Bill Cunningham and Greg Fisk live in the Pioneer Valley, but they own the 18 pristine holes that comprise the Country Club of Pittsfield’s golf course. Well, at least for one week in June.
The Longmeadow Country Club duo captured the CC of Pittsfield’s Classic Invitational for the third consecutive year on Sunday, defeating Randy Driscoll and Jeff Puleri 2 and 1 with a bogey-free performance.
For Driscoll, it was a familiar a script. Sunday marked the fourth time in five years the Stockbridge Golf Club member has lost in the final. The previous three times it was with his father, Bob, including last year to Cunningham and Fisk.
"I’m sick of finishing second in this tournament," Driscoll said shortly after missing a 6-foot birdie putt on the par-3 17th hole to keep the match alive.
Driscoll, who won last week’s Stockbridge Trophy with Chris Shields, kept his team in the match on the front nine while Puleri struggled after hitting a pair of dreaded shanks on Nos. 4 and 5.
"I lost my composure [after the shanks], said Puleri, a member at Berkshire Hills Country Club. "It’s tough to play two-on-one against a good team. It’s too bad I didn’t help early. Randy played great."
Cunningham and Fisk have learned not to take anything for granted against any Driscoll. Father and son pulled off a miraculous rally to beat them in the 2011 semifinals.
"I thought Randy played tremendous," Fisk said. "We have the upmost respect for him. He had a chance for birdie on No. 16 and I’m thinking ‘here we go again.’ And he hit a wonderful shot on No. 17. He always battles."
When Fisk made a 15-foot birdie putt on the downhill, par-3 13th hole -- after his tee shot nicked the pin -- the Longmeadow team was 3 up and in control. But on the par-5 14th hole, Puleri drained a10-foot birdie putt to get it back to 2 down.
On the par-4 15th, both Puleri and Driscoll had tree troubles, but Driscoll’s 60-yard third shot finished some 12 feet from the hole and he made a clutch putt to save his par and halve the hole. Then, on the par-5 16th, both had birdie putts in the 12-foot range to win the hole and amp up the pressure, but neither dropped.
Driscoll drilled his iron shot to within 6 feet on the par-3 17th. With Cunningham out of the hole, Fisk left his birdie putt from the fringe 8 feet short and it was looking like the match might continue to No. 18. But Fisk, whose short game was sharp all afternoon, made his putt and Driscoll’s birdie try slipped by the cup on the right.
"I was 95 percent sure that Randy was going to make his putt, so I knew I had to make mine," Fisk said.
"I pulled the putt on No. 16 and pushed the one on No. 17," Driscoll said.
Still, both teams pointed to No. 10 as the pivotal hole. Despite Puleri’s front-nine issues, Cunningham and Fisk were only 1 up with Driscoll finding ways to make par after par while Fisk provided the only birdie with a 40-foot bomb on the par-3 fourth hole.
"No. 10 really hurt us," Puleri said. "We were both in good position [off the tee] then I hit a bad shot and Randy three-putted."
"The better team won," Driscoll said. "In a match like this, you can’t lose a hole to a par. I had a 40-foot putt and misjudged the speed."
For Fisk, who has won the Invitational four times in all, playing well at the CC of Pittsfield doesn’t come as a surprise. Hitting it straight -- he spent most the afternoon in the short grass -- and a good short game are a winning formula on a course that places a premium on accuracy and touch.
"It’s not a long course and you need to hit it straight," the 50-year-old said. "Hitting it straight in the biggest attribute of my game. In our morning match, I actually didn’t chip very well, so I practiced before we came out in the afternoon and was much better.
As for his partner, winning in the best-ball format is obviously a strength, whether he’s playing in Pittsfield or the Pioneer Valley.
"I’ve won 21 team events in Western Mass.," said Cunningham, 52, who had to think about how many different partners he has won with before settling on eight.
He certainly has learned which of the eight to team with in Pittsfield.
"Greg is a great competitor," said Cunningham, who played high school hockey with Fisk. "He is always great under pressure."
Driscoll has also had a lifetime friendship with Puleri -- they were high school teammates in three sports at Lee High School in their younger days -- that won’t be affected by one disappointing loss.
"Jeff played good for the most part this weekend and I’m happy with how it went," Driscoll said. "I wouldn’t pick any other partner. We’ll be back."
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