RINGOES, N.J. – Louis Kelly, assistant golf professional at Burlington Country Club took down Jason Gore in a three-hole aggregate playoff to capture the 102nd New Jersey Open Championship presented by Donnelly Industries.

Kelly, 29, led the field by one stroke heading into the final round and proceeded to shoot a 5-under par 66 in the final round of action at The Ridge at Back Brook.

“It means a lot,” reflected Kelly after his victory. “The NJSGA runs great events, and to have it at such a great course, that fits my game pretty well, this is definitely going to be very special for a long time.”

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Gore, 48, had a standout final round, tying the course record in relation to par, notching a 6-under par 65 to force a playoff with Kelly. His round was highlighted by a pair of eagles on No. 7 and 11. On July 1, Gore attained life member status in the NJPGA Section. He currently works for the USGA as Player Relations Manager after stints on the PGA Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour. 

There were many lead changes throughout the day as Kelly and Gore were cruising through their final round. Playing in different groups, but one after another, Kelly was able to watch Gore’s scorecard and kept his foot on the gas, carding six birdies.

“I just know I had to play my game,” Kelly reflected. “Leaderboard watching for me doesn't add any more pressure, it just solidifies what I have to do. Knowing that he (Gore) made eagle was great, just because I knew I needed to hunker down, which I've been doing all day.”

Kelly proceeded to play flawlessly in the three-hole aggregate playoff against Gore. He opened-up with a par on 16 and then notched a pair of birdies on 17 and 18 to outwork Gore, who turned in bogeys on the first two holes.

 

 

Notably, his victory marks the first time an African American has won the New Jersey Open Championship. En route to hoisting the C.W. Badenhausen Champions Trophy, he carded six birdies.

“I don't take it lightly,” Kelly expressed. “I love being a pioneer. I think I hold it well and people see that I'm cordial and excited to be around everybody. Hopefully it's just a steppingstone and I can do this on a broader scale, not just in New Jersey, but nationally and globally. That's the ultimate goal.”

The victory also marks his second NJSGA victory, the first being the W.Y. Dear Junior Championship at Rockaway River Country Club in 2010.

Kelly credits his dominant play to his wife, Rebecca, as they are newlyweds.

“I just got married and I think that was the best thing for me,” said Kelly. “Most people think it's not, but I have a great partner.”

Not only was Kelly’s wife in attendance on Wednesday afternoon, but his father and friends joined Kelly in the 18-hole walk. On Tuesday, his father, Louis Kelly Sr. caddied for him.

“In golf support is everything,” Kelly commented. “You're doing everything by yourself. Normally, you don't have a caddie because you're trying to save money. To have them here and to see it, for my first win since 2014 in college, and it to be the State Open and to have everybody come close and watch you play, it's just very special. I'm definitely going to remember this for a long time.”

For the tournament, Kelly carded a 10-under par 203. He opened the championship with a 1-over par 72 and proceeded to play impeccably the rest of the way.

Mark Costanza, 2020 New Jersey Open winner finished as the top amateur in the field, in solo third overall. After finishing with a 2-over par 73 on Monday, Costanza bounced back to record a 68 (-3) and 69 (-2), respectively.

Greg Baker, head golf professional at Rockaway River Country Club notched a hole-in-one on No. 12, a 201-yard par 3, using a 6-iron. 

“I turned away when it hit the green,” recalled Baker. “I knew it was good. Well, it bounced on the green and then when I turned around, I saw it feeding into the hole and I heard the officials.”

Kelly, of Sewell earned a $20,000 check for winning the event.

Next year, the 103rd New Jersey Open will head to Hackensack Golf Club in Oradell.

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