In a championship that included for him a hole-in-one and medalist honors, Peter Barron III of Stone Harbor capped it off with his first New Jersey State Golf Association championship, winning the 34thMid-Amateur with a gritty 1-up victory over Matt Mattare of Darlington on Thursday, May 11, at 6,905-yard Trump National Golf Club in Colts Neck.
The players came into the 18th hole all square and had to play safe into the wind on the 565-yard par-5 No. 18 that includes a lake on the left of the fairway.
Both made it safely onto the green in three shots, Mattare 35 feet towards the back of the green and Barron 30 feet to the right of the cup. Mattare left his putt 4-feet short, but Barron got his within two feet. Mattare missed his par putt left and when Barron converted for par, the championship was his.
It was sweet redemption for Barron who had been runner-up in the event twice and semifinalist four times in 10 attempts to have his name inscribed on the Gigi Carnevale Trophy.
“This is the best I’ve won. It’s difficult to win in match play because you don’t play it that much. But this was a great match, back and forth. Nobody wanted to give too much away,” said Barron, 41, a father of three who resides in Mays Landing and works as a financial advisor in Galloway Township.
Barron, who won the GAP Mid-Amateur in 2014 and the Delaware Open last year, was a member of Methodist University’s Division 3 national championship team in 1998.
A birdie on the par-5 No. 13 put Barron up by two holes, but that lead was cut into immediately when Mattare won the par-4 No. 14 with a par. The players halved the par-3 No. 15, but it went all square when Mattare won the 298-yard par No. 16 with a par.
On that hole, Barron’s drive left him 30 yards short of the hole and his chip left him 35 feet short on an incline. He ended with a bogey.
It stayed all square when the pair halved No. 17 with pars.
“It was a great week for me, starting with the ace, and then the players I faced got better and better,” Barron said. “I think my experience helped. You’ve got to be patient and you can’t give holes away. It’s a great way to start the year. It will give me a ton of confidence. I can draw on this experience in the future,” said Barron, who will play in the NJSGA Amateur in June at Tavistock.
Mattare, 31, has played in four U.S. Mid-Amateurs and has advanced to the quarterfinals and Round of 16, was taking part in his first NJSGA event. He is a native of Bethlehem, Pa., and has resided in Jersey City since 2013.
“That was the first putt I missed this week inside of five feet and it came at a bad time,” said Mattare, a graduate of Notre Dame. “I can take a lot of positives away from this week. I lost to a great player in Pete Barron who went from medalist to champion. He earned it. I just wish he beat me instead of me beating myself.”
Barron, who made his third appearance in the championship match, defeated Michael Brown of Pennsauken, 4 and 3, in the semifinal.
”I had only one bad hole, when I three-putted the first, but I went back to solid drives. I played this morning much better than I did yesterday,” Barron said.
“The strategy is to be patient when you have to and be aggressive when you have to be. I know Matt Mattare from GAP events. He has the whole game. He is a good putter and a good driver of the ball. You can’t find a flaw in his game.”
“Against him, I want to hit it in the center of the fairway, then knock it as close to the pin as I can, and when you have the green-light putt, go for it. Making putts will be what it boils down to.”
Mattare played great in his morning 5 and 4 semifinal victory over Mike Moore of Fiddler’s Elbow. In gaining a 5-up lead through nine holes, he carded four birdies and a conceded eagle. He went to 6-up with a par victory on the par-4 No. 10 hole. Moore birdied the par-5 No. 13 before Mattare halved No. 14 to close the match.
“I still played steady. At the beginning of the round, it was still chilly. It took a little while to loosen up. After my tee shot on No. 5, everything seemed to loosen up. I got out to a quick lead and put the pressure on.
“I didn’t have a bogey. I missed three greens and went up and down each time. Over the last 26 holes, my last two matches, I hit 22 greens. That makes things a lot easier. I’ve gotten the speeds down on the putting greens. I look forward to playing Pete. He’s a great player and it will be a great match. I’ve been lucky all week, getting to meet some great guys in this tournament,” Mattare said.
Brown, who earned an exemption into the 2018 Mid-Amateur, stated: “Pete was solid; I was sloppy. It was great to play against great players.”
Moore, 47, played his first competitive golf since U.S. Open local qualifier in 2002.
“This was for fun and I got a lot more than I expected,” said Moore, a Hillsborough resident who also earned an exemption into next year’s Mid-Amateur. “Matt (Mattare’s) ball flight is consistent every hot. He makes all the shots. You can’t make a bogey against a guy like that. He reminds me of the guys I played against in Florida on the Golden Bear Tour, guys like Brian Gay, Brett Wetterich and Kevin Johnson, who made it.”