halve on No. 16 when Voetsch accounted for the birdie.
“We’re sticking to the same strategy for the final. Tom goes first. It feels right. We started doing that in the qualifier. If Tom hits it good off the tee, then I can try to be more aggressive,” said Voetsch, who won the state high school championship three years ago.
“We want to keep hitting greens. We’ve had only one bogey since qualifying,” he added.
O’Rourke and Havay advanced to the semifinals in 2016 and then made the finals after their 4-and-3 semifinal victory over Jack Skirkanich of Rumson and John Browndorf of Metedeconk National.
“It was not as easy as the score indicated. We won all of our holes with birdies. We never got to all square. They did get as close as one hole, when they won No. 10 with a birdie,” said O’Rourke, 21.
But O’Rourke and Havay pushed the lead to 2-up when O’Rourke birdied the par-4 No. 11 from 15 feet.
“Mentally, it was a little easier after losing in the semis last year. We knew what to expect,” said O’Rourke, who lives in Milford.
“The key for us is not letting opponents win with pars,” said Havay, 25, a resident of Bloomsbury.
“We just want to stick with what we’re doing,” O’Rourke said. “In these type of events, we can build off each other and make each other play better.”
Chae and Quinn returned early in the morning to complete a 24-hole match against Brian Whitman of Metedeconk National and Jason Bataille of Neshanic Valley.
They then went on to the semifinal match against Urciuoli and Voetsch.
“I thought winning the 24-hole match this morning gave us momentum,” said Chae, who birdied the 24thhole, the par-4 No. 6. “But we couldn’t get any putts to drop on the front nine in the semifinals. After that we lost it.’
Chae is entering his sophomore year at Duke University and expects to walk on to the golf team. Quinn is a sophomore on the Princeton University team and was the low man for the Tigers in the Omni National Tournament in Arizona.
“Reaching the semifinals isn’t too bad. We’ll be back next year,” Quinn said.