Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Alibozek in Mass. Amateur field
When Chad Alibozek walked off the 18th green at the Country Club of Pittsfield on June 6, he knew he had left a golden opportunity slip away.
With bogeys on three of the final four holes, the 21-year-old missed qualifying by two shots for the upcoming Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Taconic Golf Club, which happens to be his home course.
He drove away that day disappointed but with a sliver of hope — that as one of the 49 alternates from 10 qualifying sites, he might get a spot if one of more in the 144-player field had to withdraw. Those aren't exactly hole-in-one odds, but it was certainly a long shot at best.
But this past Monday, with the opening tee shot in the state's most prestigious amateur event just two weeks away on July 11, he got a welcome call from the Massachusetts Golf Association to inform him that he was in the field. It turns out he was second on the alternate list and a spot had opened up for him.
According to MGA Director of Communications Becky Blaeser, the names of the alternates are placed in a hat and pulled out randomly to pick the order in which they will be selected if spots become available.
"I was excited to get the call," said Alibozek, who was a two-time All-Eagle MVP at Hoosac High and is currently on Salem State's golf team. "I was planning on being there just in case someone couldn't make it, but knowing two weeks before the tournament is a big help in practicing and getting prepared."
Hanging out on the first day with fingers crossed is no fun. Wyantenuck Country Club's Andy Congdon, Berkshire County's most accomplished amateur over the past few decades, spent the entire day on and around the putting green at his home course in 2011 as a Mass. Amateur alternate and never got the call.
Alibozek has had a resurgence in 2016 after a couple of disappointing years following his outstanding high school career. His struggles may have been a blessing in disguise.
"I had two tough years," he said. "I even took a couple of breaks from the game and that helped. It made me realize how much I missed the game and how much it means to me."
Asked to pinpoint the problem, he didn't hesitate to answer.
"It was 100 percent my short game," Alibozek said.
After earning his Associates degree at Keiser University in Florida, he enrolled at Salem State and just completed a successful sophomore year that has helped point his game in the right direction.
"I had seven top 20s and three top 10s," he said of his college season. "My short game was a little off, but I was solid overall. College golf is good competition and it really helped me, especially the four tournaments this spring."
The improvement has continued so far this summer. Since the qualifier, Alibozek has had high finishes in a pair of best-ball events, the CC of Pittsfield's Men's Invitational and last weekend's Pewter Cup at Berkshire Hills Country Club.
"My game is really coming around," Alibozek said. "My short game is back and I'm hitting it straight."
Straight and long, as CC of Pittsfield winners Jeff Puleri and Randy Driscoll learned.
"Those kids have a lot of talent," Driscoll said of Alibozek and teammate Jake Matthews after they eliminated the young duo with four birdies in a nine-hole semifinal match. "Chad drove it onto the fringe on No. 5. That was really impressive."
The fifth hole is a short par 4 at 297 yards, but it steeply uphill so it plays longer than that distance.
Last weekend, Alibozek and partner Adam Brickle, a member of the SUNY Delhi golf team and a former Pittsfield High golfer, were in second place behind Torrington (Conn.) Country Club's Addison Owens and Ray Underwood heading into the final round of the Pewter Cup after posting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round, the day's best score.
The local pair remained in the title hunt before faltering on the final nine holes, shooting a 2-over 39, to finish sixth. Nonetheless, being a shot ahead of the eventual champions, John Kelly and Billy McDonald, for 36 holes is proof that both Alibozek and Brickle can compete against strong competition.
Kelly won the Mass. Amateur in 2014 and he and McDonald narrowly missed reaching match-play portion of this spring's U.S. Golf Association Four-Ball Championship.
"We were one down going to the back nine and neither of us had been in that position before with a partner," Alibozek said. "We made a double bogey on (the par-4) 12th hole. That was tough, but with the exception of the last nine we played solid. The whole week gives me confidence going forward. I will be more comfortable the next time I am in that situation."
Alibozek, who is also a member at Forest Park Country Club, is looking forward to being able to compete against the state's best players on a golf course he knows very well.
"It's going to be exciting," he said. "I play the course 90 percent of the time. Knowing the course is an advantage."
The the focus is on finishing in the top 32 over the first 36 holes to earn a spot in the match-play portion of the five-day event. Staying in the moment, and not setting a target score, isn't easy but that is the plan.
"I think that the top seven to 10 guys can get it to 4 or 5 under, but there is a lot of trouble if you miss the fairways or hitting over some of the greens, so I think 6 or 7 over could get to match play," Alibozek said. "The problem for me sometimes is that I get a score in my head, so I am just going to go out and play it shot by shot. My caddie (friend and Forest Park CC grounds crew co-worker Stanley Misiuk) knows how to keep me confident and playing smart."
