Cavaliere wins 99th Met Junior Championship sponsored by MetLife
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (July 14, 2016) – An eagle and three consecutive birdies by Christian Cavaliere during a five-hole stretch of the championship match in the 99th Met Junior Championship sponsored by MetLife helped propel the Katonah, N.Y., native to the title at The Patterson Club on Thursday. Cavaliere came out on top in every facet this week, earning medalist honors in the 36-hole stroke-play portion on Tuesday then winning four matches to hoist the historic Mandeville Trophy.
Cavaliere, who plays out of Mahopac Golf and Beach Club, faced an early two-hole deficit to his finals opponent Max Theodorakis of Danbury, Conn., after finding trouble on both the second and third holes. However, Cavaliere’s momentum changed dramatically as he holed out for an eagle-2 from 92 yards on the fourth hole. “I holed out on four, then that kind of jump started the rest of the round and I played well,” explained Cavaliere.
After the pair halved the par-5 fifth, Cavaliere really found his swing, carding birdies on the next three holes. “I made a great shot on six to a foot, then had a two-putt birdie on seven, and I drained a nice 20-footer on eight,” said Cavaliere, who will attend Boston College in the fall.
“In those stretches when I’m making putts, I just see the line and feel it in,” Cavaliere remarked. In the span of five holes, Cavaliere was 5-under and turned a two-hole deficit into a two-hole advantage. After halves on Nos. 9 and 10, Theodorakis appeared to have an advantage on the dogleg-right, par-5 11th as Cavaliere’s drive was pushed to the right. Theodorakis’ approach came up just short of the putting surface, but Cavaliere found a hole in the tree line and sailed a long iron onto the back portion of the green. He two-putted from there for birdie while Theodorakis could not get up and down for par. A bogey halved the lengthy par-3 12th, then Cavaliere shut the door with strong par saves on Nos. 13 and 14, winning both holes for a 5&4 victory.
While Cavaliere may have faced a deficit to each of his match play opponents, the 18-year old never worried too much about whether his game could rally. “I’ve always tended to be a back nine player, so I wasn’t too concerned,” explained Cavaliere. “I knew my game was going to come around, so getting off to a little bit of a rough start is kind of normal for me. It would have been nice to not be trailing in every match, but I fought back.”
Cavaliere’s Thursday run to the title began by fighting back against Connor Daly of Bronxville, N.Y. Cavaliere, who described the first match of the day as a grind, trailed by one after two holes, but countered with birdie on the fourth to square the match. Daly, who will attend Villanova, reclaimed his advantage with a par-4 on the eighth, before the pair halved the next five holes. Cavaliere birdied the downhill par-3 14th to pull even again, while a par on the 16th gave him his first advantage of the match. Pars on the final two holes resulted in halves to send Cavaliere to the final.
Meanwhile, Theodorakis—who tied Cavaliere with a 3-under 68 as the low round during the stroke-play portion of the championship on Tuesday—held off John Felitto of Mountainside, N.J., in his morning semifinal by taking a 1-up win. Theodorakis tallied back-to-back birdies for a 2-up lead through five, but Felitto claimed wins on Nos. 6 and 11 to square the match. Theodorakis took the lead once again with a birdie on the par-4 13th, and went 2-up following his par-4 on the 15th. Felitto quickly bounced back by claiming the 16th with a par 4. Theodorakis found trouble off the 17th, but Felitto's approach gave him a tough greenside bunker shot. Both competitors made bogey, leaving Theodorakis 1-up. On 18, Felitto knocked his approach to just four feet, but Theodorakis nearly matched him, putting his just outside Felitto. Theodorakis drained his birdie try to seal the 1-up victory.
The Met Junior is in its third year of a new format, as the area’s top juniors played 36 holes of on-site qualifying and the top 16 seeds advanced to match play for the remainder of the event. Cavaliere became the first person to medal in the stroke-play portion and go on to claim the overall championship as well.
The Met Junior Championship Sponsored by MetLife is recognized as the nation’s oldest junior championship, being founded in 1912, and has produced a quality list of champions, including Butch and Bill Harmon, Marc Turnesa, Andrew Svoboda, Mike Miller and Cameron Young.
The Patterson Club served as a superb host for the nation’s oldest junior championship. The course requires accuracy off the tee and on approach shots into well-guarded greens, while short game is also key in managing the undulating green complexes—all combining for a perfect test of golf to decide the 99th Met Junior champion.
The championship is open to juniors who have not started attending college, are not yet 19 by August 3 and who reside in the MGA territory. Players who advance to match play receive an invitation to the Carter Cup, the MGA’s Junior Stroke Play event, which will be played at Winged Foot Golf Club on August 3.