Vannelli Wins Met Amateur
Locust Valley, N.Y. - Fifty-seven year old Ron Vannelli of Metuchen CC in N.J. became what is believed to be the oldest champion in Met Amateur history today after defeating Patrick Pierson from Minisceongo 1 up on the second extra hole of the 36-hole final of the MGA Amateur Championship at The Creek in Locust Valley, NY.
Someone obviously forgot to tell Vannelli that the Met Amateur is for youngsters and few would argue that point this week. A championship that consists of seven rounds of golf in four days in mostly 95+ degrees and high humidity is not for the weak of body or spirit, and Vannelli proved he had plenty of both as he fought back after watching a five-up lead disappear in the afternoon round to become the 103rd MGA Amateur Champion.
Defying any talk of “age” issues, Vannelli recorded two dominating wins, in the quarter -finals against Andreas Huber (7&6) and against Tom Yellin of Stanwich in the semi-finals( 6&5), and looked headed for another rout after jumping to a 3-up lead in the morning round after three holes.
“I really felt confident on this course because it’s not too long and it’s really a position course, which favors my game. I made the decision coming into this event to be very aggressive on every hole and that’s what I did.”
Vannelli finished the morning round 4- up and began the afternoon with solid pars to halve the first three holes. The lead was extended to 5 when Pierson missed a par putt on the par three 4th hole and the match was starting to look like a repeat of his earlier matches against Huber and Yellin, but Vannelli knew better
“I really was surprised to have such a big lead after the morning round but I never thought it was over. I know what a great player Patrick is and I expected him to hang in there,” said Vannelli.
Hang in there is exactly what Pierson did playing even par golf over the next five holes while Vannelli posted bogeys on the 7th, 9th and 10th, holes to see his lead dwindle to 2-up. A birdie on the 12th pulled Pierson to within one and when Vannelli bogeyed the par four 14th hole the match was all square.
The shift in momentum, which now seemed to favor Pierson, didn’t last long however, with Pierson’s poor tee shot on the difficult par four 16th leading to bogey, to give Vannelli a 1-up lead going into the final two holes. When Vannelli short-sided himself in the bunker on the par three 17th, it looked like to match would go to 18 all even, but a great up-and-down preserved the one-up lead. With the pressure clearly on Pierson, he put his second shot on the green and the par five 18th and two putted for birdie, and when Vannelli’s birdie putt missed they were headed for extra holes.
Despite the nearly 100 holes of golf over the last three days, Vannelli said he felt energized going into the extra holes. “I played that first hole great all week so I was very comfortable and just decided to go for it. I didn’t really hit the shot I wanted but I thought I made the birdie putt and still felt great going to the second extra hole.” On the next hole he hit the shot of the championship, putting his approach three feet from the hole while Pierson faced a 26- footer. When Pierson missed his birdie attempt, Vannelli stepped up, made the putt, and became the oldest Met Amateur champion in modern history.
“I didn’t feel old coming into this tournament,” said Vannelli, “and I especially don’t feel very old right now. I’m thrilled to be Met Amateur Champion.”
The Met Amateur is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious regional amateur championship which counts the likes of Walter Travis, Jess Sweetser , Willie Turnesa, Richard Siderowf and George Zahringer among its past champions.
Real time scoring, provided by TPP, was featured on the MGA's website, www.mgagolf.org. For more information on this year’s Championship contact Jeanne McCooey or Jeff Carroll of the MGA at (914) 347-4653.
Official Results - Finals
Ronald Vannelli, Metuchen def. Howard Pirson, Minisceongo 1 up (38th hole)
Official Results - Semi- Finals
Ronald Vannelli, Metuchen def. Tom Yellin, Stanwich 6&5
Patrick Pierson, Minisceongo def. Tarik Can, Bethpage 4&3