Steve Sykes and Bob Linn, left, paired up and played to a two-day tie for the title with Jim Gifford and Daniel Russo during this weekend's Fall Classic tournament at Berkshire Hills Country Club.

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PITTSFIELD — It was getting dark, and when Steve Sykes lined up his par putt on the second playoff hole, it could have cost his team a shot at the co-championship in the Berkshire Hills Country Club Fall Classic.

"Not really. It was pure, I've played here a lot in the last 20 years," Sykes said. "I had a good guess of which way that putt was going to go or not going to go. I thought it was pretty straight.

"I couldn't see anything, so I figured I'd hit it straight and if it goes in, it goes in."

Sykes' par putt followed a similar par putt by Jim Gifford to keep their teams tied. Which was how the Fall Classic came to an end. It was the first time the Classic had finished in a tie.

Sykes and partner Bob Linn trailed first-round leaders Jim Welch and Mike Wheeler by three strokes after Saturday's opening round. But as Welch and Wheeler ran into some issues in the second day of the 36-hole, best-ball tournament, the Berkshire Hills duo shot 4-under 68.

They finished tied with a pair of familiar, at least for this year, faces. Jim Gifford and Daniel Russo, who won the Little Brown Jug at Wahconah Country Club in a playoff back in August, shot a second-day 5-under-par 67, and survived those two playoff holes to leave Pittsfield with another trophy.

While it was the first time the two Albany-area golfers had played in the BHCC Fall Classic, the trophy might have been kind of a bonus.

"We're coming back on Tuesday," said Gifford, who will team with Russo at the USGA's U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Qualifier, which will be played at Berkshire Hills. "It's the first time we ever played this course. We were using it as a tryout for Tuesday. We made some putts. We made some birdies, and we have a good feeling going into Tuesday.

"Hopefully, we can keep it going."

Welch and Wheeler, who torched Berkshire Hills by shooting a 9-under-par 63 in the first round — a round that included a hole-in-one, managed even-par 72 on Sunday. They made the turn in 1-under 34, but made no birdies on the back nine. They recorded seven pars and bogeyed the par-4 16th and par-5 18th, settling for third place.

Jim Mueller and Jim Mueller Jr. from Orchard Creek Golf Club in Altamont, N.Y., finished fourth with 136, two strokes behind the co-champions.

Three Berkshire duos earned top-10 finishes. Matt Scarafoni and Chad Alibozek from the Country Club of Pittsfield tied for seventh with Aaron Nackoul and Brandon Lewis of Berkshire Hills, both shooting 140. Jeff Puleri of the host club and Thomas Keenan of Greenock tied for 10th at 146.

"[Gifford] played great all day today. He made four birdies on the front nine. He played spectacular, absolutely spectacular," said Russo. "We had a couple of hiccups, bad on my part [on the back nine]. He made a really nice putt on the last hole. We didn't even think we were in it. Luckily, we got in."

Gifford and Russo had bogeyed the par-4 14th and par-5 15th, before Gifford bounced back with that birdie on 18 to finish at 67.

That was the score to beat as Sykes and Linn approached the 18th green. Sykes put his second shot by some trees to the right of the green.

"I just came out on the second shot a little bit and pushed it right. I got lucky that I had a little window right above a tree limb, and that was my only choice," he said. "I got lucky. I made the three footer [for birdie] which was nice. But it was a lucky break."

The playoff started on the par-4 first hole. All four golfers reached the green in two, but Linn and Gifford both parred the hole.

Sykes made a birdie, forcing Russo to make one as well. He did, and the playoff moved to the par-3 fifth hole.

Nobody reached the green in one. In fact, three of the four, saw tee shots land somewhat to the right of the green and behind a ridge over a bunker.

They all got on the green, and when Gifford parred, Sykes had to. The second par and the darkness meant that the four would split the title.

"Bob played great. He's a great partner," said Sykes.

And Linn returned the compliment.

"I was glad to have Stevie on the back side. I was kind of getting old on the back nine," said Linn. "I was just trying to stay positive for him, make some pars. He had birdie putts on just about every hole. The more pars I could make would give him some freedom.

"He was dimples away from being 6-7 under, really."


Championship Flight

1. (tie) Bob Linn/Steve Sykes 66-68 134, and Jim Gifford/Daniel Russo 67-67 134; 3. Jim Welch/Mike Wheeler 62-72 135; 4. Jim Mueller/Jim Mueller Jr. 69-67 136; 5. (tie) Bob Cooper/Lancelot Hope 70-69 139, and Clinton Lange/Griffith Hunter 68-71 139; 7. (tie) Matt Scarafoni/Chad Alibozek 70-70 140, and Aaron Nackoul/Brandon Lewis 71-69 140; 9. Michael Stopera/Glenn Stopera 71-71 142; 10. (tie) Jeff Puleri/Thomas Keenan 71-75 146, and Frank Cipollino/Kurt Bartzch 70-76 146.

First Flight

1. (tie) William Haylon/Ryan Kangas 72-69 141, and Matt Keenan/Mike Schopp 72-69 141; 3. (tie) Dave Mooradian/John Downey 73-69 142, and Ivan Lendl/Kevin Foster 72-70 142.

Second Flight

1. Pete Baran/David Bond 74-68 142; 2. Brian Bonacquisti/Adam Berry 75-70 145; 3. (tie) Tony Genzabella/Jake Brooks 75-71 146, and Evan Santa/Scott Falatach 75-71 146.

Third Flight

1. David Hayes/Patrick Hayes 76-70 146; 2. Chris Gilbert/Ryan Meikle 76-71 147; 3. Ed Sennett/Hogan Sennett 76-73 149.

Fourth Flight

1. Dale Dirk/Fred Goerlach 78-72 150; 2. (tie) Joseph Spezzano/Al Spezzano 78-75 153, and Matt Verris/Corey Nichols 78-75 153.

Fifth Flight

1. Jerry Bush/Chris Bourdon 81-75 156; 2. (tie) Matthew Calabrese/Raymod Byron 82-75 157, and Branden Strileckis/Michael Milburn 79-78 157.

Sixth Flight

1. (tie) Matt Cripps/Jason Meaney 8374 157, and John Mason/Milton Torres 82-75 157 3. Ron Carver/Zip Carver 82-78 160.

Seventh Flight

1. Josh Fortier/Pat Maloy 86-82 168; 2. Daniel Matica/Paul Waite 86-85 171; 3. Frank Laragione/Wayne Slosek 86-86 172.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter and 413-496-6253.


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