TAYLOR – Grosse Ile’s Andrew Lang repeatedly built leads and then held off opponents in winning the 10th GAM Net Mach Play Championship at Lakes of Taylor Golf Club.
It happened in the championship match Wednesday, too, where Lang had a 4-up lead through 10 holes but ended up having to fight off the charge of Livonia’s Justin Zagata. A chip-in birdie on the 17th hole of the match (No. 8 on the course) finally sealed the 2 and 1 win.
“As a lower handicap player (3.0 for the final) you have to fend off the guys who make net birdies with natural pars and things like that all the time,” he said. “It helps if you get up early in your matches so that when they do make a comeback you have a little bit of a cushion.”
The final against Zagata matched him up with a player the same age (35), and with an identical handicap. Lang went with his start-fast method again though. He won the first hole with a birdie and built a quick 3-up lead through six holes. On the ninth hole of the match (18 on the course) he rolled in a 35-foot putt from the front of the green for an eagle-3 and a 4-up lead.
“(Zagata) started making a comeback though with natural birdies and it was a great final match,” Lang said. “I really just played as conservatively as I could when I was up, just to hold off that push by him. There was a mix of aggressive play and conservative play, but in the end I would say my putting and chipping was absolutely paramount in winning the tournament.”
Zagata birdied the 11th and 12th holes of the final to stand just 2-down in the match, and then rolled in a 35-foot putt up and over a large undulating hump in the green on the 16th hole of the match to pull within one hole of a tie with two holes to play. Lang ended the rally with his final chip-in on the next hole.
“Andrew came out playing really good golf, really solid,” Zagata said. “I didn’t play too bad, and then on the back nine I played better and started making some birdies. And then, you know, you really can’t argue with Andrew chipping in to end it. It was a great way to finish for him.”
Zagata, who last fall returned to the U.S. after living in Ireland for 10 years and working in the tourism and travel industry, said he didn’t quit thinking he could pull off the rally.
“I was 5-down with seven holes to go in the round of 16 before the rain delay (2½ hours Tuesday), came out and just started winning holes and won that match,” he said. “I just couldn’t catch Andrew though. He played solid.”
Lang, who has a golf club refinishing business (Mr. Odyssey on Instagram), said he plays in a net league on Monday nights and most of his golf is in net competition with others.
“It’s very difficult for me to win so for me to come here and win this means a lot,” he said. “Just to get it done, go through the process of the tournament, just keep playing good golf and validation all my practice and the other things I do for my game.”
It was Lang’s first individual tournament win, though he was a medalist in a Michigan Amateur Championship qualifier at Lakes of Taylor in 2018 and was part of two state high school championship teams at Grosse Ile High School during his prep days.
“I just like playing the game and playing in GAM events, gross or net,” he said. “It doesn’t matter, I just play hard and I know it feels good to win.”
A field of 78 golfers with GAM GHIN Handicap indexes of 20.4 or lower competed in the three-day tournament. The Net Match Play Championship is part of the GAM’s continuing effort to serve more than just elite golfers with competitive tournaments by handicap index.
In the morning semifinals Wednesday, Lang beat 2013 champion Mike Piazza of Allen Park 4 and 2, while Zagata topped 2016 winner Jack McHale of Macomb 3 and 2.