Article by CHRIS BRODEUR – firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by PETER J. DEFAZIO – http://www.peterdefazio.com
BERLIN- The duel between Suffield’s Andy Mai and Burlington’s Alex DiClemente was so good, neither wanted to see it come to an end.
Playing in the same group in Tuesday's final round of the Stan Trojanowski Northern Junior at Timberlin Golf Course, the duo sprung themselves from a jam-packed leaderboard on the back nine, trading birdies like body blows along the way.
The 18th green was the site of the battle's most dramatic moments, as well as its dusk-lit finish. After both made unlikely birdies on the 396-yard Par 4 to force a playoff there, Mai tapped in for par and the win after DiClemente rolled his attempt by.
“Driving first, I figured if I got it in the fairway, I could put the pressure on him,” said Mai, adding that DiClemente had gotten a bad bounce when his drive on the playoff hole found the lip of a fairway bunker. “It was fun [to battle with Alex again].”
The 17-year-old Mai had outlasted DiClemente before, July 7 at the Pepsi Junior Connecticut PGA July 7 – where DiClemente was defending champion.
“We had been in this exact position before, and I knew he was a great putter, so I knew I had to stay in there and dodge his punches,” said DiClemente. “Going into the back nine, we kind of separated ourselves from the field.”
Mai began a stretch of three straight birdies on the par-4 14th before three-putting for bogey on 17 to drop into a tie for the lead with DiClemente at 4-under par. He then sent his 3-wood skyward off the 18th tee, setting the stage for a long 3-iron approach he stuck to within four feet. DiClemente, playing on his home course, in front of friends and family gathered on the overlooking hill, had 40 feet left for a birdie he knew needed to go down.
“I was having trouble lining it up,” DiClemente said. “I picked a spot out behind the hole. I didn't think it was gonna go in.”
With DiClemente walking to his right, the long, bending putt slowed to a trickle before tumbling into the cup. He let out a roar, leaving it up to Mai to match him.
“I took a couple deep breaths,” Mai said. “I thought, “make it, make it memorable.'”
Mai calmly sunk his birdie to extend what had turned into a match between the two friends. His final round total gave him a 69 for the day and a 139 for the tournament. DiClemente posted a 68 in the final round. Both players finished two shots clear of West Hartford's John Jackopsic.