Golf notebook: Facts and figures from Jim Salinetti's Massachusetts Amateur dominance
Winning three Massachusetts Amateur championships and two New England Amateur titles in four years like Jim Salinetti did between 1997 and 2000 was a remarkable accomplishment under any circumstances, but it's all the more impressive for a Berkshire County golfer to accomplish that feat.
After all, with most of the state's population is located in Greater Boston, a solid majority of Mass Golf's championship events are held in the east, including many on distant Cape Cod. As a result, not only are county golfers badly outnumbered, they usually have long road trips with only the occasional "home games" on courses they are familiar with.
In the 111 Mass. Amateurs that have been played, only two county golfers have walked away as champions — North Adams native Trevor Gliwski, who won in 1992, and Salinetti, who captured the grueling match-play title in 1997, 1999 and 2000.
In those same three years that he captured the Mass. Am., Jim teamed with his father, Dick, to win three state Father-Son championships.
Here are a few facts from his four-year run show how special it was:
— Only two golfers, the legendary Francis Ouimet (six titles, the last in 1925) and Fredrick Wright (six, the last in 1938) have captured more than three Mass. Amateur titles.
— Salinetti and Jim McDermott (1980, '84, '89) are the only two golfers to win the championship three times in the last 59 years, since Ted Bishop, a member of the Mass. Golf Hall of Fame, won his third in 1961.
— Salinetti's match-play record in the those four Mass. Amateurs was an eye-opening 15-1. The defeat came in the first round in 1998 against Alistair Cato, who he later defeated on his way to victory the following two years.
— His first two 36-hole championship match victories were by huge margins of 5-and-3 in 1997 over Bob Bradley and 9-and-8 over Ed Fletcher in 1999.
— Just a week after capturing his third Mass. Am., he lapped the field in the New England Amateur, prevailing by 13 shots with a 9-under 271 at Waterville Country Club in Maine.
— Salinetti was the co-medalist in the 312-player field at the 2000 U.S. Amateur Championship at Baltustrol Country Club (N.J.) with a 36-hole total of 137. He also qualified for and played in the 1999 event at the Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Looking back at his final two Mass. Amateur victories, Salinetti's dominance shows. Only two of his 10 matches even reached the 18th hole. The second of those proved, however, that he could also respond to adversity when he overcame a 3-down deficit to defeat Larry Nuger for a 1-up victory at Worcester Country Club.
"Jim was always very patient," recalled his dad Dick, who caddied for him in most of his major amateur events. "He could be 2 down, 3 down at the turn and not get down on himself. He wasn't cocky, but he was confident and he never quit."
According to the Boston Globe's account of the 36-hole championship match in 2000, Salinetti was 3 down to Nuger before he squared the match with a birdie-par-birdie stretch at Nos. 14-16. He also had what the Globe reporter referred to as a "brilliant" par-save on 18 to keep it even headed to the afternoon.
On the back nine, according to the Globe, Salinetti took a 1-up lead on No. 11, made two huge par-save putts on the next two holes to stay on top before missing a 3-foot putt that allowed Nuger to tie the match on No. 17. Salinetti then won his third title when a poor wedge shot led to a bogey for Nuger on No. 18.
As for why he thrived in match-play, Jim Salinetti said: "The key is to be in the right frame of mind. In other tournaments it can be about other things, like making the cut or trying to just finish high, but in match play it is only about winning. You have no other choice. ... I just love it"
Just a week after that dramatic win, Salinetti ran away from the field for his second New England title in Maine, leading by six shots entering the final round before winning by 13.
"I wasn't even thinking about it, he had it wrapped up," replied Nuger, who finished third, to a Portland Press-Herald reporter when asked if he thought he could rally against the man who beat him the previous weekend. "His game is too solid and he's too smart for something strange to happen.''
Salinetti's 2000 summer run and amateur career then ended at the U.S. Amateur at Baltustrol when he tied with Jeff Wilson in the 36-hole medal-play qualifying portion of the tournament with a 137 total before being ousted in sudden death in the third round of match play by David Eger, who later went on to become a note PGA Tour rules official.
Though he lost that final match as an amateur, Salinetti's performance the previous two days in beating 311 of the 312 of the best amateurs in the world provided a fitting exclamation point his great amateur career.
Richard Lord can be reached at email@example.com.
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