by Rick Jenkins

MILLSTONE, N.J. (July 26, 2010). The rest of the field was playing for second. After Eric LeFante opened with a six under par 66 in the 36-hole Men’s Public Links Championship at Charleston Spring’s South Course on July 22nd, it became clear early in the second round that no one would catch him. He bettered his first round score, shooting 64, and posted the lowest 36-hole score in the history of NJSGA competition at fourteen under par. In the process, he managed to win the Men’s Public Links Championship by eleven strokes and defend the title he won last year.

LeFante, 23, is a former Rider University golfer who graduated in 2009 and has not played much competitive golf this year. In fact, the Men’s Public Links was his first NJSGA event since winning it last year, which makes his record-setting performance even more remarkable. To top it off, he changed his grip a few days before the tournament – from an overlapping grip to an interlocking one. “I have switched between the two grips before,” he said. “When I didn’t play well in the Hominy Hill club championship, I decided to make the change,” he added. The 66 he shot in the morning round of play was his personal best, that is until he produced the 64 a few hours later. The Men’s Public Links is a 36-hole championship played in one day.

LeFante’s two rounds consisted of 21 pars, 13 birdies, one eagle and a lone bogie. He shot 30 on the front nine in both rounds, which is six under par. Did he know he might be making history? “No, not really, I just tried hard to stay in the present,” he said in the modest tone that defines his quiet personality.

The buzz managed to spread around the golf course that LeFante was playing lights out, and most players knew they were playing for second. David Pierce, who was paired with LeFante, was an admiring spectator of his amazing feat. “He was playing so incredibly well I just wanted to stay out of his way,” Pierce said. Pierce, the reigning NJSGA Mid-Amateur champion, shot 69 (-3) in the final round and won the duel for second place over Anthony Scelba, Michael Deo and Eric Lasota. Scelba eventually finished in third by himself while Deo and Lasota tied for fourth.

With LeFante having started a new job at a private equity firm in Philadelphia and working on his MBA, his competitive play may be restricted this year, but keep your eyes open for this new phenom in New Jersey golf. This kid can play!

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