CANTON — The last time the St. Lawrence University Golf Course won the Northern New York Golf Association’s Six-Man Championship Jimmy Carter was president, Grease was the hit movie of the summer and a gallon of unleaded gas cost 67 cents.
SLU claimed its first title since 1978 Saturday, winning the 78th edition of the event as four of its six golfers shot under 80, leaving the club eight strokes ahead of second-place Tupper Lake.
“It’s been a long time,” said SLU’s Aaron Jones. “I was six-years-old (in 1978). It feels good. We have a bunch of younger guys who have been around and we work on our games. It’s a good group, a lot of fun guys to be with.”
SLU entered the day with a four-stroke lead over Tupper Lake and things stayed tight throughout the day. When all six golfers from both clubs had finished the first nine holes, SLU’s lead was only five strokes.
As the golfers began to finish their rounds and report final scores things remained tense. With two golfers from each team remaining on the course, SLU’s lead had shrunk to one stroke.
But the final two golfers for SLU were the top two golfers at the club, John Pezdek and Jones. Pezdek, playing a group ahead of Jones, finished a round of 76, giving him a two-day total of 153 strokes, and Jones came in with a 73, giving him a two-day total of 149.
“It means a lot” Pezdek said. “You try to have your game in shape for this. For us to win it at home, and have a little bit of that extra pressure, really means a lot, for the six that played and also for the club itself, the whole membership. Hopefully we made them proud.”
SLU’s top two golfers took different approaches to Saturday’s competition. Jones struggled slightly on the front nine, especially putting, and shot a two-over part 38. But he was one-under par on the back nine with a 35.
“I was disappointed with my start,” Jones said. “My putter wasn’t working. I just wasn’t getting the ball in the hole. I was hitting the ball decent, I was just frustrated with the putting. On the back side I started off putting again bad, but midway through the round I got my momentum going back. Golf is a game where the next shot counts, not the last shot. I just tried to get that out of my head.”
Pezdek was just one-over on the front nine, but he shot three-over on the back nine.
“It is important to stay level headed whether you are on a hot streak, or you get a bad break or two,” Pezdek said. “I didn’t have an exact idea (of the team scores). When I made the turn I looked at the scores and saw it was going to be a battle down the stretch. Every shot counts at that juncture of a tournament.”
Another key to SLU’s championship was the play of its sixth golfer, Chris Donah. Donah shot 81 on Friday, but cut six strokes on Saturday, finishing with a 75 for a two-day total of 156.
“I was keeping out of trouble and I drove the ball well today and kept it on the fairway,” Donah said. “Putting was a big difference today. I got used to the speed of the greens and was able to control it a bit and make the putts. The sixth guy is pivotal. If he has a good round it brings the scores down.”
The individual championship was close, but not as tense as the team title as Malone’s Graham Niles, a former Brushton-Moira High School golfer, won the title with a two-day total of 145 strokes.
Niles was the only golfer to shoot par on Friday and he was only one stroke off Saturday with a 73. He finished four shots ahead of Jones. Tupper Lake teammates Korey Kenniston and Michael Roberts tied for third at 152 strokes.
“I putted better today,” Niles said. “I didn’t shoot as well, but I putted better. I didn’t have any idea what anyone in front of me was doing. I knew the guys closest to me (Jones and Roberts), were in my group and I was kind of ahead of them all day. I knew I was in good position unless somebody went really low. It’s pretty exciting. You want to give a good effort every time you go out.”
■ NOTES: Malone also had two other individual medalists. Devin Delisle shot a 74 to finish at 151 strokes and won the junior division. Mike Bamann of Ives Hill was second at 158. Jim Lusk was the only golfer who shot under par both days, shooting a 70 on Friday and a 71 on Saturday to win the super senior division for Malone. Potsdam’s Tom Smith claimed the senior division with a two-day total of 153 strokes. ... Next year’s tournament will be hosted by Carlowden.