Photo, from left, Gail Reilly, former executive director of South Jersey Golf Association, men's champion Michael Winter, men's senior amateur champion Frank Abbott, and Rich Kennedy of NJSGA

Michael Winter of Mercer Oaks birdied his final hole to shoot two-over-par 72 and was victorious by one stroke in the men’s division of the inaugural NJSGA South Jersey Cup on Tuesday at the historic par-70, 6,545-yard Atlantic City Country Club in Northfield. 

Winter, 22, a recent graduate of St. Peter’s University, sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-4 No. 9, his final hole, to edge Mike Paduano of Eagle Oaks, who shot 73. Tim McKenna of Hominy Hill was third at 75, while Parker Weil of Ridgewood was fourth with a 76.

Winter’s victory granted him an exemption into the 2020 NJSGA Amateur Championship at Arcola Country Club. Winter has made the cut at four of the past five Amateur Championships, but missed by one shot this summer.  

Frank Abbott of Oak Hill birdied the first playoff hole, the par-4, No. 18, to claim first place in the Senior Amateur Division over Bill Dittmann of Fairway Mews. Both had shot 76. Matt Wirths of Baltusrol shot 77 and took third place on a match of cards.

Scoring

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In the women’s division, Michaila Cheung of NJSGA E-Club shot 85 to win the title by eight strokes over Virginia Alworth of Colts Neck. Jessica Kelley of Heron Glen was third with a 95. In the women’s net division, the top three places went to golfers from Cape May National. Jackie Parker won with a net 72, followed by Gail Reilly with a net 74 and Mickey Kane with a net 75.

“The South Jersey Cup celebrates the legacy of the South Jersey Golf Association. It will continue the tradition and history of South Jersey golf and we couldn’t have picked a better venue than Atlantic City Country Club which has hosted so many championships,” said Rich Kennedy, NJSGA Director of Handicapping and Membership Services.

Winter, who won three college tournaments and was all-conference for three seasons at St. Peter’s, carded a triple bogey on his penultimate hole, the par-3 eighth hole. But the native of Hamilton Square pulled out the victory with his birdie putt, which curved to the right.

“I’ve played here many times, but never in October with this kind of wind,” said Winter, a former Mercer County Open champion. “I think this tournament is great. There are not many amateur events of this kind in South Jersey, and the event will be more impressive in the future.” 

Winter, who works in outside operations at Blue Heron Pines, plans to attend PGA Tour Canada Q-School in March.

Abbott, 56, hit a wedge from 100 yards to two feet to set up his birdie to claim the Senior Amateur Division. He is a two-time senior club champion at Oak Hill, including this year.

“I’m thrilled about winning this. There will never be another first time Senior champion in this tournament. Like they say, when the wind blows in Atlantic City, the scores go up, so I’m pretty happy about how I played,” Abbott said.

Cheung is sophomore member of the golf team at Mount St. Mary’s in Maryland. The graduate of Toms River North High School twice won the Ocean County Tournament in her high school years.

“My handicap is 4.7 and I didn’t play that well. It’s exciting to win, but I didn’t expect to,” said Cheung, who won a Hurricane Tour event at Westlake two years ago when she carded a hole in one and shot 76.

Parker, who turns 60 next week, said she signed up on the final day of registration. 

The field, including men’s amateur, mid-amateur and senior golfers and females, totaled about 100 golfers who played in blustery conditions on the famed links-style course. 

Proceeds from the South Jersey Cup benefit the Gail Reilly Scholarship Program that assists New Jersey high school golfers by providing grants to defray the cost of college tuition. 

“This was a great start for an event in its first year, the first of many,” Kennedy said. “We had a number of great players in the field, and we’re well-balanced with where they came, from all over the state.

“We’re happy with the excellent amateurs, mid-amateurs and senior men’s players, and we hope to grow the women’s division to be on par with the excitement of the men’s tournaments here,” he added. 

In keeping with its intent to benefit golfers in southern New Jersey, the NJSGA added two Member Golf Days at Stone Harbor G.C., Laurel Creek C.C.

“They were well attended events and all went smoothly. Our goal is to have more of these high profile events in this section of the state and to be a magnet for top players in South Jersey,” Kennedy said.

Said Gail Reilly, former executive director of the now defunct South Jersey Golf Association: “It’s so nice to see people from North Jersey and others from as far south as Cape May to come out and support our cause, including former members of the board of the SJGA. I wish to thank the NJSGA for conducting this event.” 

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