By Jim Riggs
RANDOLPH - For the second straight year, a birdie putt on the first playoff hole determined the winner of The Post-Journal Champions golf tournament.
Josh Harrington, above, celebrates as he watches his birdie putt fall into the cup on the first playoff hole of the 24th annual Post-Journal Champions golf tournament at Cardinal Hills Golf Course on Sunday. Below, Dave Newton, along with gallery in the background, watch his bogey putt that he sunk on the 18th hole to finish with a 2-under-par 70 and force the playoff. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
Josh Harrington from Chautauqua Golf Club and Dave Newton from Shorewood Country Club finished tied for the lead after 18 holes with 2-under-par 70s at Cardinal Hills Golf Course on Sunday. They headed back to No. 1 to begin a playoff and that's where Harrington sunk an 8-foot putt for a birdie and the title in the 24th annual Post-Journal Champions.
It was Harrington's second appearance and first title in the tournament for men's scratch club champions from regulation 18- and nine-hole courses in The Post-Journal circulation area. Newton was seeking his second title as he won in 2008 when he was the club champ from Chautauqua.
Brenton Wilcox from Cassadaga Country Club finished third in the field of 14 with an even-par 72.
Defending champion Jordan Marsh, the 2011 club champ from Cassadaga who is now a Conewango Valley Country Club member, shot a 77 and finished sixth. He was attempting to become the event's fifth repeat winner.
Marsh sunk a birdie putt to win on the first playoff hole of last year's Post-Journal Champions.
On Sunday, Harrington had finished with his 2-under 70 while two foursomes were still on the course. He waited in the clubhouse and when asked if he was trying to find out what was happening, he said, ''I didn't care. You can't control what other people do.''
Harrington had shot an 1-under 35 on the front nine that included a double-bogey 6 at No. 3, but he birdied the last three holes with a 4, 3 and 2.
''They're easy holes,'' was Harrington's explantation for his ''trifecta'' at the end of the front nine.
He made them easy with putts from only 2 feet, 6 inches and one foot.
On the back nine, he birdied No. 12 and 13 by sinking a 3- and 9-foot putt.
Then he capped everything at the par-3 18th by chipping in from 40 feet after hitting a 6-iron to the left. His downhill chip with a 60-degree wedge was perfect as the ball trickled into the cup.
See PLAYOFF, C2
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Then he headed to the clubhouse to wait.
Meanwhile, it ended up the only player with a chance to catch Harrington was Newton, who had tied him after nine holes with a 1-under 35. That front nine included three birdies and two bogeys, but could have been better. He three-putted No. 8 and missed a 2-foot birdie putt at No. 9.
Newton's back nine got off to a poor start with a bogey at No. 10, but he got back on track with birdies at 12 and 14. However, a bogey at 15 moved him back to 1-under.
At the 260-yard, par-4 17th hole, Newton was planning to tee off with a 3-iron.
''I changed my mind,'' said Newton, who instead hit a driver.
Why the change?
''I didn't know where I stood,'' he said. ''I knew I was there (near the lead). I figured I need a birdie.''
And he got more.
''I was just trying to get it close (to the green),'' Newton said about his drive. ''I knew it was on line. I wasn't sure of the distance.''
It had plenty of distance because his drive reached the green and left him with a 20-foot sidehill putt for an eagle. It broke plenty to the right and went right in the cup for an eagle 2 and a one-shot lead at 3 under.
''I just wanted to lag it for a birdie,'' Newton said. ''Having it go in was just luck.''
Newton didn't know he was leading by a stroke until after he pulled a 4-iron to the left of the green at the 199-yard, par-3 18th. His downhill chip went past the cup and left him with a 20-foot downhill putt to retain his lead. The putt went 4 feet past and suddenly Newton was left with a testy bogey putt to get into a playoff.
''It felt good,'' he said about the putt that dropped dead center to force a playoff.
The co-leaders returned to No. 1 and Newton teed off first with a driver while Harrington used a 5-wood. Both were safely in the fairway, right of center. Harrington was about 20 yards behind Newton and hit a 60-degree wedge from 92 yards to about 8 feet right of the pin.
''Same exact shot I had the first time,'' Harrington said, recalling his opening hole of the day.
Newton was next and said, ''I loved the yardage (80). It's the perfect distance for me.''
But he pulled his lob wedge and it landed short on the green to the left, about 20 feet above the cup.
Harrington noted, ''He carries it two more feet and it's going to be pretty close.''
Instead, that described Harrington's situation.
''I knew he was in good shape,'' Newton said about Harrington's 8 foot uphill putt. In contrast, he was faced with a 15- to 20-foot downhill, sidehill putt that rolled past the cup.
''That was a tough slider,'' Newton said.
Then Harrington confidently stepped up and drained his birdie putt to claim the title.
''I knew it was in as soon as I hit it because I hit my mark,'' he said.
And Harrington knew that's all he had to do because of the condition of the greens.
''The greens have a very good speed and they're true,'' he said. ''They have to tip their hat to Ryan Short, the green superintendent.
Newton echoed that with, ''The greens and course, in general, were terrific.''
And most of the field was taking advantage of it because eight players broke 40 on the front nine. Right behind the 35s of Newton and Harrington were Wilcox and P.J. Gronquist of South Hills Country Club with 36s, Taylor Beaver of Cardinal Hills and Marsh with 37s, Matt DeLong from Cable Hollow Golf Club with a 38 and Ken Woodfield of Bemus Point Golf Club with a 39. But unlike Harrington and Newton, they didn't avoid bogeys and/or double bogeys on the back nine.
Nolan Swanson of Pinehurst Golf Course tied the eventual winner and runner-up with a 1-under 35 on the back nine and he finished fourth with a 75.
*Josh Harrington, Chautauqua GC 70
Dave Newton, Shorewood CC 70
Brenton Wilcox, Cassadaga CC 72
Nolan Swanson, Pinehurst GC 75
P.J. Gronquist, South Hills CC 76
Jordan Marsh, defending champion 77
Ken Woodfield, Bemus Point GC 79
Taylor Beaver, Cardinal Hills GC 81
Sam Marek, Blueberry Hill GC 81
Rob Ritchie, Jackson Valley GC 81
Dan Smith, Elkdale CC 81
Troy Beightol, Breezewood Links 82
Matt DeLong, Cable Hollow GC 83
Tyler Martin, Conewango Valley CC 84
* won playoff