Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Kannegieser wins 2nd consecutive Maine Match-Play Invitational Championship
Match-play golf isn't for everybody, but there are a chosen few who consistently step up in that one-on-one scenario.
Recently graduated Williams College golfer Will Kannegieser proved this week he is one of those golfers, winning his second consecutive Maine Match-Play Invitational Championship in a sudden-death playoff over Joe Hamilton at Spring Meadows Country Club in Gray, Maine, on Thursday.
Taconic Golf Club head professional and Williams men's golf coach Josh Hillman's description of his former player's game and demeanor suggest why that might be the case.
"Will is a very smart player who doesn't make a lost of mistakes," Hillman said. "He chooses the right shots and puts himself in the correct position off the tee. He hits it a long way but actually dials it back quite often, and he is a strong putter."
Of course, a lot of today's best amateurs bomb it and can sink putts, but having the right disposition is equally important.
"Will is a very mellow person, I'll go up to him during a tournament and I'll ask him how he is doing and he'll just say, 'I'm fine coach, you can go help the other guys,' " said Hillman, adding that Kannegieser always has a precise game plan.
Of course, compared to going against a full field, there is only a single mission in match play, one Berkshire County amateur great Jim Salinetti all but mastered when he won three Massachusetts Amateur Championships while compiling a 15-1 match record.
Why does he think he thrived under that pressure?
"The key is to be in the right frame of mind," Salinetti said in an interview with The Eagle this spring. "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."
Kannegieser, who also finished third in this summer's Maine Amateur Championship, has proved he has the right makeup and approach for match play over the past two summers.
In this week's event, according to the Lewiston (Maine) Sun-Journal, Kannegieser sank a clutch 15-foot birdie putt on the 20th hole to prevail when Hamilton followed by narrowly missing his 8-foot attempt.
"I figured he was going to make it," Kannegieser said of his foe's upcoming putt. "So, I was happy to be able to push (the match potentially to another hole). When he hit (his birdie putt) I walked to my bag because I thought it was in. It took a brutal lip."
Kannegieser's drama didn't start in the title match. After easily winning his opener 4 and 3, the next three victories were 1-up results, with the semifinal victory coming over Caleb Manuel, who he also defeated to win last year's championship match in another sudden-death affair, that one going 22 tense holes.
"It feels good," he told the Sun-Journal right after Thursday's win . "I knew it was going to be a battle in all of my matches and I feel lucky to be able to execute the shots when I wanted to."
Hillman knew that his low-key star, who with Division III All-American Sam Goldenring led a team that hoped to advance to the NCAA Division III national tournament before the pandemic arrived, was pumped-up when he saw a video of Kannegieser react to what turned out to be the decisive putt.
"When I saw the fist punch and scream, I knew Will was excited," Hillman said. "That's more enthusiasm than you'll usually see out of him."
With no Berkshire County Junior program this summer, there have been precious few chances for junior golfers who gain tournament experience. A few have traveled to New York to play in the Northeast New York PGA section's summer series, but for the most part there haven't been a lot of opportunities.
That changes on Tuesday when Dr. Muthian Sukumaran and his wife hosts a full field of juniors in their third annual Junior Invitational at Greenock Country Club in Lee. Greenock head professional Ryan Butterick said this will be the biggest field in the event's brief history.
There are three age divisions — 8-11, 12-15 and 16-18 — with the youngest division playing nine holes and the older two playing 18.
The tournament will begin with a 9 a.m. shotgun start and Butterick says all the necessary safety precautions are being taken and rules regarding COVID-19 will be observed.
Dr. Sukarmaran and his wife, who live in New York but spend plenty of time in the Berkshires in the summer, didn't require an entry fee from the players and are offering a $1,000 scholarship to the overall champion in addition to prizes to the other top finishers. The golfers will also be served lunch.
The field includes many of the county's top juniors, including Lenox's Max DiGrigoli and former Hoosac Valley standout Henry Sniezek.
DiGrigoli has been active this summer with a couple of top-10 finishes in NENY section events. He also played in a Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship qualifier this week, failing to advance to match play in a field of the state's elite juniors. DiGrigoli shot a solid 4-over 76 at Cranberry Valley Golf Course, but it took a 1-under 71 to move on.
Boston Golf Club's Jack O'Donnell eventually won the state championship with a 1-up win over Hopkinton Country Club's Matt Epstein.
Richard Lord can be reached at email@example.com.
The Links at Worthington
(Entrants could play more than one round and win more than one prize).
Men's low gross
1. Mike Lentner, Northampton CC, 71. 2. Peter Bacon, Wahconah CC, 74.
3. (tie) Doug Reed, The Links at Worthington, 75; Dennis Yarrows, Northampton CC, 75. 5. (tie). Alan Stalker, Waubeeka GL, 76.; Doug Reed, The Links at Worthington, 76.
Men's low net
1. Wally Fritz, The Links at Worthington, 67. 2. John Ryan, The Links at Worthington, 68. 3. Jeremy Stachowicz, The Links at Worthington, 69. 4. (tie) Daniel Matica, The Links at Worthington, 71, The Links at Worthington, 71; Jeff Edwards, Amherset GC, 71; Jeremy Stachowicz, 71.
Senior men's low gross
1. Chris Petrides, The Links at Worthington, 72. 2. Matt Pitoniak, CC of Greenfield, 76. 3. Richard Degray, Crumpin-Fox Club, 82.
Senior men's low net
1. Dennis Boldyga, Bas Ridge, 65. 2. David McDonald, CC of Greenfield, 71.
Women's low gross
1. Terry Boyce, Crumpin-Fox Club, 77. 2. Chris Eugin, The Links at Worthington, 79. 3. (tie) Chris Eugin, The Links at Worthington, 83. 4. Ann Pickrell, The Links at Worthington, 91. 5. Diane Magargal, The Links at Worthington, 94.
Women's low net. 1. Dee Racz, The Links at Worthington, 69. 2. Noel Lylons, Reedy Meadow GC, 70. 3. (tie) Alison Lucey, The Links at Worthington, 72; Liz Kay, The Links at Worthington, 72. 5. (tie) Diane Magargal, The Links at Worthington, 77; Julie Elias, The Links at Worthington, 77.
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