Forest Hill F.C. to Host 87th Four-Ball Championship
For the first time in 21 years and for the fifth time in history, Forest Hill Field Club in Bloomfield will host the New Jersey State Golf Association Men’s Four-Ball Championship, May 6-8.
It will kick off the ambitious 2019 NJSGA schedule – which includes 24 championships - beginning with qualifying rounds on Monday, April 15, at Stanton Ridge Golf & Country Club in Whitehouse Station and on Wednesday, April 17, at Knob Hill Golf Club in Manalapan.
In the Four-Ball format, teams are comprised of two players (competing as partners) and the better score of the team is counted. Known for its unique and strategic nature, the popularity of this “better ball of partners” competition has grown exponentially in the last 10 years, highlighted at the national level with the inaugural USGA Men’s and Women’s Amateur Four-Ball championships which were held in 2015.
A classic A.W. Tillinghast design, Forest Hill is a well-manicured rolling venue with a par of 71. In recent years, its fast greens have been enlarged to reflect the original course blue prints. The greens are well-bunkered and contoured, providing a variety of putting challenges.
“The membership and staff at Forest Hill are very excited about hosting the Four-Ball Championship,” said Rick Garrigan, the club’s immediate past president. “I think it’s great recognition for our facility. Our superintendent, Frank Tichenor, is looking forward to showcasing the best face of the course.
“We are known as a tight course with fantastic greens. Course management will play a major role. The last few holes on the back nine are critical. Players will have to hit it into some tight spots and both partners being in a hole will be the key,” Garrigan added.
As was Tillinghast’s trademark, each of the 18 holes is unique, taking advantage of the natural topography and bringing all elements of the game into play. Forest Hill has many challenging holes, most notably the long uphill 7th which requires an accurate drive followed by an equally accurate approach shot to a well bunkered green.
The par-3, 18th hole is the signature hole which can play more than 200 yards uphill to a two-tiered green that is guarded by bunkers on either side.
Said PGA Head Professional Jason Fiore: “You look at the scorecard and see that the course is 6,600 yards and that it might be a benign golf course. Forest Hill is tight and there are quite a lot of undulations with more uphill and downhill lies rather than side-hill lies. The greens are one of the course’s greatest defenses which are typically firm, very fast, and certainly tricky.
“The gauntlet is holes seven through 13 that can make or break a round. No. 11 has a two-tiered fairway and is 430 yards uphill. It presents one of the tightest tee shots on the course and has one of the most difficult greens you’ll find anywhere in the state,” Fiore continued.
“You follow that with No. 12, a 275-yard par-4 and you think you might have a breather. But it’s a risk/reward hole we call ‘Little Poison.’ The long hitters might go for it, but the green is only 18 paces deep and the first four paces of that is a false front that leads into a big gully. It’s tough to make par from the gully.
“No. 18, a par-3, is a very difficult finishing hole with the clubhouse in the background. Not only is it a beautiful hole, but it is challenging as well,” said Fiore.
A pair of high school teammates, seniors Randall Lazzaro and Brendan Hansen of state champion Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft, will be on hand to defend their 2018 championship. When they won last year at Rumson Country Club, they were believed to be the youngest ever do to so.
“Brendan and I are very excited about defending our title,” Lazzaro said. “We make a great team and are great friends. We’re very confident in one another, having played a lot of golf together. It is always fun to be on the course with Brendan. We just have to play our games and not be concerned about anyone else,” Lazzaro added.
In recent years youth has been served at the Four-Ball Championship. In 2017 at Green Brook, two college students, Thomas Urciuoli and William Voetsch, both of Baltusrol, were champions.
Two years ago, high school seniors Justin Chae and Evan Quinn, both of New Jersey National, took the title at North Jersey and were considered the youngest champions until Lazzaro, then 16, and Hansen, then 18, won in 2018.
Entries open for the 87th Four-Ball Championship on Friday, March 1.