Former Rutgers teammates reach Four-Ball semifinals at Forest Hill
A pair of former Rutgers University teammates are among the four teams still standing going into Wednesday's semifinal round of the 87th New Jersey State Golf Association Four-Ball Championship at the par-71, 6,517-yard Forest Hill Field Club in Bloomfield.
Kevin Campana of Ash Brook Golf Course and Ryan Macdonald of NJSGA E-Club - co-MVPS for Rutgers University in 2000 and 2001 - have had some degree of success, last year reaching match play for the first time. This year, the longtime friends are positioned for a run at the title.
The Rutgers alumni reached Wednesday morning’s semifinals as the No. 2 seeded team and will face the No. 3 seeded duo of Xavier Dailly and Mike O’Connell of Arcola Country Club. The championship match takes place early Wednesday afternoon.
In the other semifinal, the top-seeded team of brothers Brian and Steve Zychowski of Mendham Golf & Tennis Club will meet No. 5 seeds Tom Collins of Essex County Country Club and Tom Guy of Eligo Club.
"We don’t get a chance to see each other too much. We both have kids and we’re about an hour apart from each other,” said Macdonald, who resides in Manasquan. Campana is a resident of Kendall Park. The pair combined for a 63 in Stroke-Play qualifying on Monday.
“We’re making a lot more birdies this year. I think we have 18 for the past two days,” said Macdonald, who works in software sales. “Kevin was steady all day. If he wasn’t making birdies, he was making pars.”
In the quarterfinals, Campana and Macdonald held off 10th-seeded Jim Dufficy and Mike Paduano of Eagle Oaks Golf & Country Club. 5 and 3. In the earlier Round of 16, they bested No. 15 seeds and 2018 runners-up Stephen Ellis of Toms River Country Club and Edmund Broderick of Shackamaxon Country Club, 2 and 1.
“The last two matches, we’ve been down one or two holes, just keeping it together,” said Campana, a fourth-grade teacher in North Brunswick. “At this point, any of the four teams can win the tournament.”
The Zychowski brothers advanced to the semifinals by ousting No. 8 seeds Eric Lasota of Colts Neck Golf Club and Reid Bedell of Manasquan River Golf Club, 3 and 2. Earlier, they topped No. 16 seeds Finbar Bonner of Manasquan River and Benny Hagerty of Jumping Brook Country Club, 5 and 4.
“We had a very tough match this afternoon. That was a test. We didn’t pull away until the end,” said Steve Zychowski, 27, of Summit. He sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 No. 14 for a 2-up advantage. “That birdie changed the match. We went two up and never looked back,” Steve said.
“Steve was very hot this afternoon with four or five birdies. He was the steady Eddie for us,” said Brian, 30, who resides in New York City. “They had the momentum going from holes seven to 11, and we were fortunate to pull away in the end. We’re looking forward to tomorrow. We’ve never gone this far before.”
Dailly and O’Connell, who played on Arcola’s victorious Hoffman Cup team last year, won their quarterfinal match, 4 and 3, over No. 6 seeds Max Bichsel and Greg Heisen of Bedens Brook Club. In the Round of 16, Dailly and O’Connor defeated Brad Mills of NJSGA E-Club and John Venne of Laurel Creek Country Club, 3 and 2.
“We played off each other very well and we each had three birdies in the afternoon,” said O’Connell, 42, a resident of Mahwah. O’Connell reached the Four-Ball finals in 2006 with Erv Allaghi of North Jersey Country Club and in 2012 with Luke Edelman of North Jersey.
“We have to play our game tomorrow. We have to be consistent, hit it well off the tee and keep it simple,” he added.
“We gave ourselves two looks for birdie on a lot of holes,” said Dailly, 31, who lives in New York City.
Collins and Guy advanced to the semifinals with a 5 and 3 victory over No. 4 seeds Frank Almasy and Chad Johnson of Forest Hill. In the morning, they pulled out a 1-up victory over No. 12 seeds Brian Celiberti and his son, Will.
“We were fortunate to win this morning. Brian Celiberti was making almost all of his putts. But the key for us was playing bogey-free golf in both matches today,” said Guy, an executive with Eligo Club.
Collins birdied two of the first three holes against Almasy and Johnson and Guy added a birdie victory on the par-5 No. 4 for a 3-up advantage they never lost.
Collins and Guy decided to partner for the championship after meeting last winter at the International Four-Ball event in Florida. Collins played in the 2018 U.S. Four-Ball Championship with Brian Komline of Black Oak Golf Club and the two were exempt into the 2018 NJSGA Four-Ball, but did not participate.
This year, Collins and Steve Zychowski teamed up to qualify as first alternates for the U.S. Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes. Those two also played as partners in last month’s Compher Cup matches at the Ridge at Back Brook.
“I really like our chances. We haven’t played our best golf yet,” said Collins, who works in finance.