PLAINFIELD, N.J. Brian Komline capped a thrilling conclusion to the 87th NJSGA Open Championship at Plainfield Country Club with a one-stroke victory over Frank Esposito, Jr. of Brooklake. Komline, a 33 year old amateur who plays at High Bridge Hills, becomes only the second amateur to capture the C.W. Badenhausen Trophy twice in the 87-year history of the Championship, along with Chester Sanok who did it in 1951 and 1956. Komline’s first victory was in 2005 at Fairmount when he took a commanding lead into the final round. Only six amateurs have won the Open Championship since its inception in 1921.
Komline’s final round 69 (35-34) was the only sub-70 round during the week of the Open Championship, and his first and third rounds were two of the ten rounds shot under par for the week by the field. Komline shot rounds of 71-74-69 for a two-under par total of 214 on Plainfield’s par-72, 6,998 yard layout.
Komline was firing on all cylinders in his final round. He played nearly flawless golf after an opening hole bogey with only two mistakes – both three-putts – that led to his only other bogies of the day. He played the back side of the final round at two-under par with birdies on ten, twelve and seventeen. His play down the stretch won him the tournament as the back side played tougher than the front all week, with most of the field struggling to break 40. For the week, the back side played to a 39.6 stroke average while the front side played to 38.4. Komline’s birdie on seventeen was key and held off a hard-charging Esposito, who birdied four of his five closing holes. A birdie on eighteen would have tied Esposito with Komline and forced a playoff. After an approach to twelve feet on eighteen, Esposito’s slick, downhill birdie putt slid by the hole, ratifying Komline’s one-stroke victory.
Playing conditions in the final round were ideal following two extremely hot days when temperatures soared to nearly 100 degrees. Following a storm on Wednesday evening, temperatures moderated and produced a perfect summer day for the final round on Thursday. The Wednesday storm led to two weather delays with 13 groups remaining on the golf course, and play did not wrap up until 7:30 pm.
Plainfield proved the challenging test that has been its provenance for years as a major championship venue. The 1916 Donald Ross layout was in ideal condition, playing firm and fast all week. Pin positions challenged many of the players, forcing them to play their approach shots high and soft and to putt cautiously on the slick greens. Most of the players pronounced the course and the set-up difficult but fair, fitting for the State’s Open Championship.
Of his victory, Komline said “It validates the first [victory]. I wanted to prove to myself that 2005 wasn’t a fluke and I could do it again.” After being asked what it means to have his name join the likes of Craig Wood, Byron Nelson, Johnny Farrell, Babe Lichardus, David Glenz and Ed Whitman on the Championship trophy, Komline said, “Well, I don’t know if my name belongs in their company, but it’s nice to be on that trophy twice, and that can never be taken away.”
Brian Gaffney of Rumson played steady golf throughout the week and finished in third place (72-74-71) to go with his fourth place finish last year. The amateur contingent continued to impress, with Marc Issler of Pine Barrens and Matt Kleinrock of Forest Hill finishing in a tie for fourth, along with Professional John Appleget of Cape May National.
For full field results and course statistics, please click on the link above. For photographic action, please click on the link below.