Exciting one-day Faulconer golf tournament ends with four ties

By Duncan Nixon, Correspondent

The big golf event of the year at the Lake Monticello Golf Course is the Faulconer Invitational. It is normally a two-day event. This year due to over 2.5 inches of rain on Friday night (May 18), the first round of the tournament had to be cancelled. The course was simply too wet.

Sunday (May 20) was a beautiful day for golf. The competition in all three divisions was exceptionally tight. In the men’s open division top players of any age from around Virginia compete for the title and for points in the year-long Battle trophy competition. The Battle competition includes tournaments at a number of Central Virginia’s top courses. Points can be earned in each of these tournaments and the player with the most points at the end of the season wins the trophy.

Players in the men’s open division played from the white tees on Sunday. From these men’s tees, the course plays 6,296 yards and is a serious test, especially when the fairways are wet and the roll on drives is curtailed.

This year two veteran players, Jeff Toms and Bob Rotella, tied for first place after hole 18 with scores of 74. Lake Monticello golf pro Mark Marshall escorted them back for an extra hole. The 18th is a short 461-yard par 5 that many top players can sometimes reach in two. However, playing for the green in two is very risky, as a second shot that is less than perfect can be heavily penalized by sand, rough or water.

Both players decided against going for the green in two, and both hit good but conservative drives. Toms laid up on his second shot to about 90 yards out and Rotella did the same to 80. Toms hit his pitch short and right, ending up in the rough just off the fringe, about 35 feet from the flag. Rotella hit an excellent shot to the center of the green about 12 feet short. Toms was left with a shot requiring a lot of finesse and that is what he delivered. His downhill chip nearly went in, but rolled about four feet past. Rotella’s birdie putt was just short. Toms lipped out his putt and Rotella tapped in for par to win the hole and the tournament.

After collecting his trophy and his certificate for merchandise in the pro shop, Rotella commented that the Lake’s ground crew did a fantastic job getting the course in shape, in light of all the rain. He also noted that he agrees with those who have said that the Lake Monticello course may have “the best layout in the state.” Rotella, who is a sports psychologist, is 69 years old and plays out of nearby Glenmore Country Club. He stated that he has played in quite a few Battle trophy tournaments over the years and is very happy to have won one.

In the seniors (age 50 and over) division of the tournament, there was a three-way tie for first place. Steve DeMasters, Steve Firkins and Mark Funderburke all finished with even par 72. The seniors play from the forward gold tees. The course is 5,610 yards from these tees, but par is still not an easy achievement. These three went into what turned out to be an epic play-off, starting on hole number one and continuing to the fifth hole. Firkins beat DeMasters on five, after Funderburke bogied number one and was eliminated from the play-off.

In the super-senior (age 65 and over) division, there was also a tie for first place. Jeff Johns and Jerry Prudom finished with 73. They also played from the gold tees. Their play-off was held on the front nine, starting at hole number one. Unlike the senior play-off the super-senior play-off was brief. Johns made par on the first hole to win the division, while Prudom came in with a bogie.

The fourth tie of the day was in the contest for low score by a Lake Monticello resident, playing in the men’s open division. Todd Kalinosky and Jay Calvo both scored 78. This tie was broken by matching scorecards. Since Calvo had the better score on the back nine he was declared the winner.

Of the full 91 players registered for three separate divisions for two days of play, only six withdrew. Marshall ran the tournament with skill and professionalism, as usual. Jim Prucnal and his staff did an admirable job in getting the course into top notch condition.

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