Jim Schulz and Mike Decker of Mercer Oaks, a team that finished fifth last year, said putting made the difference in winning the second NJSGA Ultimate Team Event on Monday, August 29, at Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton.
“We had a lot of putts go in, and we had only one bogey, so we scored points on 26 of the 27 holes,” said Decker, 53, who lives in Princeton Junction.
“The strength of the team is critical. We were fifth last year and committed to win this year,” said Schulz, 47, who is a lifetime resident of Hamilton Township.
Schulz and Decker combined for 67 points to edge out Dan Zaccaro and John Kostin of Mountain View, runners-up for the second straight year. Chris Carton and Chris Lukas of Spring Lake took third place at 64 on a match of cards.
Last year’s champions, Dan LaVecchia and Larry Hannon of Trump National in Bedminster, also shot 64 and took home low gross honors.
The exciting event included clubs from throughout the State of New Jersey, pitting twosomes from member clubs in a unique 27-hole format. Twosomes had been designated by their clubs to participate. In last year’s inaugural event, 62 twosomes competed at Metedeconk National in Jackson.
In the event, the teams play in three nine-hole different formats over the 27 holes in a series of three shotgun starts. One set of nine holes is played in four-ball format, with each partner playing his own ball and counting the low ball on each hole. A second nine-hole set is in a Pinehurst format, with each member teeing off, then playing the other’s second shot, and then playing the best shot the rest of the way.
A third set of nine holes is played in a Shamble format, with each member teeing off, selecting the better second shot, and then each partner playing a separate ball from that point the rest of the way.
The event is scored using Stableford (points) scoring for the entire event which is one point for Net Bogey, two points for Net Par, three points for Net Birdie and four points for Net Eagle and a hole-in-one on a Par 3.
At Upper Montclair, the Shamble took place over the East nine, the Four-Ball over the South nine and the Pinehurst over the West nine.
“You’ve got to focus on the hole in front of you, play it out and don’t get ahead of yourself,” said Decker, who has won both a Mercer Oaks regular and senior club championships. Schulz (president) and Decker (treasurer) are both active on the Mercer County Golf Association.
Also, last year, the two won at NJSGA Member Golf Day two-man event at Upper Montclair.
“Jim is a long hitter and I’m the steady guy, fairways and greens,” Decker said.
The team won the event by piling up 24 points on its final nine, the Pinehurst competition.
“We support the New Jersey State Golf Association,” said Schulz, 47, who has played in State Amateur qualifiers, the state public links and the Father and Son events. “As far as a format, this was a joy to play. It commits you to your partner for the day. It really is the ultimate team event.”
The victory included a pivotal putt in each of the formats. On the final nine over the South, a par-saving 10-footer by Decker saved the seventh hole.
On the closing hole of the West nine Schulz drained a 20-footer for a par and on the ninth hole of the East, Schulz counted a 30-footer for a birdie.
Both players carry five handicaps and are also members of Old York at Chesterfield.. Decker is vice president of the International Certificate Public Accountants and leads the team that writes exams for the organization.
Schulz, a lobbyist, is the director of Government Affairs for the New Jersey Dental Association.