Golfers compete for RDGA Match Play titles
The 2020 RDGA Match Play and RDGA Senior Match Play Championships ended at the Golf Club at Blue Heron Hills with four semifinal matches and two championship matches deciding the two titles.
The men’s Match Play semifinals got underway with Brook-Lea Country Club’s Ben Caruso meeting Shane Shafer, of Riverton, and 2019 RDGA District Champion Yarik Merkulov matching up against Locust Hill Country Club’s Kyle Downey.
In the first semifinal match, Caruso and Shafer battled back and forth, with the lead changing hands six times before Caruso scored a 1-up victory on the 18th hole.
The other men’s semifinal match had Merkulov squared off against Downey. Merkulov posted three birdies and an eagle on the front nine to make the turn with a 29 and a 4-up lead. Downey came back on the back side to post five birdies and a 32 for the side. Despite shooting a 6-under-par 65 for the round, Downey could not overcome his match play opponent as Merkulov tied the match at 18 before winning the match outright on the third extra hole of play.
In the Senior Match Play semis, Colm Murphy, of Webster, faced off against John Pelin, of Churchville, with Murphy prevailing by a 2-and-1 margin. In the other senior semifinal, defending Senior Match Play champion Jim Burns, of Canandaigua, faced off against Rich Luther, of Stafford Country Club. By the end of the match, Luther earned his ticket to the Senior Match Play finals with a 4-and-3 decision over Burns.
In the RDGA Men’s Match Play Championship final, Merkulov and Caruso waged a back-and-forth battle until Merkulov turned on the heat on the back nine, claiming a 5-and-4 victory for his second RDGA title in as many years. Merkulov has been invited to play in the U.S. Amateur Championship at Bandon Dunes in Oregon.
In the RDGA Senior Match Play Championship, Luther — the 2019 RDGA Men’s Senior Player of the Year — was looking to win his first RDGA championship title against Murphy. Luther traded blows with Murphy on the front nine, taking a 2-up lead at the turn. On the back side, Murphy pulled even with Luther on No.11 and the two remained deadlocked through the next five holes. Luther eventually pulled away with birdies on holes 16 and 17 to win his match — and the title — by a 2-and-1 margin.
Luther will compete in the 2020 RDGA Senior Championship hosted by his home course. All four Match Play finalists earned exemptions into the 2021 RDGA District Championship John H. Ryan Jr. Memorial, scheduled for next July at Oak Hill Country Club.