Mike LoCastro’s eight-foot par putt on the 18th hole closed out the match following a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th by partner Harris Podvey as the Rolling Greens team defeated Mike O’Connell and Luke Edelman of North Jersey, 1 up, to win the championship of the NJSGA 80th Four-Ball Championship on Wednesday, August 8, at the Essex County Country Club in West Orange.


Both teams were playing in the event for the first time.

Podvey’s 20-footer gave back Rolling Greens a 1-up lead it lost when O’Connell rolled in a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-4 14th hole. Edelman’s par putt had pulled North Jersey within 1-up on the par-3 11th hole.

Rolling Greens had taken a 2-up lead after nine holes by recording birdies at the par-4 fourth hole, the par-5 seventh, and the par-3 ninth holes. On the ninth, Podvey rolled in an 18-foot putt. North Jersey had a birdie win on the par-4 third hole.

“That eight-footer on 18 felt like 100 feet,” said LoCastro, a Denville resident, who earned his first NJSGA victory. “We grinded all week. This course suited our games all week. Harris doesn’t miss a fairway and is great on the greens and I have some length.

“Harris also has some tournament experience wich helped us through these matches. I had the perfect partner.”

Podvey won the 2001 NJSGA Mid-Amateur and finished sixth in the 2000 State Amateur played at Essex County.

“I always loved putting here,” Podvey said. “The key this week was that we were in every hole, except for maybe two, all week. I let Mike lead off because I’d prefer to have the pressure on me. I was getting frustrated. Sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever win again.”

The North Jersey duo had birdie opportunities with medium-range putts on the par-3 15th and par-4 16th holes.

“They made every putt they needed to make,” said O’Connell, a financial analyst from Mahwah. “I thought we’d have an advantage on the back nine because we played great there all week. The finals match was all you could ask for – great play by both teams.”“We had a couple of great chances near the end,” said Edelman, an All-State scholastic player for Saddle River Day School this spring. “It was a great match, a great learning experience.”

In the morning semifinals, O’Connell and Edelman defeated the 2011 defending champions Anthony Aloi and Michael DiMeglio, 2 and 1, while Podvey and LoCastro ousted the Forsgate team of Jerry Horton and Nick DiPetra, 3 and 2.

“Of course we knew Aloi and DiMeglio was the team to beat because they were the defending champions and both are very good players,” said O’Connell, who watched Aloi drain a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 17th hole to give his team a chance to remain alive.

“It was no surprise when Anthony made that putt and forced me to make mine (6-footer) to end the match.”

Edelman said the toughest part of the tournament is reading the greens. “You don’t see anything on the greens,” said Edelman, who will be a freshman at Bucknell University and was top 20 in the Met Amateur and top 30 in the State Amateur this summer.

“To me, if you see a little break, it means it doesn’t break much at all,” O’Connell added.

Aloi, who in 2011 won both the Met Publinx and the NJSGA Publinx, said there was no pressure on playing as defending champs.

“The difference this year was that there were much better players out here. There swas nothing handed to you,” said Aloi, who will return for his senior year at Furman University. “You needed birdies to win holes.”

Added DiMeglio: “I think we would’ve won this tournament easily if we were both up to par. To get it done, you have to make pars.”

Aloi and DiMeglio rallied in the quarterfinals from 2-down to beat the Rumson team of Dennis Devine and David Iwan, 3 and 1, by winning the 12th, 13th and 14th holes.

Podvey and LoCasgtro carded birdies on the par-4 second and par-4 fifth holes to take a 2-up lead on Horton and DiPetra at the turn. They won the par-4 ninth and par-3 10thwith pars to go 4-up and finally closed out the match on the 16th hole with a par victory.

“We just want to go out and play good golf,” said LoCastro, a software developer who also caddies at Arcola. “We’re both very different players and that helps us.”

LoCastro was playing for a fourth time in the event. Podvey, of West Caldwell, who manages a law firm, won the 2001 State Mid-Amateur.

“They got the jump on us and we couldn’t recover,” said Horton, 58, the runner-up in the State Senior amateur in both 2011 and ’12. “This is the third time I played in this and it’s my best finish.”

In the quarterfinals on the afternoon of August 7, Podvey and LoCastro, 48, outlasted the Mendham team of Sam Wallach and Steve Zychowski, a pair of spirited 18-year-olds.

The match was all square through nine holes as both Podvey and Zychowski fired darts and returned scores of 5-under-par 32 for the front nine. Podvey remained hot and his team finally subdued their opponents, 2 and 1, after rallying from 1-down with par victories on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes.

“Around here, par is a good score and they made a couple of mistakes late,” Podvey, 46, said.

O’Connell and Edelman struggled to beat Bill Durnan and Steve Sclafani of Trump National-Bedminster when Edelman sank a 15-foot downhill putt on the par-3 15th hole for a par to go all square.

“We would’ve gone home if I didn’t make that because they had all the momemtum. I went back to my tournament experience and told myself I was going to make that putt,” Edelman said.

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