Puleri wins Allied Association championship
WILLIAMSTOWN — Jeff Puleri figured the 18th hole at Waubeeka Golf Links owed him one.
Consider the debt paid, and as a result the Berkshire Hills Country Club member is this year's Allied Association champion.
Puleri finished the first of two rounds on Sunday with a triple-bogey 7 that resulted from his hitting the wrong ball, but about four hours later he made a great par save on the short par-4 to eke out a one-shot victory over Wyantenuck Country Club's Joe Grochmal.
Puleri, who was 1-under before his final-hole mistake in the morning round, ended up with a 2-over-par 73. However, he bounced back with a solid 1-under 70 in the afternoon to earn his second Allied win of the season and the first in the organization's individual championship. Puleri teamed with fellow Berkshire Hills member Steve Sykes in May to win the season-opening Allied Four-Ball Championship.
"My playing partners were both in the fairway [on 18] and there was one ball in the fairway bunker, so I figured it was my ball and I didn't check to make sure," Puleri explained. "Someone had left the ball in the bunker."
It turned out that his ball was short of the sand but he didn't see it before noticing the one in the bunker.
Perhaps fortunately, Puleri didn't have much time to think about the costly mistake. Because of potential thunderstorms, the players quickly re-paired to start the afternoon 18.
"Joe [Grochmal] hadn't finished when I teed off, so I didn't know what he shot," Puleri said.
So, without knowledge that he was tied with the senior standout, he turned the front nine in 1-under 35 with birdies on both par 5s — Nos. 4 and 8 — and a three-putt bogey on the par-3 7th.
"On the back, I made a sloppy bogey on No. 12, but had good par saves on 13 and 14 and then birdied 16 to get back to 1-under," Puleri said.
Still not knowing what he needed to shoot, the MCLA assistant athletic director hooked his drive on 18. It hit a tree and put him in a position where he'd have to work hard for a par.
"I punched out from under the tree and went into a greenside bunker," he said. "I hit it to about 20 feet from the sand and made the putt."
In the end, it was Grochmal who probably figured the hole that runs parallel to Route 7 owed him. He bogeyed it to finish that one shot behind Puleri.
Randy Driscoll, who played with Puleri in the afternoon round, rallied with a 71 to finish third at 147.
Driscoll and Puleri will be teammates this coming weekend, pairing up in the Little Brown Jug at Wahconah Country Club. The lifetime friends lost in a playoff to finish second last year and are coming off a win earlier this year in the Country Club of Pittsfield Invitational.
As they walked the fairways together with the Allied title on the line they nonetheless were thinking ahead, at least a little bit.
"I felt like I hit it well all day and made some putts and Randy played well in the afternoon," Puleri said. "We were saying that if we hit it like we did today, we have a good chance. We are very hopeful today will carry over for us. That tournament means a lot to us."
Puleri and Driscoll were also part of the winning team on Sunday, which is determined by taking the top three scores out of four from club members in the morning round. Puleri (73), Driscoll (76) and Sykes (78) totaled 227 to edge Wyantenuck by one shot. Bob Linn was the fourth member of the winning team.
Rounding out the top five in the individual competition were Wyantenuck's Mike Schopp (74-74—148) and Stockbridge Golf Club's Chris Shields (75-74—149).