The 2017 Red Hoffman Cup Finals went to Arcola Country Club – with a total score of 218, two strokes ahead of runner-up Plainfield C.C. Fielding a team of great golfers quite used to winning and playing on their home course proved too much for three otherwise excellent teams from Plainfield (220), Essex County (225), and Knickerbocker (228).
In a format counting the best three of four team scores, the Hoffman Cup Finals follow a four-ball, medal play format among the four clubs left standing of the 32 teams that started match play in late April.
On a beautiful day for golf, Arcola reprised its 2015 Hoffman Cup Championship with a team of stars: Trevor Randolph, Dan Macdonald, head professional Grant Sturgeon, Ryan Chin, etc. Inexplicably, Arcola did not play well enough in 2016 to make the playoffs. They righted that ship in 2017!
However, Arcola stood out more for its consistency and depth than its star power. Led by Sturgeon and Mike O’Connell with an even par 72, captain Brian Celiberti’s team had the luxury of discounting a 74 in the best three-of-four scores format.
Plainfield, in its second finals in three years, proved again that the golfers deserve utmost respect. Captain Brian Kilduff works hard to pull together a bunch of solid players who may not have a boatload of regional honors, but who work well as a team. Led by a gritty 72 from the team of young Jake Mayer and Scott Parker and leadership from the veteran professional Scott Paris, Plainfield proved it belongs in every finals. It will clearly be among the favorites to earn a spot at its home course in the 2018 Finals.
Essex County proved it belongs. Led by the low score of the day, an impressive two-under 70 by leading local amateur Kieran Purcell and his partner, professional Will Hurley, Essex County needed just one more low score to be in the middle of the fray. Captain Mike Guli is pulling together a squad and a culture that should always be in the mix.
Knickerbocker came back to the big dance for the first time since 2012. Captain Phil Fabrizio and partner head professional Bill Hook turned in a solid 74, despite having to count a triple bogey, but it was that kind of day for Knickerbocker. Led by a 73 from long-hitting Mark Costanza and Rish Patel, the team – like Essex County -- needed one more low score to be in the mix. That’s how close this event was.
The beautiful and challenging Arcola course proved to be an extraordinary test, with extremely fast greens, distracting vistas and a thinking man’s shot opportunities. Arcola was a wonderful host, and our sincere thank you goes to its Board, Hoffman Cup captains Brian Celiberti and Matt Headington, head professional Grant Sturgeon, general manager Chad Chadwell and, of course, green superintendent Paul Dotti for making the finals so memorable.
The Red Hoffman Cup Matches were created to foster interaction and friendly competition among northern New Jersey golf clubs. Completing their 13th year, these matches have been named in honor of Arthur K. “Red” Hoffman, the legendary New Jersey golf writer (Star-Ledger and Newark Evening News).
These finals are the capstone to the 2017 Red Hoffman Cup Matches, which included over 400 low-handicap regional amateurs and professionals. The event accounted for 864 individual rounds of early spring golf, generated more than $60,000 in caddie fees, and donated $20,000 to four First Tee chapters in New Jersey.