Winning Pewter Cup team recalls history
PITTSFIELD -- Billy McDonald and John Kelly Jr. lost the Pewter Cup by one shot in 2013. They made sure from the very start on Sunday at Berkshire Hills Country Club that it wasn't going to happen again.
Leading by a shot entering the final round of the best-ball tournament, McDonald birdied the par-4 first hole and Kelly followed with another on the par-5 second to build a quick three-shot lead on the way to a six-shot victory.
"We lost here by a shot and also by one at the Country Club of New Bedford and Newport International," McDonald said. "It's nice to finally win one."
With McDonald on fire over the first 13 holes and Kelly contributing some clutch shots over the final stretch, the former University of Rhode Island teammates shot a 7-under 65 to finish at 19-under 197.
Mark Chylinski and Jim Mueller, who played with the winners in the final two rounds, shot a 2-under 70 to finish second at 203. The Berkshire Hills brother combination of Jeff and Rich Puleri (71) finished third at 206.
The win was a victory for youth over experience. Kelly is 25 years old and McDonald 26. Mueller and Chylinski are both 55.
"I told John, we won this tournament for the first time before you were born," said Mueller. Indeed, he and Chylinski won the Pewter Cup for the first time in the mid-1980s.
The youngsters certainly impressed the old-timers with back-to-back 65s that left everyone in their wake.
"They played extremely well," Mueller said. "They are good ball-strikers and just good players. It seemed like when one of them hit a bad drive, the other one hit it close to the hole."
"They reminded me of us when we were their age," said Chylinski.
Over the first 14 holes, McDonald was splitting the fairways and zeroing in on the flags, making five birdies (Nos. 1, 4, 8, 10 and 14), narrowly missing several others and a making clutch par-saving putt on No. 13.
"That was nice, my job was pretty easy," said Kelly. "There wasn't much for me to do on the front nine."
The only hiccup came when they both three-putted on the par-4 12th for their only bogey of the weekend to briefly make things interesting. Chylinski had made a short birdie putt on the 11th and Mueller drained a 20-footer on No. 12 to briefly cut the lead to three.
But, with Chylinski having trouble out of a bunker and Mueller three-putting from short range, the rally ended with a double bogey on the par-3 13th.
"We never really put any pressure on them," Mueller said.
Kelly's turn to shine came when McDonald hit his drive into a lateral hazard on the par-5 15th. He followed his partner's errant drive by bombing his down the left side of the fairway, reaching the green in two and two-putting for a birdie.
Not that it mattered by then, but Kelly finished in style with a chip and a short putt for a birdie on the par-5 18th hole.
"It was a good team weekend," McDonald said. "John played really well in the first two rounds."
Kelly says that their games complement each other well in the best-ball format.
"Billy is really steady off the tee, so I can swing away and really go after my driver," he said.
The Connecticut duo -- McDonald is a member at Wethersfield Country Club and Kelly is from Twin Hills Country Club -- will be back at Berkshire Hills on Aug. 25 for a qualifier for the inaugural U.S. Golf Association Four-Ball Championship.
"It's tremendous that the USGA is adding a best-ball tournament and I think it's appropriate that they are having qualifying here considering how good a tournament this is," McDonald said. "This is a great course and it was perfect this week."
That's easy to say, of course, when you just put together a 19-under week, the lowest score in recent memory in the tournament. But the condition of the course got high marks from everyone.
"This is the best the course has been in a long time," said Chylinski, a Berkshire Hills member. "The greens are really, really good right now."
To contact Richard Lord:
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