Sunday July 15, 2012

It was 20 years ago this week, but Trevor Gliwski still remembers the shot that made him the first of only two Berkshire County golfers to win the Massachusetts Amateur Championship.

It came on the 35th hole of the 36-hole final against Flynt Lincoln at Longmeadow Country Club. The North Adams native held a shaky 1-up lead -- he was 4 up before losing holes 14-16 -- and found himself in need of a career shot.

"No. 17 is a funky little [par-4] hole where you lay up off the tee and then hit a downhill second shot," said Gliwski, the director of instruction at The Rick Smith Golf Academy at Tiburon in Naples, Fla. "Flynt stripped it right down the middle and I blocked a 2-iron way right and was behind some huge trees, 190 or 200 yards out."

It looked like Gliwski's once-comfortable lead was about to evaporate.

"I was on a slope, in the rough, behind trees and had just lost three holes, so I was nervous," Gliwski recalls. "I had to hit a 40-yard slice through the trees and I hit the best 4-iron of my life."

His miracle shot ended up just short of the green, leading to a par and giving him a 2-and-1 victory over Lincoln on his opponent's home course. That made him the first county golfer to win the Mass. Am, a tournament first contested in 1903.

"I felt a real sense of pride," said Gliwski of being the first Berkshires winner. "The county wasn't spoken of as having powerhouse golfers. When I was in high school and college, the Mass. Amateur was like a major to me."

As it turned out, the 1990s turned out to be Berkshire County's decade in the amateur golf spotlight. Stockbridge Golf Club's Jim Salinetti went on to win three state amateurs between 1996-2000, giving the county four titles in nine years.

Coincidentally, the paths of Gliwski and Salinetti crossed briefly when Salinetti was an up-and-coming star and Gliwski was working at Stockbridge as an assistant 1996, the same summer Salinetti captured his first state amateur title.

"Trevor was a great player to look up to when I was trying to become a good player myself," said Salinetti, who is the head professional at Winchester Country Club. "I played with him quite a bit and remember he was a funny guy and always fun to play with. ... Now that I am on this side of the business, I realize how the younger players look up to the pros at their clubs. I was pretty lucky that we had so many good ones at Stockbridge."

Gliwski entered the 1992 Mass. Amateur with a strong enough record to be considered a contender. He was one semester away from graduating from Coastal Carolina, where he had won four Division I tournaments including the Big South Championship. He also had qualified for the 1990 U.S. Amateur.

But as he prepared for the week at Longmeadow, all was not well with his game.

"My college teammate [current PGA Tour pro] Tom Gillis was up playing in an Atlantic Tour event," Gliwski said. "I was hitting it so bad, but Tom helped me. I played with a narrow stance that entire week and hit it well."

Apparently, one putt in a practice round -- coincidentally on that same 17th hole -- made all the difference.

"The eerie thing was, in the practice round, I had a 40-foot putt on 17 and said, for whatever reason, ‘if I make this putt I'm going to win the tournament,' and I made it."

It's a victory Gliwski cherishes as much now as he did then.

"I think the Mass. Amateur was the thing that really gave me a chance to succeed in this business," Gliwski said. "It was validation. Winning it was the highlight of my career. It means the world to me and I never stop thinking about how awesome it was."

Gliwski has won numerous awards for his teaching ability, but his students apparently still notice his signature victory as a player.

"It's not like I wear a sign or anything," he said, "but we have our little bios [on the academy website] and we have a lot of people from New England who come down here. They seem to respond to that victory."