DENVILLE, N.J. (August 2, 2010). In the 89th playing of the William Y. Dear Junior and Boys’ Championships, one of the oldest junior tournaments in the country, first-time NJSGA competitors prevailed as champions. In the Junior division, which represents the 16-17 age category, Louis Kelly of Valleybrook Country Club defeated Ernie Renda of Fox Hollow Golf Club in the final match, 2&1. In the Boys’ division, for players 15 and under, Michael Pansini of Valley Brook Golf Course defeated Ryan Rose of Ridgewood Country Club, 1-up. Rockaway River Country Club was the venue for these championships on July 26-28th, when the heat wave finally broke and provided for three days of beautiful weather at this past State Amateur site.

The Junior final match was a see-saw battle between Kelly and Renda, both rising seniors in high school. The players were evenly matched, and each had his turn at being one-up and one-down. Kelly grew his lead to 2-up on two occasions on the front side before Renda squared the match on the eleventh hole with a par on the long, downhill par-3. With the match in the balance, the pivotal hole turned out to be the 572-yard, par-5 fifteenth when Kelly got home in two and calmly two-putted for the win. Kelly’s putter had cooled off from the previous day’s matches, when he acknowledged “the best putting performance of my life,” but you knew a decisive putt was lurking. And that’s what happened on the seventeenth hole, a short par-4, when he rolled in a birdie putt after an approach to about twelve feet. The birdie secured the 2&1 victory for Kelly.

Kelly is not a familiar name in NJSGA golf circles, this being his first NJSGA event. Living in south Jersey, he tends to play in Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) events and, like most juniors his age, AJGA events. He lost in the quarter-finals of the GAP Junior Championship in late June. He plays with a determination and focus well beyond his years. A deliberate player who shows little emotion on the golf course, you can sense the intensity swirling in his head that drives him to perform. He skated through the match play field by defeating Ben Alcorn of Fairmount Country Club, 5&3, and Vince Martino of Montclair Golf Club, 5&4, before going the distance in his semi-final match against Robert Bonney III of Deal Golf & Country Club, winning 1-up on the 18th hole.

The Boys’ final match was more the story of an upset. Rose, one of the medalists in the stroke play qualifying round, was probably the favorite over Pansini, who was used to being down in his matches before scratching out victories. The final match was all square through ten holes, then Rose took a 2-up lead with pars on both back nine par-3s, the eleventh and fourteenth. With the match seemingly in hand for Rose at 2-up with three to play, a kink appeared in his armor when he three-putted the sixteenth to lose that hole. Bigger problems ensued on the next two holes, and he dropped both of them, losing to Pansini 1-down. For Pansini, who will be a junior at Pascack Hills High School, the win is his first major win in golf. “It feels great. This is my first trophy in golf, so it feels pretty cool,” he said. In tough matches, he played steady golf and kept his nerves in check to gut out the wins. “I couldn’t be more proud of him,” said his high school golf coach Ed Sandt.

Rockaway River, which is so well contoured to the terrain on which it is built and sets the standard for beautifully preserved natural areas, was set up to play approximately 6,650 yards for both championships. To view the full match play brackets, click here.

by Rick Jenkins

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