Matt Scarafoni has proven to be a roadblock in recent years in Kelly Collins' quest to become a four-time winner of the Country Club of Pittsfield men's club championship.
Last weekend, the 60-year-old broke through the Scarafoni barrier, defeating the club's 11-time champion 3 and 2 in the match-play final to take the title for the first time since 2006. The win qualifies Collins for the City Championship at Pontoosuc Lake Country Club on Sept. 8.
"The old guy rules," joked Collins, who also won the club championship in 1999 and 2000. "All three guys I beat were a lot younger than I am."
Collins topped Adam Kirby in his first match before holding off Greg Knight in the semifinals, winning 1 up. Scarafoni survived a scare in the semis, beating Todd Driscoll 1 up when Driscoll three-putted on No. 18.
"Kelly absolutely deserved it," said CC of Pittsfield head professional Brad Benson. "Adam is in the top five or six players at the club and Greg is in the top three."
And, of course, there is beating the club's longtime dominant player, Scarafoni. The 40-year-old, who had won the club title five years in a row, isn't playing as much as he used to, but he usually seems to produce when the stakes are the highest.
"I've been a runner-up to Matt a number of times, but you expect that with someone like him," Collins said. "It's a thrill to be able to beat him because he is such a fabulous player."
After surviving their morning semifinals Collins and Scarafoni played a final that was close most of the afternoon. After a back-and-forth opening nine, Collins went 2 up on the par-4 10th hole before Scarafoni won the par-3 12th to cut the margin to one. Collins took charge after that and closed it out on No. 16 when Scarafoni bogeyed the par-5 16th.
"It was a great match against a real gentleman," Collins said.
Collins prevailed despite giving up a lot of distance off the tee.
"Matt was 20 or 30 yards ahead of me," Collins said. "He generates a lot of clubhead speed."
That isn't to say that Collins is some short-hitting "old guy."
"I haven't had to adjust my game [because of age]," Collins said. "My strengths are my driving accuracy and my irons."
That is a perfect combination for playing the CC of Pittsfield, where hitting it straight off the tee is mandatory and precise iron shots are needed to find the well-protected putting surfaces.
"Kelly is just a solid ball striker and he's very consistent," Benson said. "He never makes any real mistakes and he still seems to be at the top of his game. His [handicap] index is around 2.1 and he seldom shoots much over par."
With a house on Cape Cod where he spends the weekends in the summer, Collins isn't playing as much as he used to, but he still finds ways to remain sharp.
"I play in a league on Tuesdays and I hit a lot of balls in the evenings," said Collins, who works at Colt Insurance.
Winning club championship No. 4 has special meaning for the native of Lee.
"My uncle, Ben Sullivan, won the club championship three times and he was someone I always looked up to and admired," Collins said. "I was thrilled when I tied that in 2006 and I'm excited to get No. 4."
Family and golf go together for Collins. He and son Brennan have been a strong pairing in best-ball events like the country club's Men's Invitational and the Stockbridge Invitational in recent years.
"It's a great bonding experience," Collins said. "We made it to the finals at Stockbridge a few years ago and lost to Andy Congdon [and his partner].
Losing to Congdon, of course, is another roadblock that many in Berkshire County golf have experienced through the years.