BRIGHTON – Chris Badgley of Trenton executed what he called his best sand shot ever in competition, and two holes later closed out a match with a 5-iron laser he called the shot of his life.
“I play in all the Net tournaments – they are the highlights of my year and the match play is my favorite tournament of the year,” he said after turning back defending champion Joe DeNino of Taylor 3 and 2 to win the 8th GAM Net Match Play Championship presented by Reynolds Lake Oconee at Lakelands Golf & Country Club Wednesday.
“Getting back to the finals for the second time in this and winning – this means the world to me.”
Badgley, 32 and the director of finance for Henry Ford Health System, lost in the title match in the very first GAM Net Match Play, and it took seven attempts to get back in the finals.
“Finishing second and watching somebody else get that trophy is no fun,” he said. “I would think about getting another chance to win this all the time.”
Badgley’s chances to win improved in the final match when DeNino, who had tied the match at No. 12, hit what he thought was a high draw down the middle of the No. 13 fairway only to lose the ball. Speculation after a three-minute hunt by players and officials was that it must have plugged in soggy turf.
“It was the only ball I didn’t watch land all day,” said DeNino, a 62-year-old retired mechanic and active drag racer. “I didn’t feel the club tug or anything and it was hit square. It was a little higher than normal and I thought maybe I popped it up a little. It was going right at those trees and started to draw. I thought I’m good.
“Then I never saw the ball again. I go from 1-down to even to 1-down just like that. That lost ball changed the momentum and then Chris made the shots he needed. I still had a lot of fun. It was a good three days and a good tough match in the end.”
Badgley’s best sand shot happened at hole 14, right after the lost ball put DeNino one down. He splashed a 12-yard sliding sand shot from a greenside bunker to four feet and made the sand-save putt to win the hole, on which he was getting a stroke.
It put him 2-up in the match, and then at No. 16, a 205-yard par 3, he drilled a 5-iron tee shot to one foot for the conceded 2 to close out the match.
“If I’m being honest, the sand game is not my forte,” he said. “I put some work into it the last couple weeks, and that was a great, great shot for me. It was another big turning point. Then at 16, that was the shot. It was playing 207 downwind, and I know you can’t go long there, so I had to hit something to land on the front end. I hit is crisp and pure and it rolled out to a shoe length. That is my shot of a lifetime for sure.”
The Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club member played in the final match with an 11-handicap, which gave him three shots on DeNino.
“Handicap adjusted tournaments give me a chance to play competitive golf,” he said. “I’ve been playing about 20 years, and I was self-taught until I took a few lessons the last few years. I love the competition. Winning on top of that is the greatest.”
Lakelands tops out at 6,138 yards, and that allowed Badgley to play a qualifying round and five matches without ever hitting his driver once.
“I hit my 3-iron 220 so I didn’t need my driver because 220 gets you in play,” he said. “My plan was to keep it in the middle, hit fairways and greens and make a bunch of pars. It worked.”
Badgley beat Michael Spencer of Berkley 3 and 1 in a Wednesday morning semifinal match, and DeNino earned his spot in the finals with a 6 and 5 win over Neil Nelson of Northville.
A field of 50 golfers with GAM GHIN Handicap indexes of 20.4 or lower started the week with 18 holes of stroke play for net scores to determine the 32 golfers to fill out the match play bracket.
The Net Match Play Championship is part of the GAM’s continuing effort to serve beyond the elite golfers with competitive tournaments where scoring is adjusted by handicap index. Complete results can be found under the Championships tab at gam.org.
-Greg Johnson firstname.lastname@example.org