Speaking of Taconic, club members Mace Foehl-Hemphill and Fran Vandermeer combined to shoot a 3-under 67 to win the Women's Allied Association scramble tournament at Bas Ridge Golf Course on Wednesday.
The Worthington Golf Club team of Chris Eugin and Alison Lucey finished second with a 68 and the Berkshire Hills CC team of Trish Kellar and Deb Connor finished third another shot back.
Local tournament results
—June 24-26 at At Berkshire Hills CC
—54 holes, best-ball format
1. Billy McDonald and John Kelly, 205; 2. Addison Owens-Ray Underwood, 208; 3. Mike Del Grande-Frank Cippolino, 208; 3. Mike Del Grande-Frank Cippolino, 209; 4. (tie) Steve Sykes-Andy Dastoli, 210; Adam Trivilino-Josh Trivilino, 210; 6. Adam Brickle-Chad Alibozek, 211.
1. Hart and Bigley, 209; 2. (tie) Singh-Brescia, 217; Bower and Dastoli, 217; 4. Grimaldi and Bennett, 219. 5 (tie). Dwyer and Dwyer, 221; Albertson and Martin, 221; Dastoli and Warren, 221; Goerlach and Ryan, 221.
1. Andrews/Genzabella, 215 (won playoff): 2. Dickerson and Manship, 215; 3. Spezzano and Spezzano, 222; 4. (tie) Lee and Sykes, 223; Pollo-Bournival, 223.
1. Iturralde and Iturralde, 214; 2. Pepin and Eisenhaure, 225; 3. Douillet and Mooney, 226; 4. Mckennon and Graham, 227; 5. (tie) Fortier and Deschino, 228; Locke and Dapper, 228.
1. Vazquez and McGinn, 223; 2. Matica and Racz, 225; 3. Jakiela and Mills, 233; 4. Clark and McCastland, 234; 5. Moore and Washburn, 237.
1. Nonamaker and Campoli, 223; 2. Chiaretta and Pope, 227; 3. Masetti and Torres, 236; 4. Cronin and Cronin, 237; 5. Graham and Jamula, 239.
1. Salvie and McKinney, 235; 2. (tie) Strileckis and Byron, 241; 2. (tie) Curry and Shewcraft, 241; 4. Lanouette and Calabrese, 242; 5. (tie) Marinaro and Quadrozzi, 245; 5. (tie) Seppa and Noyes, 245; Gavin and Barry, 245.
WOMENS ALLIED OF BERKSHIRE COUNTY
—Wednesday at Bas Ridge Golf Course
1. Mace Foehl-Hemphill and Fran Vandermeer, Taconic GC, 67; 2. Chris Eugin and Alison Lucey, Worthington GC, 68; 3. Trish Kellar and Deb Connor, Berkshire HIlls CC, 69; 4. Liz Flynn and Carole Tercik, Berkshire Hills CC, 72.
1. Marilyn Kirby and Adeline Ellis, CC of Pittsfield, 60; 2. Cate Chesbro and Dot Houston, Forest Park CC, 61; 3. Jackie Togut and Nell Hellawell, CC of Pittsfield, 62; 4. Margaret Camin and Judy Yvars, CC of Pittsfield, .
SUSAN G. KOMEN RALLY FOR A CURE TOURNAMENT
—June 25 At Worthington GC
—Men's Co. Ed Division
1. Henry Sampson and Sabrina Sampson, 68; 2. Doug Reed and Doug Link, 69.
Men's Co-Ed Division
1. Jim Moore and Dan Petrozzi, 58.1; 2. Chris Petrides - Andy Zimbalist, 67.
1. Chris Eugin and Linda Petrozzi, 76; 2. Ann Pickrell and Hillary Irvine, 76; 3. Susan Cook and Linda Haskell, 82; 4. Mo Quinlan and Peg Civello, 87.
1. Mary Kay Farley and Karen Kellar, 63.5; 2. Ann Henchey and Susie Dana, 67.7; 3.
Kim Swanda and Holy Dextraze, 68.9; 4. Dee Racz and Erica Soma, 70.3.
Long drive men on No. 10: Chris Petrides.
Long drive women on No. 10: Sabrina Sampson.
Closest to the pin men: No. 6, Doug Link; No. 9; Chris Petrides; No. 15, Dan Petrozzi.
Closest to the pin women: No. 6: Kim Swanda; No. 9 Hillary Irvine; No. 15, Elaine Parsons.