Unlike last year when they finished second in the Allied Four-Ball Championship, the team of Jeff Puleri and Steve Sykes knew before teeing off the score they needed to post in order to capture this year's tournament.
So when they found themselves at 1-over par standing AT the 11th tee at Stockbridge Golf Club on Saturday afternoon, they were aware they needed to play the final eight holes in 5-under par to shoot a 4-under 67 and beat morning pace-setters Bob Linn and Randy Driscoll by a shot.
The Berkshires HIlls Country Club members did just that to capture the best-ball title.
Puleri said that knowing a target score before teeing off isn't always a good thing, but in this case it turned out to be.
"At a course like Stockbridge that doesn't yield a lot of birdies, you tend to be play defensively," Puleri said. "But at 1-over, we knew we had to start playing aggressively."
The birdie run started on the par-3 11th when Puleri rolled in a birdie putt of about 16 feet with Sykes just 3 feet from the hole and in good position if his partner's effort didn't fall.
"That got us started," Sykes said. "We made a good par on 12 and then Jeff hit a great sand wedge shot to 5 feet on the [par 4] and made that."
Stockbridge's par-3 14th hole is hardly considered a birdie hole, but Sykes chipped in for an unexpected, momentum-building two.
The 485-yard, par-5 15th is reachable in two and Puleri pulled that off, despite hitting his drive a little too far left.
"Jeff hit his best shot of the day there," Sykes said. "He hit a choked-down, punched 3-wood that was a really, really impressive shot."
Puleri's two-putt pulled birdie and put the duo into a tie for the lead with fellow Berkshire Hills members Linn and Driscoll.
On the difficult par-4 17th hole, a sharp dogleg right, Sykes put his drive in the fairway, giving his partner the opportunity to take a more aggressive line. Puleri's powerful drive left him with just 91 yards to the pin on the 444-yard hole.
Though he wasn't thrilled with a sand wedge shot that left him 25 feet from the pin, Puleri proceeded to drain the uphill birdie putt as the pair took the lead and then finished with a solid par on the par-4 18th for the victory.
Puleri, the assistant athletic director for development and communication at MCLA, has been a constant championship threat in Berkshire County events in recent years but had been coming up short, making the win very sweet.
"It feels really good, but it feels even better because of the way we really came through on the back nine," he said.
Despite being 1-over, the duo knew they were due to make some putts.
"On the front nine we didn't play badly at all, we just didn't make any putts," Puleri said.
They also benefitted from playing partners and Wyantenuck Country Club members Mike Kinna and Brian Cunningham, who trailed by just a shot heading to No. 18.
"It always helps to keep you focused when the team you are playing with is also doing well," Puleri said.
Kinna and Cunningham bogied the final hole, aggressively attempting to hole out a pair of chip shots with Puleri and Sykes in position to make a routine par. The Wyantenuck Country Club duo tied for third place with Torrington Country Club's Brent Silano and Jon Costa.
Puleri said he and Sykes "suit each other well" as partners.
"We are both fairly laid back and are in a good place together," Puleri said. "We both hit it straight, which is especially important at Stockbridge."
"We hit the ball similar distances, are comfortable playing together and know what to look for in each other's games," Sykes said.
The one-shot victory came at the expense of Driscoll, Puleri's lifetime friend and many-time tournament partner.
"It's bittersweet in that regard, but I know he was happy with how he and Bob played and is genuinely happy for me," Puleri said.
1. Steve Sykes-Jeff Puleri, 67. 2. Bob Linn-Randy Driscoll, 68. 3. (tie) Brant Silano-Jon Costa, 69 ; Mike Kinna-Brian Cunningham, 69. 5. (tie) Craig DeBlois-Garret Kuta, 71; Paul Gilardi-Matt Gilardi, 71; Ed Bennett-Jason Morrissey, 71; Tom Czelusniak- Bill Yurko, 71. 9. (tie) Paul Briggs-Matt Morrison, 72; Tom Keenan Jr.-Matt Kennan, 72; Matt Scarafoni-Gary Scarafoni, 72; Matt Ortega-John Dahrouge, 72. 13. (tie) Ralph Dastoli-Steve Magargal, 73; Ted Boraski-Cam Boraski, 73.
1. Peter Baran-Chris Baran, 61. 2. (tie) Scott Hunter-Steve Wood, 64; Mike Koperniak-Dennis Dickenson, 64; Dave Brown-Doug Trombly, 64. 4. (tie) John Ryan-Jeff Racz, 65; Chuck Diskavich-Mike Considine, 65; John Donovan-Tim Graham, 65. 8. (tie) Bob Malone-Keith Dapper, 66; Don Pierce-Don Lawson 66; Joe Soudant-Randy Koldys, 66; John Omelenchuck-Walt Pictrowski, 6.
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