State's Top Amateurs Gather For Amateur Championship
BLOOMFIELD, N.J. The 106th NJSGA Amateur Championship will be contested this week at the storied Rockaway River Country Club in Denville, New Jersey. The par-72, 6,714 yard championship layout boasts numerous demanding characteristics that will test a talented field of competitors.
Among the field of ninety-eight premier amateur golfers is current NJSGA Mid-Amateur Champion Michael Deo of Montclair. Deo captured his first NJSGA major less than one month ago in the 24th Mid-Amateur Championship at Eagle Oaks. The 30 year old four-time Amateur Championship runner-up (including last season at Deal) will look to continue his strong early season play and capitalize on his success in 2007.
Part of the story behind this year´s Championship regards two players who will not be participating. Defending Champion Christopher Gold of Little Mill has chosen not to defend his title, instead opting to play in the Sunnehanna Tournament of Champions in Pennsylvania. In addition, six-time Champion Robert Housen of Manasquan River has withdrawn due to injury.
Despite the absence of these two players, the Championship field remains excellent. Reigning NJSGA Amateur Player of the Year Jay Blumenfeld of Mountain Ridge seeks his first NJSGA major following his victory last month at the MGA Senior Amateur Championship at Piping Rock. Past NJSGA Amateur Champion (2004) Allan Small of Fairmount, who also won the NJSGA Mid-Amateur twice (1986 and 2006) and finished fourth in the recent MGA Senior Amateur, is certain to be a factor when the final round begins Thursday afternoon.
Only two other players in the field, Bill McGuinness of Tavistock (1996) and Mark McGowan of Montclair (2005), are past NJSGA Amateur Champions. They join a number of NJSGA Champions from other events, including 2005 Open Champion Brian Komline of High Bridge Hills who was also the runner-up in the Mid-Amateur Championship this past May. A quartet of 2006 NJSGA Champions, Matt Raudenbush (Junior Champion) of Pine Valley, Alton Jones (Senior Champion) of Mendham, Christopher Housen (Tournament of Champions winner) of Manasquan River, and John Lovett (Public Links Champion) of Charleston Springs all drew exemptions due to their stellar accomplishments last season.
The honor roll of competitors continues with other notable players such as three-time NJSGA Mid-Amateur Champion Tom Gramigna of Tavistock, 2005 NJSGA Amateur Player of the Year Ron Vannelli of Metuchen, 2006 MGA Ike Champion Roger Hoit of Baltusrol, and current New Jersey State High School Champion Anthony Aloi of Mercer Oaks.
This year, the NJSGA conducted four separate, one day sectional qualifying rounds to determine the field for the Championship. On May 15th at Colts Neck under windy conditions, John Jaravata of Eagle Ridge shot an even par 70 to lead 24 qualifiers into the Championship. The day was highlighted by a hole in one, carded by Jeffrey Wall of Manasquan River on the 133 yard, par-3 seventh hole. Mays Landing hosted the second qualifier on Wednesday, May 16th, where Philip Anzaldo of Tavistock claimed medalist honors with his one-under par 71 to lead six players advancing to Rockaway River.
Royce Brook was the site of the third qualifying site on Tuesday, May 22nd, where Jordan Gibbs of Bedens Brook and Dan Marino were co-medalists with two-under par rounds of 70, which led seventeen qualifiers to the Championship. The following day on May 23rd at Apple Ridge, Steven Alex of North Jersey carded a four-over par 75 in headlining a list of eighteen players advancing to the Championship.
As always, the NJSGA Amateur Championship is graciously hosted by one of New Jersey´s premier facilities. Rockaway River Country Club, incorporated in 1915, was originally situated on the western side of the Rockaway River. The initial design consisted of only nine holes, which were laid out by the golf professional, Tom Gourley.
In 1922, golf architect Devereux Emmet, whose resume included the design of Garden City on Long Island, was hired to create the new nine holes east of the river after the Club´s purchase of additional land. A new first hole was built, on which is situated to this day the John P. Cook Cemetery. The graveyard is located outside the fairway landing area to the left of the hole, where a number of veterans of the War of 1812 and the Civil War are interred.
The design remained virtually the same until 1970, when Hal Purdy was commissioned to create a plan which would mitigate the effects of flooding and drainage issues due to the river. Purdy´s efforts were a precursor to a master plan instituted in 1985 by Brian Silva, when the course started the twenty-two year process of taking its present shape. One element of Silva´s plan included lengthening the Championship tees, which began in 2004 and was recently completed this past winter.
A champion will be crowned after 72-holes of stroke play competition on Thursday, June 7th. Eighteen holes will be played on both Tuesday, June 5 and Wednesday, June 6; the lowest 40 scorers (plus ties) will advance to Thursday’s 36-hole Championship finale. The lowest aggregate 72-hole scorer will be awarded the Edwin M. Wild Championship trophy as the 106th New Jersey State Amateur Champion.