Sunday September 9, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Pontoosuc Lake Country Club's John Montgomery didn't match two impressive feats he accomplished leading up to Saturday's City Championship at his home course, but he didn't need to.

With first wind and then rain turning the four-way battle of club champions into a golfing version of Survivor, Montgomery shot a 6-over 77 to successfully defend the title he won last year at GEAA.

The 65-year-old overcame a double-bogey 7 on the 593-yard 15th hole by finishing with three solid pars to defeat Country Club of Pittsfield club champion Kelly Collins by two shots. Berkshire Hills Country Club's Scott Hunter finished third with a 79. GEAA's Ron Pero shot an 86.

"None of us was on fire," said Montgomery, who shot under his age with an eye-popping 64 on Wednesday and followed that up with his eighth hole-in-one on No. 16 (he has now aced all four of Pontoosuc's par 3s) Thursday as he prepared for Saturday's round.

If anyone had been on fire, the rain the players encountered starting at No. 12 would have no doubt doused it. From 12 to 17, there were three or four serious downpours. Gusty winds also made club selection difficult, especially for the visitors to Montgomery's personal domain (he is the 13-time club champion).

"The weather made it interesting," said Collins, who rallied after starting his round with a triple-bogey 7. "I try to embrace bad weather and use it to my advantage because I know others don't like playing in it."

Collins handled the elements well, playing holes 12-16 in just 1 over and finding himself tied for the lead when the usually straight-driving Montgomery drove into trouble on No. 15 and then compounded his troubles.

"I could have played a smart shot back into the fairway and then got my third shot up by the green," he said. "Instead, I tried a risky shot."

That shot only went about 100 yards and left him in the rough, with trees still an issue. His third shot ended up by the 13th tee and his fourth short of the green. He then hit a nice chip about 6 feet past the hole.

With Collins facing a 20-plus uphill par putt, it briefly looked like Montgomery might escape without losing ground. Instead, Collins drained his putt and Montgomery missed his. Hunter also had a chance to tie for the lead, but a poor chip shot led to a bogey.

Hunter fell three back with a bogey on the par-3 16th while Montgomery and Collins made nice up-and-downs to remain tied.

On the 360-yard, par-4 17th, Collins drove into the adjacent 15th fairway and then left his second shot in deep rough short of the putting surface.

"I blocked my tee shot, but I had a clear shot," Collins said. "My second shot ballooned in the wind."

His pitch shot came up well short, resulting in a bogey. Montgomery, meanwhile, made a two-putt par to take the lead. On the par-5 18th, Montgomery was 20 feet short of the hole in three, putting the pressure on Collins to chip-in. He didn't and Montgomery two-putted for par. He won by two when Collins missed his par try.

The finish was a reversal of the only other time the two met. In 2000, Collins won the city title in a playoff.

"I'm happy for John," Collins said. "He's a really good guy. These were three great guys to play with."

This year's event featured four players over 50.

"I was the young guy," said Hunter, 51. Collins is 60 and Pero, who trailed by just one shot at the turn but struggled on the back, is 66.

Montgomery, who defeated Matt Scarafoni to win last year and now has won three city titles, continues to defy his age as shown by Saturday's victory and his score on Wednesday.

"I try to stay in shape," he said. "I exercise all winter."

Whatever he's doing, it's working.

To contact Richard Lord:
rlord@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6236.