Moles wins in sud­den death

De­feats for­mer champ Cu­sic for South­ern Mary­land Am­a­teur In­vi­ta­tional Golf Tour­na­ment cham­pi­onship

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By TED BLACK tblack@somd­news.com Twit­ter: tblack­somds1

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.

STAFF PHOTO BY TED BLACK

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.

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