New faces take the stage in 36th Mid-Am Semifinals Thursday at Crestmont
When the semifinals of the 36th NJSGA Mid-Amateur Championship are played on Wednesday morning at par-72, 6,616-yard Crestmont Country Club in West Orange, the matches will feature four golfers who have never advanced to this stage of the event.
Steve Zychowski of Mendham will face Jack Skirkanich of Rumson at 7:30 a.m., followed by Vince Kwon of NJSGA E-Club - South Jersey vs. Brandon Dalinka of The Ridge at Back Brook at 7:40 a.m. The championship takes place on Wednesday afternoon.
Zychowski, 27, and Kwon and Dalinka, both 25, have taken advantage of the rule change implemented last year by the NJSGA which lowered the age of eligibility from 30 to 25, in keeping with the USGA Mid-Amateur. They are all playing in their first NJSGA Mid-Amateur, while Skirkanich, 36, has played in several – but has never reached the semifinal stage.
Trailing by three holes at the turn, Zychowski staged a rally to get all square when he carded birdie victories on the par-4, 10th and 15th holes, and the par-5, No. 18. He won the match with a birdie on the par-5 No. 1 (19th hole) as Paul Giovannoli of NJSGA-EClub found himself in trouble in a right-greenside bunker following his second shot. Standing in the bunker, he chopped at his ball, which then landed in the bunker. His next shot found the bunker on the opposite side, and when his next shot landed 20 feet from the hole, he conceded the match.
“I thought if I could get up and down from the left rough on 18, I had a chance, but then he flew the green and bogeyed the hole,” said Zychowski, who drew all square at that point. “His short game was so good all day.”
On the 19th hole, the par-5, No. 1, Zychowski, who played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2018, sliced his drive, but was able to get his second shot back into the fairway. His approach from 140 yards ended 15 feet from the flag.
“In match play, nothing is given. The greens were so fast that you had to be below the hole. That was not an option, but a necessity. I played well on the back nine. I love match play. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Skirkanich won his final three holes to get past Brian Komline of Black Oak in back-and-forth match which saw Komline win holes 10, 12, 13, and 14 to go 1-up.
After Komline drew his first advantage of the match, Skirkanich won the par-4 Nos. 15 and 16 with pars before sinking a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3, No. 17 to win the match.
“I’ve played a lot of golf with Jay Blumenfeld (who Skirkanich bested in Wednesday's round of 16) and Brian Komline over the years, so coming here I knew I had to play good golf at a great golf course,” Skirkanich said. “I was lucky in that I didn’t see Jay or Brian’s best stuff today. It was nice to play well in those matches and to feel the adrenaline.
“This is a good golf course for me. It’s really hard and you’ve got to take it from the greens backwards. You have to be really smart here.”
Kwon outlasted Jason Cardamone of Colts Neck in a back-and-forth match. Cardamone, 31, a former Seton Hall University golfer from Scranton, Pa., rallied from a three-hole deficit after 13 holes. He won the par-5, No. 14 and par-4, No. 15 with pars to cut the deficit to a single hole. But Kwon won the par-4, No. 16 with a par, only to see Cardamone come right back and win the par-3, No. 17 with a par.
It came down to the par-5, No. 18 and Kwon – who last week reached the semifinals of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship with partner Troy Vannucci in Bandon, Oregon – put himself in great position, getting on the green in two shots and ending 15 feet from the hole. He birdied from there to close out the match.
“Last week at Bandon Dunes, you had to play a lot of bump and run to get under the wind. Today, a lot of chip shots were easy for me. My first round was solid, but in the second round, I think I got fatigued a little bit. It became a matter of survival. I got a lot of confidence from playing last week. I’m hoping for the best tomorrow.”
Dalinka, who was fourth in the NJSGA Amateur at Baltusrol in 2012 and played college golf at the University of North Carolina, never trailed in the afternoon quarterfinals versus Chester Patterson of Darlington. He had birdie victories at the par-5, No. 1, the par-5, No. 9, and the par-5, No. 14. Patterson closed the gap to two holes with a par victory on the par-4 No. 16, but Dalinka ended the match with a par victory on the par-3, No. 17.
“The NJSGA always puts on good events. They change the course around each day and make it enjoyable. I just wanted to keep the ball below the hole, and I did a good job of that,” said Dalinka, who has played in five USGA events, including the 2018 U.S. Amateur.
“The greens are tough but the course is in really good shape. You have to be careful with your iron shots.”
Follow Thursday’s semifinal and championship matches with hole-by-hole scoring at www.njsga.org, and across the NJSGA’s social media outlets.