Road to the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball : A Long Winter’s Journey (Part 5)
By Bruce Chamberlain, NJSGA Volunteer
This is the final journal article in a five-part series as Todd Wiggins and Matt Scozzari journaling their journey to the 2022 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at the Country Club of Birmingham from May 14-18. The Upper Montclair Country Club pair earned co-medalist honors at the qualifier, hosted by the New Jersey State Golf Association at Canoe Brook Country Club in August, 2021.
The championship has finally come and gone. Nine months of anticipation, preparation, rehabilitation and several other “-ations.” Certainly, Todd Wiggins and Matt Scozzari were disappointed when they failed to make the match play round of 32, as were 96 other teams, out of a field of 128, that met the same fate. However, sit and chat with the Upper Montclair duo, both recent club champions, and you would be hard-pressed to find any evidence of disappointment. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Upon returning from the Country Club of Birmingham (CCB), Wiggins reflected, “A USGA Championship is a USGA Championship and both CCB and the USGA made it feel like one. We learned a lot from this experience and can't wait to qualify and do it all over again next year. Though our score may not have shown it - we know can play with those teams.”
According to Scozzari, “Southern hospitality is much more than I ever imagined. The genuine friendliness and generosity was above and beyond anything I could have ever expected. Every member, volunteer official, and especially (our caddies) Andy (Portera) and Tom (Lamkin) went out of their way to try to do anything possible to make us know we were welcome.” There was even icing on the hospitality cake, as it was “really cool to pick specific ball models to practice with on the range!”
As for the golf itself, Wiggins observed, “Andy and Tom were incredible and provided levels of course knowledge that we would have never been able to achieve otherwise. Plus we were fast friends right from the start. Both Andy and Tom Andy made it such a fun and relaxed environment, which is exactly what we needed. If we asked a question about the course they knew the answer, but we mostly talked about anything other than golf. The conditions on the West course made it the toughest course we’ve ever played. The greens were rolling 14 or more (on the stimpmeter). Extremely firm.” Scozzari concurred, “Tough to make birdies because in order to get close to the hole there was only a 3-6’ circle to land with the perfect trajectory in order to take or not take a slope. As a medium to lower flight iron player, many flags were just not suitable for me to play aggressive.”
Initially, the pressure of a USGA event weighed heavily on Scozzari, “I did not sleep even one minute the night before the first round. I was so excited, but I also kept having visions of me topping a 3 iron in front of everyone. Once we did tee off, I didn’t have any of the nerves I thought I would. I did thin the tee shot a little, but it was center of the fairway and then I hit a wedge to 2 1/2’ and made birdie. Todd and I make it a point never to look at a scoreboard or allow negative thoughts. We had no clue where the cut was and we just continued to have fun and scratch out birdie opportunities.”
Wiggins observed, “It’s hard to explain but it is such an understated event while it is happening. Everyone knows what they’re playing for but when you look around you really wouldn’t think it was such a premier event. There were a few members that walked and talked with us shoulder to shoulder while walking the fairways throughout the rounds. Just telling stories, laughing as if it were a weekend round back at our club. You can look around and see people using push carts, others with caddies and others carrying their own bags. If not for all the USGA signage, you’d think it was just another day. That was one of our favorite aspects.”
Scozzari continued, “Our playing competitors were humble and friendly. We made several new friends. We shared a practice round with eventual co-medalist, Carter Loflin, so it will be fun to follow along as he starts his college career. And the support we had from back home, form family and friends, UMCC members and even our extended family at the NJSGA made for a nine-month trip we’d love to repeat.” Call that last line more than a sentiment – it’s a goal!
In a recent interview, four-time major winner Brooks Koepka summed it up nicely for all competitive golfers, “Golf is full of disappointment… get used to it.”
The response from Wiggins and Scozzari? Bring it on!