Loaded field for Stockbridge Invitational as event switches to singles format for first time since World War II

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The Stockbridge Invitational, which dates all the way back to 1897, will be crowning an individual champion for the first time since World War II when the 2020 tournament concludes on Sunday at the Stockbridge Golf Club.

The tournament has featured a best-ball format since the war, but because of the state's COVID-19 restrictions, head professional Steve Mazzariello and club officials concluded that the team format wasn't going to work this year.

"We decided there was no way we could have the four-ball the way we usually do with the state's orders, so we decided that one way to uphold the tournament's tradition was to make it an individual tournament since that's how it started," Mazzariello said. "We haven't crowned an individual champion in 79 years."

That means that the defending champions — the Wyantenuck Country Club duo of Davis Mullany and Mike Schopp — will have a chance to "defend" their title separately in the 36-hole tournament that tees off on Saturday morning along the banks of the Housatonic River.

It also means that another Wyantenuck member, senior standout Andy Congdon, has a chance to win an individual title in a tournament he has captured a staggering 11 times with four different partners.

"That's been on mind," admitted Congdon, who beat the young guys last week in capturing the Berkshire Singles at Berkshire Hills Country Club for the seventh time.

While winning as an individual title would be another amazing accomplishment for the 65-year-old, it wouldn't quite match the thrill he experienced in winning the 2017 Invitational.

"Winning as an individual isn't as good as with a partner, especially when it is with your son," said Congdon, referring to his victory with son Brian, who is a Lt. Col. in the U.S. Air Force. Father and son won with a dramatic 1-up victory over Matt Ortega and Matt Keenan. Congdon had previously won five times with Marty Salvadore, four times with Silas Warner and once with Bruce Hull.

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The change is format has been well receiived by the club's members and the region's golfers.

"The maximum field we could handle with the rules is 72 golfers, and that is what we ended up with," Mazzariello said. "Everyone is getting a tee gift, a free practice round (on Friday) and a quick lunch on or off the course, so it should be a couple of really great of days for everyone."

The previously mentioned trio of Wyantenuck golfers will have plenty of competition including from Stockbridge member Chris Shields, who captured the Invitational with Matt Scarafoni in 2018 and the Stockbridge Trophy five years in a row with Randy Driscoll (2014-2018).

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Other potential title threats include the Stockbridge's Ortega, Greenock Country Club's Keenan, Berkshire Hills Country Club members Bob Linn and Aaron Nackoul and the Links at Worthington's James Ryan.

Congdon's win last weekend proved that although he hasn't been playing as much tournament golf as in the past and has had some physical issues, he can still get the job done when his mental game is sharp.

"The physical things are just aging issues, really," Congdon said. "I tore a muscle about 10 years ago and it gives me some trouble, and I need knee surgery, but one expects these things as you get older."

As for the mental game?

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"Years ago, I was focused on every shot, but as the years have gone by that has become rarer and rarer, but I had that part of the game together this week."

That was especially true on one shot in particular that proved pivotal and confidence-boosting at the same time.

"The tee shot on No. 16 (a 409-yard, par 4 dogleg left) has always given me nightmares," said Congdon. "Young Kevin (Quinto) hit his tee shot up and over the pine tree, as good as it could be, so I thought. Then I hit one of the better tee shots I have ever hit, it even went beyond Kevin's. I was thrilled and proud that I did that."

Although he settled for a par after a solid approach shot, the confidence gained led him to be a little bolder that usual with the pin tucked on the left side of the par-3 17th green.

"I was going to play for the middle of the green, but I decided to go a little left of that and hit it to about 14 feet and made the putt," said Congdon, who went on to par the final hole for a two-shot victory.

In addition to the Championship Flight this weekend, there will be a Net Division for the higher handicap player and a strong 25-player Senior Division that includes Albany-area senior standout Jim Mueller, who has had plenty of success in the Berkshires in the past, and New England Country Club member Carter Fasick, who captured the Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball Championship with his brother Jon in 2018.

Richard Lord can be reached at relord633@gmail.com.


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