Monday August 20, 2012

DALTON -- A.J. Oleksak and Pete Alminas won the Little Brown Jug best-ball tournament at Wahconah Country Club on Sunday for the third time, but that doesn't mean this weekend was exactly like those in 2008-09.

This time, they had to spend Saturday morning on the fairways at Longmeadow Country Club as foes, battling for the club championship, before driving up to Dalton for the second round of the Jug.

"It was a strange day," said Alminas, who won the Saturday morning match. "Competing against each other was tough. You want to win, but you don't want to see the other guy lose."

"We're such good friends that it was like a normal Saturday round," Oleksak said. "We definitely had more competitive juices flowing up here."

Indeed, the two 26-year-olds got right back into team mode, shooting a 5-under 66 Saturday to take a one-shot lead, and followed that up with a final-round 67 Sunday to prevail by two shots with a 13-under 200 total.

The final round was a see-saw affair between the Longmeadow duo and the team of Justin Deitz and Don Denyse. The Siena College golfers, who led by one shot with nine holes to play, combined for a 67.

The Saratoga, N.Y., team of Chad Stoffer and Mike McCarroll (68--204) finished third, and two-time champions Bill Tefft and Brent Dietz (69--206) of Connecticut were fourth.

Oleksak and Alminas led by a single shot heading to the par-5, 464-yard 18th hole.


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Oleksak hit a 5-iron second shot to the fringe and two-putted from 30 feet for a birdie to clinch the win.

"Justin had a chip for eagle and he thought he had to make it, which turned out to be true," Oleksak said. "He made a great run at it, but it ended up going 15 feet past."

Sunday's round wasn't as steady as the previous two for the winners -- they made three bogeys -- but they made seven birdies to make up for the missteps.

"We both made an error on the first hole, putting ourselves in difficult positions and making bogeys," said Oleksak, who played college golf at the University of Hartford. "But Pete made a great birdie on No. 2 [a 220-yard par 3]. We made the three bogeys, but we got the par 5s and that is important out here."

The three Jug victories make it obvious that the pair plays well together in the best-ball format.

"We are pretty similar players," said Alminas, who played at Winthrop (S.C.) College. "We hit it pretty much the same distance, so if one guy is hitting a certain club, the other guy is hitting the same one. We've played enough together to have confidence in one another."

Being members at Longmeadow is also a prescription for improving. The Pioneer Valley club easily has the strongest roster of players in Western Massachusetts.

"I've been at the club a long time, first as a caddy and then working in the pro shop, and now as a member, and the quality of players has gotten exponentially better," Alminas said.

"A lot of good players have migrated there," said Oleksak. "We really duke it out."

Obviously, they also feel at home at Wahconah.

"[Head professional] Jim [Underdown] and his staff do a great job," said Oleksak. "They speed up the greens a little bit and toughen it up for this tournament. You get to test yourself a little."

They passed the test with flying colors for a third time this weekend.

The team of Randy Driscoll, of Stockbridge Golf Club, and Jeff Puleri, of Berkshire Hills Country Club, shot a final-round 71 to win the first division. They finished at 210, which would have been good enough for seventh place in the championship division.