Kevin Campana and Ryan Macdonald Win 87th Four-Ball Championship
Rutgers University Class of 2001 teammates Kevin Campana of Ash Brook Golf Course and Ryan Macdonald of NJSGA E-Club now have incentive to see a lot more of each other.
Campana and Macdonald defeated Tom Collins of Essex County Country Club and Tom Guy of Eligo Club, 1 up, in the final match of the 87th NJSGA Four-Ball Championship on Wednesday, May 8, at the par-71, 6,517-yard Forest Hill Field Club in Bloomfield.
With the title comes an exemption into next year’s championship to be played at Manasquan River Golf Club in Brielle.
“Ryan’s father, Mike, is a member there, so they’ll have to invite me down for a few practice rounds,” said Campana, 39, a fourth-grade teacher in North Brunswick.
This week, the duo channeled their camaraderie from years gone by when they were honored as Rutgers' co-MVPs in their junior and senior seasons. After playing together in the NJSGA Four-Ball three years ago for the first time, they advanced to the match-play portion last year (2018) at Rumson - setting the stage for their climb to the top at Forest Hill.
“Because we were college teammates, it’s great to get our names on the trophy. There are some great names on there,” Campana said.
“Kevin and I were great friends, but after college we lost touch. I went to Florida and played on the Hooters and Golden Bear Tours, and then we both got married. But I always enjoy seeing Kevin. He’s so even-keeled,” said Macdonald, 39, who works in software sales and lives in Manasquan.
In the championship match, Campana and Macdonald started with a birdie and won the opening hole, but Guy and Collins quickly squared the match with a birdie on the par-4 No. 2. They went 1-up with a par victory on the par-4 No. 6, but Guy sank a 15-footer birdie putt on the par-3 No. 8 to again tie the match.
Campana, who resides in Kendall Park, drained a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4 No. 9 to again put his team in front.
The back nine became a battle of attrition as Campana and Macdonald won two holes without making a birdie. They won the par-4 No. 11 when Macdonald chipped to one foot for a par to give his team a two-hole cushion.
However, Guy and Collins quickly responded to tie the match when they won the par-4 ,No. 12 with a par – and two holes later, took the par-5 No. 14 when Guy sank a four-foot birdie putt.
The match turned on the par-3 No. 16. Guy and Collins both missed the green. Macdonald’s tee shot landed on the green 22 feet from the hole and he got his first putt to within two feet, sinking the second putt for a par victory.
The teams halved the par-4 No. 17. On the par-3 closing hole, Campana was the only golfer of the four to find the green, ending 25 feet beyond and to the right of the pin. While Guy and Collins both found greenside bunkers, it was Macdonald who would play the hero. His tee shot landed in the rough in front of the green and he chipped to 15 feet. After some discussion with his partner, Macdonald sank the putt for a half and the 1-up victory for his team.
“I felt like we could win against anybody, but to win a championship like this, you have to get some breaks. To get through the match, you have to make putts at the right time,” Macdonald noted.
“We had a good time this week, but we ran out of gas,” said Collins, 38, a resident of Morristown. “We got beat by the better team.”
“We weren’t able to make birdies like we did in the morning,” said Guy, 35, who lives in Holmdel and was a member of the British PGA from 2002 to 2017. “They were steady and didn’t make any mistakes.”
Earlier in the day, both semifinal matches went the distance, with Collins and Guy defeating brothers Brian and Steven Zychowski of Mendham Golf & Tennis Club, 1 up, and Campana and Macdonald edging Mike O’Connell and Xavier Dailly of Arcola Country Club, 1 up.
Campana and Macdonald quickly found themselves trailing by two holes after the O’Connell / Dailly tandem birdied Nos. 2 and 3. But they rallied with birdie victories on the par-5 No. 4, and par-4 No. 6 to draw even. When Macdonald sank a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 9 and Campana followed with a 15-footer for birdie on No. 10, they gained a 2-up advantage.
Dally drove the green on the 305-yard No. 12 and his birdie sliced the lead to 1-up. Campana’s four-foot birdie putt following a short chip on the par-5 No. 14 got the lead back to two holes. But O’Connell drained a 12-footer for birdie from the fringe on No. 17 to cut the deficit to just one hole.
But Macdonald’s two-putt par from 25 feet was enough for the 1-up victory.
“It was a great match and they made a lot of putts. That’s what a match like this always comes down to,” said O’Connell, who reached the NJSGA Four-Ball finals in 2006 and in 2012. “There were a few putts I’d like to have back.”
O’Connell and Dailly are part of Arcola’s team that has won the Hoffman Cup three of the past four years, including 2017 and 2018, and Campana and Macdonald knew their focus had to be sharp.
“We tried to hit the green and be in as many holes as possible,” Macdonald stated. “Kevin was pretty much a putting robot out there. He rarely takes off a hole, and when that happens, I’m able to help out.
“The only time I felt the pressure was on 18, which was playing 215 yards uphill and into the wind. I hit a four iron and knew I had to put it on the green. I just calmed down and though of my son, Ryten.”
“We got lucky there,” Campana said. “My chip landed right behind his ball, so I gave him the line.”
“The greens have been tough out there with a lot of subtle breaks,” Macdonald said. “We can’t give any holes away.”
In the other semifinal, an eagle by Guy on the par-5 No. 4 hole – when he put his approach from 195 yards to three feet – provided an early 1-up lead for Guy and Collins. But the Zychowskis evened the match with a par victory on the par-3 No. 5.
A 15-foot birdie putt by Collins put his team back in front, and on the par-4 No. 13, Collins drained a 17-foot uphill putt for a 2-up advantage. Steve Zychowski dropped an 18-foot putt for birdie on No. 16 to cut the lead to 1-up. A two-putt par by Guy from 18 feet on No. 18 closed out the match.
“Tom and myself have a lot of experience and we wanted to do nothing but win,” Collins said. “As a team, we have a really good attitude. Some of Tom’s self-deprecating humor keeps things light. One example is that after the third hole, Tom noticed I was taking things a little too seriously.
“He reminded me we needed to have more fun out there. After that, we played relaxed the rest of the way. Tom did a heck of a job closing for us. Yesterday, I was the guy and today it was him. We had plenty of birdies and pars.”
Steve Zychowski has a close relationship with Collins. Together, they qualified as first alternates for the 2019 U.S. Four-Ball Championship.
“We ran up against a great team. The two Toms are solid, and are in in every hole looking at birdie putts,” Zychowski said. “We had a couple looks at birdie putts to win holes, but didn’t take advantage. We ran out of holes.
“What they did wasn’t surprising, including making that eagle on the fourth hole. Brian played well and I started making putts down the stretch. Brian made a great birdie putt for a half on No. 12, a downhill seven-footer, to keep us in the match,” Steve Zychowski said.
The NJSGA looks forward to the 2020 Four-Ball Championship which will be held in early May at the newly-renovated Manasquan River Golf Club in Brielle.