Road to the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball : A Long Winter’s Journey (Part 1)
Pictured (L-R): Todd Wiggins, Matt Scozzari
By Bruce Chamberlain, NJSGA Volunteer This is the first journal article in a five-part series as Todd Wiggins and Matt Scozzari embark on their journey to the 2022 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at the Country Club of Birmingham from May 14-18. The Upper Montclair Country Club pair earned co-medalist honors at the qualifier, hosted by the New Jersey State Golf Association at Canoe Brook Country Club in August, 2021.
For most golfers in the Northeast Corridor, winter is reserved for the four Rs - reflection, renewal, rest, and recharge. Yearning for the new season and of all its grand possibilities to come. This is the year we break 100, 90, or 80. This is the year we qualify for the championship flight - or maybe even hoist the cup.
For the Upper Montclair Country Club duo of Todd Wiggins and Matt Scozzari, the winter of 2021-22 will be all of that and more, including a fifth R – Rehab. It will also be an extended period of focused (well, at times) preparation for what could be a once-in-lifetime opportunity to play in a USGA event. In August of 2021, the partners shot a sizzling 8-under 64 at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball qualifier held at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit. Following two early birdies from Wiggins, Scozzari scorched holes 9 through 13 with five straight birdies with no putt longer than six feet, including one from just six inches!
“None of them felt easy to me. I was nervous tapping in the six-incher," recalled Scozzari. Wiggins tacked on an exclamation point sixth-in-a-row, draining a 12-footer on the par-3 14th. Ham-and-egg was the order of the day, as each of the five bogeys made was covered by a matching par from one partner or the other. The deuce on No. 14 proved to be the clincher for co-medalist honors, as three teams tied at 7-under had to playoff for one remaining qualifying spot.
One week later, elsewhere in the sporting world, the NFL kicked off the 2021-22 season.
For most USGA tournaments, qualifiers are held weeks in advance of the tournament proper. For example, the grind of local and regional qualifiers for the U.S. Open starts in April, culminating in the June event. For the U.S. Am Four-Ball (men's and women's), the qualifier is held in the prior calendar year. This situation creates the unique burden of a nine-month preparation cycle - a long time to keep the qualifying "mojo" at a peak. The 2022 U.S. Four-Ball will be held at the Country Club of Birmingham (Alabama) May 14-18, 2022.
Wiggins and Scozzari were introduced to each other in the spring of 2020 at Upper Montclair during weekend games run by Coach Jim Jacobsen (legendary Bergen Catholic golf coach). Scozzari noted, “We realized how similar our games were and we always played well together. We played a couple of scramble events, member guests, etc. and won just about everything. We realized we were shooting really low scores in a four-ball format so decided we should play in team events together.”
“Immediately, we were brothers!” Wiggins shared.
After the four-ball qualifier, Scozzari was ready to play. “My game was at an all-time best right around August/September, so I wouldn’t have minded the (USGA) tourney being right away. I had found a few keys with the driver that helped me hit a little cut with low spin. I also had watched a YouTube green reading video about two weeks before the qualifier and suddenly I was seeing the line the ball would roll on much better. Combined with about an hour a day on a putting mat, I had a lot more confidence on the greens.” By contrast, in the three months following the qualifier, Scozzari has played only six rounds and is spending far more time rehabbing on his exercise bike than on the range. “I feel like a senior,” cries the 32-year-old, “I have to wear a knee sleeve for my torn meniscus and I use a massager before and after (rounds) for my back.”
Wiggins has been playing more regularly, and counts a 67 at UMCC, including seven birdies, as his best round. At age 50, his “golf brain” knows that quality over quantity should be guiding his off-season preparation, but his “golf soul” keeps pushing him to the course to play as much as possible. Keeping his back in golf-shape has been a challenge. Finding the right balance will be key. Wiggins cautions, “As golfers, we’re always looking to improve. The question is what are you willing to risk and how long will it take?” The nine-month window allows time for some golf philosophy to creep in.
In the coming weeks and months, the pair plans practice sessions on simulators until the weather turns and a Pinehurst trip. There will be plenty of work on the greens, both indoors and out, as they would love to head to the tournament with hot putters in hand. Wiggins observes, “I’ve always been a good putter, and I’ve noticed the main difference for me between good rounds and bad rounds was just the total feet of putts made. When I putt well, I feel I can go low.” Oh, and life will get in the way – Todd is the COO of a business development enterprise and Matt is a mortgage loan officer. And when they’re not working or golfing, they’ll be hitting the training tables at Montclair Performance Health and Chiropractic to get their bodies ready for the possibility of seven straight days of golf.
The NFL season will soon be culminating at SoFi Stadium in California with Super Bowl LVI. Meanwhile, Todd and Matt are little more than halfway to the USGA Four-Ball in Alabama. Journey on.
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