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Local golf: Hughes holds off Tufo for 12th City crown


When Bob Hughes won his first City Men’s Golf Championship in 1981, little did he know that he would eventually establish a legacy that may never be touched.

Now, at age 52, and still playing at an incredibly high level after all these years, Hughes notched city championship No. 12 Sunday at Ives Hill Country Club.

Hughes built a 3-up lead after the morning 18 holes, extended it to 6 up after the first three holes in the afternoon then saw challenger Joe Tufo mount an incredible comeback that got the match back to even with just two holes remaining.

But as champions often do, Hughes found a way to finish strong.

He sunk a slick 6-foot birdie putt on No. 17, then won 18 with a gimme birdie when Tufo hit his drive out of bounds and conceded.

“I’m finally glad I’m not an 11-time champion any more,’’ Hughes joked. “It’s been a long time since the last one.’’

Eleven years, in fact.

Hughes captured his 11th city title in 2002 and had been back to the finals twice since then, losing in 2008 and 2009.

So this one was a little extra special, knowing he joined seven-time winner Bobby O’Brien as the only player to win the city crown in four different decades.

“I guess I’ve still got a few more good years left,’’ Hughes said. “Today wasn’t great golf, but I hit enough good shots and made just enough putts to stay on top all day.’’

For Tufo, a sixth runner-up finish was bittersweet.

“I’ve made it this far seven times, and I lost to the best today, so that’s something to be proud of,’’ Tufo said. “But it hurts to make that great comeback and not be able to finish it off.’’

Hughes was seemingly rolling to an easy victory. He took the lead on the first hole of the morning round with a gimme birdie and never trailed.

“But the last nine holes were a little sketchy and a little unlucky, too,’’ said Hughes. “I got a couple of back breaks on good tee shots, but that’s part of the game.’’

Hughes carried a 2-up lead into the back nine in the morning, then extended the lead to three after a Tufo bogey on 12.

Tufo won 14 and 16 to cut the deficit to 1 up. But Hughes closed out the first 18 with a par to win 17 (as Tufo drove into the hazard right), then drove the par-4 18th hole and two-putted for birdie to go into the lunch break in command.

The afternoon didn’t start out any better for Tufo, the 2003 champion, who bogeyed two of the first three holes and lost them all to a birdie and two pars.

Now down six holes, Tufo’s mind set was simple.

“I couldn’t have played any worse,’’ he said.

Tufo birdied No. 7 for the second time Sunday, won No. 8 with a par and No. 9 with a birdie as Hughes hit a poor tee shot into the hazard.

“When I got it to five, I said to myself, ‘OK, there’s still a chance,’ ’’ Tufo said. “When it got to four then three, the momentum had changed.’’

Tufo also won 10 with a bogey as Hughes’s 3-wood took a big hop into the pond behind the green.

Tufo’s got unlucky on 11 when his tee shot ended up under a thick pine bush, and he could only pitch out a couple of feet. Tufo eventually conceded when his third shot sailed into the hay.

But Tufo won 12 with a par 4 to draw within two before 13 and 14 were halved with pars.

With identical birdie putts from the back fringe on 15, Tufo was able to two putt while Hughes missed a five-footer for par.

Tufo then sunk a clutch 12-foot par putt on 16 to draw even.

“I ran after that one because I thought at first it was going to be short,’’ Tufo said. “Unfortunately, I put another poor swing on the drive at 17.’’

Hughes hit a big drive just short left, and chipped to within six feet.

After Tufo missed his 20-footer for birdie, Hughes calmly stroked his putt into the center of the cup.

“I had to give it a little room to go right, and I gave it just enough,’’ Hughes said.

Hitting first on 18, Hughes hit 3-wood into the trap pin high to the left of the green. Tufo took driver and hit his first drive of the day left, finishing out of bounds.

“The train whistle in the distance blew right in my backswing, and I tried to back off the driver just a little,’’ Tufo said. “But with Bob up close, I knew I had to get it near the green to have a chance.’’

“Give Joe credit for battling back,’’ Hughes said. “Sometimes it’s tough to keep your rhythm when you’re ahead that much.’’

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