Moles wins in sudden death
Defeats former champ Cusic for Southern Maryland Amateur Invitational Golf Tournament championship
Conditions for the nearly 200 golfers who competed in the 40th edition of the Southern Maryland Amateur Invitational Golf Tournament at Breton Bay Golf & Country Club in Leonardtown on June 25 were so ideal that the top two golfers did not mind playing an extra hole to decide the title.
In his first time playing the course, Jon Moles, a Frederick County native, overcame a near disaster on No. 17, a 374-yard Par-4 on June 25, then got the better of Mark Cusic, a three-time junior champion of the event and later a fourtime regular champion of the event, on the first hole of sudden death to claim the overall title. Both golfers finished the 54-hole tournament with identical scores of 5-under-par 211.
“Friday was my first time playing the course,” said Moles, who works parttime at Worthington Manor Country Club in Frederick. “It definitely got tougher the last two days, you could see that by the scores. The pin placement was a lot tougher today than yesterday or Friday. But the course was in great shape.”
Moles and Cusic comprised one-half of the last group heading into the June 25 final round and eventually they gained some breathing room on Vance Welch, who finished with a 214, and Bill Jenner, who finished at 216. Through the back nine, Moles and Cusic were almost inseparable, although the eventual winner found himself in a difficult spot in the penultimate hole on the course.
Moles pushed his tee shot on No. 17 far left and into the woods, so far in fact that he was faced with an ultimatum. Moles, Welch and several tournament officials spent nearly five minutes searching for the ball and eventually found it while Jenner and Cusic continued to play the hole. Moles found his ball deep under some fallen trees in the woods, but he opted to play it rather than take a drop and a penalty stroke.
Buried deep in the woods and virtually invisible to other golfers, officials and spectators, Moles punched out and watched his ball roll across the cart path and into another spot where he could take a drop without penalty. Moles approach then caught the fringe, but he scrambled to save a bogey, while Cusic parred the hole to draw even.
Moles and Cusic finished the 54 holes tied at 5-under and then went back to the tee box on No. 18 for a sudden death hole. Both hit good drives off the tee, but Cusic encountered trouble on his second and third shots, while Moles avoided serious harm and then chipped up to within two inches of the hole where he could tap in for par with his sand wedge.
“That chip just ended up perfect,” Moles said. “I could just walk up and tap it in with my wedge. Mark is a great player. He knows the course and he’s a great guy to play with and play against. When we went back to the tee box for [No.] 18, all I was thinking about was hitting a good drive and then staying out of the woods and out of the bunker.”
Cusic, 38, a Leonardtown High School and College of Southern Maryland graduate and Breton Bay member for nearly 10 years, won three straight tournament junior titles (1994-96) then later won the regular tournament title in 2003, 2011, 2012 and 2015, came painstakingly close to another overall title. He missed short putts on No. 15 and 16 then watched Moles scramble for an improbable bogey on No. 17.
“When we went back for the playoff hole, I knew he was going to hit it longer,” Cusic said. “That’s his strength. I chunked a few shots today and all week. I was making putts all week, but then I missed a couple of short ones on the back nine. I know this course like the back of my hand. Today, they moved the tees back to make it a little longer and a little tougher.”
Defending tournament champions Tracy Valladingham would eventually edge Welch for third place with a 214, but Welch admitted that a brief drought on the back nine on Sunday cost him any chance for the overall title.
“I played well until we made the turn,” said Welch, a Howard County resident. “I went five or six holes where I could not make par and that basically took me out of it. But it was a good three rounds. It’s a great course and the conditions were perfect. The course was a little longer today, but that’s going to happen on the final round.”
Pete DeTemple won the Senior title with a 13-under 203 to unseat three-time defending senior champion, Joe Fenlon, who settled for third this year. D.J. Littleford, the junior champion, was the only junior player in the tournament. Bruce Richardson won the Super Senior title with a 205 in only the second year the tournament has had that division.
Golfer Mark Cusic looks on in almost disbelief as Jon Moles’ approach shot on No. 18 stops less than two inches from the hole in the first playoff hole after the two players finished the three-day tournament tied with identical scores of 211. Cusic had won the junior title three times and the regular title on four previous occasions, but Moles claimed the honor this year on Sunday at Breton Bay Golf & Country Club in Leonardtown.