Lu Lu’s Bartolacci finds Super-Senior glory at Little Mill CC
MARLTON, N.J. – Thomas Bartolacci, Jr., a three-time Senior Amateur Champion, says he doesn’t have the same competitive fire inside anymore. He’s got an overall different perspective on the game nowadays for a multitude of reasons.
His newest perspective will be from today’s winner’s circle.
Wednesday at Little Mill Country Club (par 71, 6,224 yards), Bartolacci dug deep and found that championship passion permeating once again. The Lu Lu Country Club member bettered Lancaster Country Club’s Daniel Burton on the second playoff hole with a conceded birdie, earning the Super-Senior Division crown.
“I’m very thankful. You never know if you’re ever going to win again, and winning is always fun, but I surprised myself,” said Bartolacci. “Competitive golf is a tough deal in this area. To do it at this level, it’s like a job. So it feels great to win.”
Bartolacci and Burton both finished at 10-over par for the championship which featured fast, pure conditions.
After a first-round share of the lead in result of a 5-over 76, Bartolacci teed off in the day’s final grouping at 9:20 a.m. He picked off where he left off, jarring a highlight birdie on No. 2 (par 4, 379 yards), and then missing on good birdie looks on the next three holes.
Competitive golf in this area is incredibly difficult. I’ve been fortunate to win a few times. I’m thankful to do it at this level.
“I started exactly the way I wanted to,” said Bartolacci. “But then I made a double bogey, and it started to come undone. Finally you find yourself trying to hold on at the end.
A clutch Bartolacci birdie on No. 16 (par 5, 533 yards) meant a share of the lead while Burton, playing in a group ahead, went 2-under through his last four to get in the house at 10-over. Then, a miscue arrived. On No. 17 (par 3, 175 yards), Bartolacci yanked a 4-iron in the front-left bunker, blasted out beautifully to 10 feet, and missed the sliding par look. Headed to Little Mill’s finisher (par 4, 377 yards), things were tied at the top.
“I didn’t really know where I stood on the back nine. I just wanted to play six solid holes coming in,” said Bartolacci, 68, of Washington Crossing, Pa.. “I knew the course was playing difficult for everyone.”
On the 18th, a perfect 3-wood off the tee left Bartolacci in Position A. His wedge took flight, but landed “six inches short” of the green, leading to a 20-foot two-putt par. Playoff time.
With honors, Burton was the first to play in the playoff beginning on Little Mill’s Red Nine. His drive found the right trees, but left a path to the green. Bartolacci found the short stuff with his trusty 3-wood. Burton punched an iron out safely, but found the greenside left green, followed by a green-in-regulation by Bartolacci with an 8-iron. A two-putt par was matched by Burton after a miraculous sand save was converted with a 10-foot par make.
On the second playoff hole, the previously mentioned No. 2, Bartolacci found his trophy moment. Burton once again found tree trouble on the right, but this time landed in a hole that wasn’t his ball mark. The tough break meant a failed chip out, followed by an approach that landed in the right greenside rough. Bartolacci placed his 7-iron approach to a safe 25 feet from the cup, putting even more pressure on his competitor. After a thinned chip and missed putt, Burton picked up and conceded the win to the champion.
“I played well today, and I came back to play great the rest of the day so I feel great about that,” said Burton, 70, of Lititz, Pa. “I made a nice up-and-down on the first playoff hole to halve it. On [No. 2], at least three quarters of the ball was underground and I had nothing, and that was that. I’ve never won a GAP Major, and it would really be great, but at the end of the day I didn’t win it.”
The win marks Bartolacci’s first in the Super-Senior Division. His other two titles — the first coming in 2008 at The Springhaven Club, followed by a second in 2013 at Huntingdon Valley Country Club — came as a Senior.
Bartolacci has battled back issues for many years, but surgery last July has let him live a better lifestyle, in addition to swing pain free. The back held up this week — and then some.
“I love competitive golf, but I love golf with my friends even more. I mentioned it yesterday, but that is what I missed the most when I missed time,” he said. “But you know, I hit some good shots today. Maybe it’s still in there.”
