Ballo Tops Field for Ike Championship Title at Nassau CC
July 1, 2009 – Playing against a field that boasted competitors who have not only played Nassau Country Club a number of times, but have hoisted championship trophies at the historic Long Island club, Mike Ballo Jr. of Woodway Country Club — who had seen the course before this week — fired a final-round 66 to propel the 21-year-old to his first MGA championship at the 54th Ike Championship presented by Canon. Ballo finished with a three-round total of 207 (-3), good for a two-stroke win over Chris DeForest of Rondout, the 2006 Carter Cup champion.
A ninety-minute weather delay stopped play towards the end of the second round, but rain and thunder could not impede the rising senior captain on the St. John’s University golf team. Ballo had been hanging around the top of the leaderboard after the first two rounds, shooting 70-71 to trail DeForest, the 36-hole leader, by five strokes. At one point in the afternoon, Ballo was tied for the lead with DeForest and two other players, and while they faltered a bit, Ballo shot a back-nine 30 to pass DeForest, Roger Hoit of Baltusrol and Joe Saladino of Huntington. Hoit finished alone in third place at one-over 211. Tying for fourth place at two-over-par 212 with Saladino was Al Falussy of Bethpage. Two strokes farther back at 214 were 2008 Ike champion Kevin Foley of Neshanic Valley and Michael Quagliano of GlenArbor. Foley and Max Bichsel of Neshanic Valley came away with the Ike team championship.
With three birdies in his final four holes, Ballo got in trouble off the tee on 18 when he hooked his drive left into the deep rough and under a tree. He had 137 yards left to the green and punched a shot under the trees that came to rest five feet from the hole. From there, Ballo sank the birdie putt that ultimately secured the win. DeForest and Hoit each shot final-round 73s. Hoit was gunning for his second Ike title, his first coming in 2006 at Fresh Meadow Country Club, a neighbor to Nassau.
Although this is Ballo’s first MGA championship, he already has a victory under his belt at the WGA Amateur this year. “I’ve been having a great summer. I made it to the semifinals at the Connecticut Amateur, and won the Westchester Amateur, and now this – it’s great.” The son of a golf professional and pupil of St. John’s golf team coach Frank Darby, Ballo has a knowledgable and passionate support group behind him, who reminded him that he was still in the thick of things. “I just kept plugging along and plugging along, knowing I was in the hunt.” Ballo has proved that he is one of the top amateur’s in the Met Area as this victory raises his lead in the MGA Jerry Courville Jr. Player of the Year list from 185 points to 435.