by Fred Behringer - Editor, NJSGA Golf
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Spring Lake Golf Club, site of the 25th NJSGA Mid-Amateur Championship from May 5-7, has been lengthened since the State Open was played there in 1998 – but it still totals only 6,535 yards from the championship tees. That said, competitors in the Mid-Am should not expect an easy test when they get there. Narrow fairways and small greens with lots of trouble behind them compensate effectively for the lack of yardage. “The course plays quick,” recalls Michael Deo of Montclair Golf Club, the defending champion. “The greens are usually fast. You have to be an accurate ball striker. It’s certainly not wide open by any means, and you can get in trouble very easily there. If you keep it in the fairway, you have the potential for a decent score.”
Deo played in the 1998 Open, won by Kenneth Macdonald, but has not visited the course in several years. He will find it slightly longer with significant improvement in drainage, according to Bill King, Spring Lake’s head professional since 1991. “The course is in very good shape,” King reports. “I think they’re going to enjoy it. The small, old-style greens are going to be different for a lot of the players who are used to playing bigger greens. “It is target-oriented on some of the tee shots. You might not hit a driver to put yourself in a better position to leave a wedge to the green. You might use a 3-wood to leave a full pitching wedge, while with a driver, you might get aggressive and leave yourself a little flip wedge, which might be just as hard.” King says many of the greens have traditional sloping from back to front. “If you don’t control the ball,” he cautions, “you’ll spin off, and if you go long, you’ll be facing some downhill chips and putts, which are almost uncontrollable.” He cites the closing hole, a 369-yard par 4, as an example: “If you end up above the hole with one of the tougher pin locations, it’s impossible to stop the ball from coming off the green.”
The Mid-Amateur, for players 30 years of age or older, will conduct 18-hole, stroke play qualifying rounds April 17 at Knob Hill Golf Club and April 22 at Beacon Hill Country Club to determine 31 players for match play at Spring Lake. Deo is exempt from qualifying as the defending champion. Last year was special for Deo, when he added a second major to his Mid- Amateur title, winning the NJSGA Four Ball Championship with Montclair clubmate Gregg Angelillo. He defeated Brian Komline of High Bridge Hills, the 2007 NJSGA Open champion and Player of the Year, in the Mid-Amateur final, 4 and 2, at Eagle Oaks Golf Club. Deo’s impressive golf resume includes an earlier Four Ball Championship in 1999 with Richard Cansfield, four runner-up finishes in the NJSGA Amateur, victories in the New York City and Bergen County Amateurs and a NJSGA Junior title. He has played for the NJSGA 12 times in the Stoddard Bowl and seven times in the Compher Cup.
“I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to play in the Mid Amateur and the Four Ball and get a couple of wins in two of the four majors that the State Golf Association holds,” says Deo. “It was pretty fantastic for me. It really was a great year.” A recent marriage, a demanding job and work on his MBA will combine to limit Deo’s playing time this year, but he expects to compete at Spring Lake. “It’s an honor to have an opportunity to defend the championship,” he says. “If there’s any event I really want to play this year, it’s essentially that one.”
Challengers for the title in addition to Brian Komline likely will include Tom Gramigna of Tavistock Country Club, the Mid-Amateur champion in 2002, 2003 and 2005. Why has Gramigna fared so well in this championship? “That’s a good question,” he says. “The way I would look at it is that it’s the first tournament of the year, so I particularly try to play a couple of practice rounds and gear all my practice sessions toward whatever shots I’m going to have to play at that golf course. Later in the year you obviously don’t have months to prepare; you’ve got a week.” Gramigna also noted that as a member of the Tavistock team in the Philadelphia Team Matches, he gets to play three or four match-play matches before the Mid-Amateur.
Bruce Young (1992, 1994, 1995) is the only other three-time Mid-Amateur champion. Jeff Thomas, Ed Alden and Allan Small won the event twice, Small’s triumphs coming 20 years apart in 1986 and 2006.
This will be the first Mid-Amateur Championship for Spring Lake. In addition to the 1998 Open, the club staged the 1986 Open, won by David Glenz. “We’ve had a history of major events,” says Bill King. “It’s nice to have another one. It’s a state major, and we’re looking forward to it.”