The Keepers Match Play is a season long haul, four months of grueling individual matches in three divisions based on handicap range. It is a simple formula, win and move on. By the end of August the Augusta, Bethpage Black, and Pebble Beach divisions had all seen their share of nail biters and extra hole matches but it eventually came down to a Final Three to play for the koveted, quasi-Wedgewood, Keepers Match Play Trophy.
In the bracket championship matches in August, Howie “The Quiet Assassin” Stein edged out Marc “Fine Grind” Birnbaum in the Augusta Division. Paul “Pablo” Cohen took out Marc “The Bronx Bomber” Fink in the Bethpage Black Division. Barry “How Did I Get Here” Minkoff outlasted Ronnie “Clean and Green” Greenbaum to win the Pebble Beach Division. So the stage was now set for the Keepers Match Play-Final Three in early September.
This titanic struggle was played on the North Course on a steamy day as an Almost Skins 5-3-1 Match Format where the best net score on a hole earns the player 5 points, second best net score 3 points, and not so best net score 1 point. Total points for the 18 holes is the Match Play Champion for 2019.
Bountiful Kash Sweeps, a bunch of Keepers Kup Points, and the slick trophy were on the line today. The course conditions were a bit soft and the greens, by North Course standards, were disarmingly slow. This was a two-edged sword, the downhill putts did not trundle six to eight feet by as they will do on any given Sunday and the uphill putts often left the guys with a nerve racking, furry five-footer which never seemed to have enough enthusiasm to go in.
It was obvious from the opening holes that he who made putts won big points and he who missed putts would be disappearing in the rear view mirror. Barry picked up his new moniker, “Mr. Klutch”, when he bagged a 25-footer across the 3rd green to make an unlikely par-net-birdie to grab the lead for the first time. Against all historical precedence, he never relinquished that advantage the rest of the way.
There was plenty of parrying the rest of the front nine but lack of consistent putting kept any of them from establishing a sizeable advantage. There were two balls in regulation on both 6 and 7 but there were only two pars to show for it. Howie hit a monster drive on 8 to about 75 yards and put a lawn dart to three feet to make the only natural birdie on the front side. But 9 rendered a full house-a bogey, a double, and a triple-with more sloppy green side play. At the halfway point Barry led 31 to 25 and 25 for the other two.
The inward nine started with a flicker of hope for the Silent Assassin as he made the Sportcenter Top Ten with an unbelievable recovery from the face of the cross bunker on #10, hitting it to 18 feet and draining the putt for another birdie to pull within 2 points of the lead.
But Pablo was having none of this, he laced a drive to center, an approach to the back on the 11th green and two putted for a winning par to get himself to just one point behind.
Mr. Klutch used the advantage tee on 12 to his advantage and followed a massive drive with a steady hybrid approach and two putts for a 4 net 3 to reclaim a 4 point advantage.
Two three-putts on 13 after hitting the putting surface and a gaggle of net bogies on 14 left the spreads pretty much as they were. More shadow boxing on 15 and 16 and the match moved to the pivotal 17th Tee with all kompetitors within 5 points-Barry 50-Howie 49-Paul 45. Stroking on both of the final holes Barry and Paul had to feel pretty good about things, but then there is that little wet penalty area that fronts the green that would have to be contended with. The plot lines and neck lines were thickening.
Pablo was the first to strike following a solid drive to 105 out on 17 and heeded advice of counsel to hit his short iron safely 35 feet behind the dangerous front right pin. Knowing a 4 for 3 was in the offing, Howie hit the shot of the inward half when he stuck his 85-yard approach 7 feet behind the cup making a natural birdie a real possibility. Barry hit his approach in the water but but from a drop some 75 yards out he kovered the flag to 3 feet to steal a bogey net par which would earn him some valuable points. Pablo handled the downhill approach putt to kick-in range and when Howie failed to convert his birdie putt the three were off to the final tee with the score line: Mr. Klutch 52-Q.A. 51-Pablo (a.k.a. Yosemite Sam) 50.
This is where Barry solidified the new moniker, he smashed his tee ball from the forward tee to 125 in the left Billy grass and then carefully managed his approach to the front right fringe 75 feet from the hole. Both of his kompetitors foozled at least one shot on the way to the green and by the time the putting was to transpire Barry was sitting 5 feet above the hole with only a two-putt needed for the bogey-net-par which would seal the deal. True to form Barry turned to me at this point and said, “At least I am not coming in third”. Now that is konfidence for you.
The rest is history, Mr. Klutch did indeed make the net par to win the final hole outright.
Game-Set-and Match with 57 points.
Kongratulations to all three guys….it was a spirited and feisty afternoon of golf and a deserving champion emerged.
The final takeaways from this year’s Keepers Match Play were:
1st Place Barry Minkoff-(57) Points $300 Kash Sweeps and 200 Kup Points and the Match Play Trophy
2nd Place Howie Stein-(54) Points $200 Kash Sweeps and 100 Kup Points
3rd Place Paul Cohen-(51) Points $100 Kash Sweeps and 50 Kup Points
Tied4th Marc Birnbaum, Marc Fink, and Ronnie Greenbaum $50 Kash Sweeps and 25 Kup Points