Brendan Hansen and Randall Lazzaro, both juniors at Christian Brothers Academy, became what is believed to be the youngest twosome to ever win the New Jersey State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship when they defeated top-seeded Edmund Broderick of Shackamaxon and Stephen Ellis of Toms River, 3 and 2, on Thursday, May 10 at 6,677-yard, par-71 Rumson Country Club in Rumson.
Two years ago, high school seniors Justin Chae and Evan Quinn, both of New Jersey National, took the title, and last year, two college students, Thomas Urciuoli and William Voetsch, both of Baltusrol, were champions.
But Hansen, 18, and Lazzaro, 16, are now believed to be the youngest in the 86-year history of the event.
“I think it’s awesome to get our names on the trophy and to now be part of New Jersey golf history,” said Lazzaro, of Trump National-Colts Neck, who sank long putts of 35 to-40 feet at crucial moments in both the final and semifinals on Thursday.
For Hansen, of Spring Lake, who was third in the State Open last summer, it was his second championship in two years. Last September he won the men’s Tournament of Club Champions at Deal.
“I’m honored to win twice in two years. If I play good golf, I hope to continue to add championships,” he said.
The final match saw only one birdie, when Lazzaro drained a 40-foot putt from the left side on the par-4 No. 15 to give his team a 3-up lead. They closed out the match with a par on No. 16.
Previously, they won holes No. 1, No. 7 and No. 13, all par-fours, with pars. Broderick and Ellis won the par-four No. 9, to shave the deficit to just one hole.
“It got a little windier in the afternoon, and then when it rained, it slowed down the greens. When they dried out, they picked up again. We couldn’t judge the speed on the greens this afternoon,” Lazzaro said.
“I had been struggling before this event, but playing the way I did here, this will definitely build my confidence for the rest of the high school season and for the summer,” he said.
“It was great playing this week with Randall. We’re good friends and teammates. We complimented each other very well and it’s great to win this championship,” said Hansen, who had never played the course until a practice round last week.
The top two seeds reached the championship, and both reached it with a run of winning holes on the back nine.
Second-seeded Hansen and Lazzaro are teammates on the defending state champion golf team at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft.
Hansen led the State Open at Metedeconk National last summer after three rounds and finished third. He and Lazzaro won holes 14, 15 and 16 to close out the semifinal match against Reid Bedell of Manasquan River and Eric Lasota of Colts Neck.
They won on the par-3 No. 14 with a par to finally take a lead in a match that was all square for a good portion of play. On the 429-yard par-4 No. 15, Hansen hit a wedge in from 120 yards to five feet for a birdie that provided a 2-up lead. On the par-4 No. 16, Lazzaro drained a 35-foot birdie putt that closed out the match.
“This is the first time we are playing as partners,” Hansen said. “Randall is good at giving us pars and I can make a few birdies. This is a good course for four-ball. There is a lot of decision making off the tees.”
“Brendan makes most of the birdies for us. I feel I help by taking the pressure off him by making pars,” Lazzaro said. “This course sets up well for both of us. You can go after it on the drives because the course is not that long (6,677 yards).For me it’s good because I don’t have to hit longer irons. I can hit an easier club and put the ball closer to the hole.”
Added Hansen: “We’ve been consistent. You can’t make bogeys or dumb mistakes out here. They could cost you the match.”
In the semifinals, medalists Ellis and Broderick went from 1-down to 4-up by winning holes 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14, before capping a 3 and 2 victory over Jamie Slonis and Tom Gramigna with a par-halve at No. 16.
“We were three under on seven holes on the back nine,” said Ellis, 47. “But we were two-down through eight holes. What helped us was when we won 10 with a par. That got us going. Then we won 11 and 12 with birdies from Edmund for more momentum. I won 13 with a par when they got a little sloppy, and on the par-3 14, I ran a 35-foot birdie putt up the hill for another win.”
“I just like that side of the golf course. It fits my game better. I tee off first and hit my baby fade off the tee. We hit driver on almost every hole because of the wind this morning,” Ellis said.
Broderick, 16, and Ellis are a different kind of pairing. “Edmund’s like a nephew to me. His father, David, is one of my best friends.”
Broderick is a sophomore at St. Peter’s Prep and the top player on the school’s golf team. Last summer, he won an International Junior Golf Tour event at Flanders Valley. He also won an IMG junior event at Galloping Hill.
“To perform well here, you have to keep it in the fairway. That lets you play a lot of wedges into the green,” said Broderick, who plays out of Shackamaxon in Scotch Plains. “The key for me is the driver. I got fitted for one last summer and now I’m very confident with it in my hands.”
Broderick said a goal for him this spring is reaching the state high school tournament of champions next month at Hopewell Valley.