SPRING LAKE HEIGHTS, N.J. Michael Deo and Michael Stamberger were on a collision course to meet in the finals of the 25th Mid-Amateur Championship at Spring Lake Golf Club. Both were playing well and winning most of their matches convincingly, sweeping through the quarterfinals and semifinals. But in the final match it was Stamberger who continued to stay hot while Deo cooled off, resulting in a 5&3 victory for Stamberger in his first-ever Mid-Am appearance.

Stamberger and Deo are two of the pre-eminent amateurs in the State, and everyone was expecting a close match, which it was on the front side. Stamberger consistently maintained a 1-up lead, except for two brief occasions when his lead grew to 2-up. Deo’s eagle on the par-5 ninth returned the match to a 1-up lead for Stamberger after the front side.

The match quickly changed complexion on the back side. Deo’s eagle at the ninth failed to ignite a surge in momentum for the defending champion. After par won the eleventh hole for Stamberger, he reeled off four consecutive birdies to Deo’s one birdie, suddenly building his lead to 5-up and closing out the match on the fifteenth hole. Stamberger’s game was the model of consistency. He steadily hit fairways and greens and waited patiently for his putter to respond, which it did on the back side. “I play my best golf when the putter gets hot,” Stamberger said after the match. Indeed, he was medalist in the qualifying round at Knob Hill by virtue of a 5-under par 65 and also was 4-under in one of his earlier Mid-Am matches. Deo struggled most of the day with his ball striking, losing several tee shots and approaches to the right. His A-game was not present in the final match as it had been in the earlier matches.

To reach the finals, Stamberger defeated Louis Giovi, Tom Hyland, Domenic Gatto and Greg Stebbins. Deo reached the finals by winning matches against Michael Heller, Ivan Field, Sukhi Manhas and Jon Tingley.

While Stamberger’s victory in the Mid-Am is his first, he is no stranger to championship golf in the Met area. His resume includes victories in the 2003 Met Amateur at Somerset Hills C.C., two NYC Amateurs and a Bergen County Amateur. Deo is coming off a big season after winning the NJSGA Mid-Am and Four Ball Championships last year. Playing a reduced schedule this year due to work and family reasons, he had hoped to notch an early victory and successful title defense in this year’s Mid-Am.

Spring Lake played to its reputation this week as a thinking man’s golf course. Not long at 6,500 yards, it relies on shot making skills and good putting to produce success. Its narrow, tree-lined fairways and small greens require precise placement of the golf ball, and its fast greens require a deft touch with the putter. This is the first time Spring Lake has hosted the Mid-Am.

Scenes from the final and semi-final matches ...

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