Maybe his fire for the game is still in there, too. Bartolacci has a new view on the game ever since the back injury, in addition to losing beloved golf friends Ray Thompson, an Overbrook Golf Club legend, and former 2009 Brewer Cup Champion Michael Dougherty, a Huntingdon Valley member. Spending time with his young grandchildren makes it all seem a little less important as well. But after this week’s emotional victory, Bartolacci’s future golf aspirations may be fueled by his first victory in six years.
“I’ve got a completely different perspective on things nowadays. Three footers don’t mean as much as they used to. I’m not sure if I have that competitive edge anymore. I see it in Robin [McCool]. I see it in Don [Donatoni]. Those guys really work at it, and that’s why they win. But I’m not sure if I will,” said Bartolacci.
Uncertainty may matter when looking toward the future. But today, and at this moment, Bartolacci is on top of the GAP Super-Senior World.
“Competitive golf in this area is incredibly difficult. I’ve been fortunate to win a few times,” said the champion. “I’m thankful to do it at this level. I’m not how sure this one compares to my other wins, but it’s very special.”
NOTE: White Manor Country Club’s Don Donatoni secured the Super-Senior Silver Cross crown with today’s finish. Donatoni, who has won seven-straight Super-Senior Player of the Year Awards started his season with a win thanks to a 3-under 67 in the Warner Cup (Gross) at Burlington Country Club. In his Chapman (Gross) win at Moselem Springs Golf Club, Donatoni finished at 2-over 72. In this week’s Senior Amateur, his first-round 8-over 79 was followed by today’s 7-over 78. Donatoni finished at 14-over 296 for the Silver Cross season, bettering Saucon Valley Country Club’s Robin McCool (300) by four strokes.
Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The Association’s 274 Full Member Clubs and 75,000 individual members are spread across the Eastern half of Pennsylvania and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
|*Thomas Bartolacci, Jr., Lu Lu Country Club||76-76–152|
|Daniel Burton, Lancaster Country Club||77-75–152|
|Robin McCool, Saucon Valley Country Club||77-76–153|
|James Muller, Manufacturers’ Golf & Country Club||78-77–155|
|John Gonsior, Limekiln Golf Club||76-80–156|
|Elliot Sheftel, Lehigh Country Club||78-79–157|
|Richard Umani, Honeybrook Golf Club||78-79–157|
|Don Donatoni, White Manor Country Club||79-78–157|
|Tom DiCinti, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||81-77–158|
|Raymond Pawulich, Little Mill Country Club||80-78–158|
|Howard Press, Little Mill Country Club||78-80–158|
|Gary Daniels, Applebrook Golf Club||84-75–159|
|Robert Dietrich, Loch Nairn Golf Club||77-82–159|
|Thomas Humphrey, Wilmington Country Club||80-81–161|
|Buck Jones, Philadelphia Publinks GA||83-78–161|
|Charles Caparo, The 1912 Club||84-77–161|
|Michael Nilon, Philadelphia Country Club||82-80–162|
|Robert Billings, Rolling Green Golf Club||79-84–163|
|Tom Borsello, Hartefeld National||84-79–163|
|Rich Colaguori, Moselem Springs Golf Club||83-80–163|
|Joe Cordaro, Saucon Valley Country Club||81-83–164|
|Dave Jacobson, Medford Village Country Club||79-85–164|
|Michael Moser, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club||85-80–165|
|Steve Tagert, Spring Ford Country Club||84-81–165|
|Frank Polizzi, Aronimink Golf Club||85-81–166|
|Jay Howson, Jr., St. Davids Golf Club||84-83–167|
|Joe Culley, The Springhaven Club||85-83–168|
|Steve Meyer, Rolling Green Golf Club||83-85–168|
|Charles McDowell, Wilmington Country Club||83-86–169|
|Bennett Meyer, Rolling Green Golf Club||87-83–170|
|George Collins, Stone Harbor Golf Club||86-87–173|
|Jon Mabry, Moorestown Field Club||85-88–173|
|Charles McClaskey, Philadelphia Publinks GA||93-83–176|
|Kevin Pappas, Mercer Oaks Golf Course||85-92–177|
|Joel McFadden, Philadelphia Publinks GA||91-88–179|
|Bill Holt, III, Kennett Square Golf & Country Club||92-93–185|
|*-determined in playoff|