by Rick Jenkins

SCOTCH PLAINS, N.J. It wasn’t easy, but Pete Busch got the Senior Open victory on his home turf that he very much wanted. After opening with a 68 yesterday on the par-71 Shackamaxon Golf & Country Club, Busch controlled his own destiny – especially with “home field” advantage. But his competition didn’t make it easy for him, and Bill Britton of Trump National – Colts Neck pushed Busch into a sudden-death playoff.

Lurking just a few shots behind Busch when the second and final round began today was a handful of strong players. Gary Ostrega of Hyatt Hills and Chris Dachisen of North Jersey were two and three strokes behind Busch, respectively. Also in the hunt were Britton, amateur Jay Blumenfeld of Mountain Ridge, Baker Maddera of Rock Spring, and Bill King of Spring Lake.

With the wind a factor in the final round, the tournament became a horse race down the stretch among Busch, Dachisen and Britton. Inexplicably, Dachisen bogied his last two holes, missing a 2-foot par putt on #18, to finish in third place with 143 (71-72). Playing steady golf, Britton shot a one-under par 70 to catch Busch, who shot 74 in his closing round. The two players were tied at even-par 142 for the tournament and a sudden death playoff would decide the outcome. Britton’s 70 was the only sub-par round today.

Busch, who admitted that he doesn’t like playoffs, clamped down on this one quickly. Playing Shackamaxon’s 18th hole, a 350 yard par-4, Busch ripped a drive down the left center of the fairway, leaving a wedge into the green. Britton opted for a 3-wood off the tee, and lost it right where it ended up in thick rough. Britton’s approach was short of the hole, ending awkwardly on the bank of a greenside bunker, as Busch stuck a lob wedge to about nine feet. His putt was in from the moment it left the blade.

Busch has spent most of his life around Shackamaxon, first as a kid growing up a block from the course, then as its head Professional for the last twenty years. “It’s very important to me to win such a big tournament here, in front of my members,” he said. This is Busch’s first State Open of any kind, having forfeited a lead at the 2001 NJSGA Open at Upper Montclair, won by Dachisen. “I got one back from you Chris,” said Busch at the awards ceremony.

Jay Blumenfeld, fresh off a trip to Chicago where he competed in the USGA Senior Amateur Championship, finished fourth overall at 145 (72-73), earning him low amateur honors. This marks the fourth consecutive year he has captured low amateur at the Senior Open.

The Senior Open is conducted jointly by the NJSGA and the NJPGA. The field began with 83 players and was cut to 40 players plus ties after the first round. The course at Shackamaxon, an A.W. Tillinghast design, was set up to play approximately 6,710 yards. For full field results, please visit the Championships section of this web site.

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