Scarafoni, Shields win Stockbridge Invitational
With the help of longtime friend and Country Club of Pittsfield member Matt Scarafoni on Sunday, that is no longer the case. The duo pulled out a hard-fought, 1-up victory over the Wyantenuck Country Club's Davis Mullany and Mike Schoop in the championship match of the Invitational, which is believed to be the longest-run amateur team tournament in the country.
"I have dreamt about winning this tournament since I was a young lad," said Shields. "My father (Dick) won it three times (1964, 1973, 1980), so it is really special for me to get to put my name up next to his."
Shields and Scarafoni had a sizzling Sunday from the start, defeating past champions Brent Dietz and Greg Fisk 5 and 3 in the semifinals behind a six-birdie barrage before producing seven more birdies to narrowly escape against their younger foes.
"Davis and Mike are really great guys and fun to play with," Shields said. "They manage their games really well and are true competitors."
The two team combined to make 13 birdies — seven by the winners, six by the losers — and things got really crazy in the middle of the round
"Between the fourth and 12th holes there were eight birdies in the group," Shields said.
Included in that run was what Scarafoni called a "unbelievable" approach shot on the difficult par-4 ninth hole by Mullany that led to a birdie and cut the eventual winners' lead to one. Scarafoni had made birdies Nos. 6 and 8 prior to that to grab the lead.
Shields' long putt on the par-3 11th and a chip-in by Scarafoni on No. 12 put them 2-up. A bogey by the winners on No. 14 cut their lead to one. Both teams birdied the par-5 15th before Scarafoni drained a 25-foot birdie putt on the par-4 16th to put the margin back to two with two holes to play.
"That was a bit of a momentum changer," Scarafoni said.
Well, for a couple of minutes, anyway. On the dogleg-right, par-4 17th hole, Schoop lipped out his eagle approach shot and made a birdie to cut the lead to one again. All four players hit the par-4 18th in two and all four had to settle for pars, giving the win to Shields and Scarafoni.
In the end, the champions' red-hot putting turned out to be the difference over the weekend.
"We got into good putting streaks, and we did it on different holes to maximize our birdies," Shields said.
"Chris putted well all weekend, he probably made four or five putts from 25 feet or more," said Scarafoni, who has won the Invitational a handful of times with Ed Budz. "Chris' knowledge of the greens at Stockbridge was a difference-maker for me. His helping me with the reads was probably worth a shot-and-a-half or two per round."
For both winners, the best part was sharing the victory.
"We have known each other since we were probably around 6," Scarafoni said. "We have competed as partners and against each other for years. He's got such an even temperament on the course and is always great fun to be around."
"It's really a treat to win with such a special friend," Shields said. "We had a good embrace after the win."
Richard Lord can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-281-2226.
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