August 27 – For 2022 Hawley Quier Memorial winner James Furness, matchplay golf is about blocking out distractions and taking the game one stroke at a time.
“Focus on the single shot in front of you and don’t worry about what the other person is doing,” Furness said. “There is an aspect of match play where you have to play a little more conservatively or a little more aggressively, but for the most part you focus on the shot in front of you and do it.”
Furness did just that Sunday at Heidelberg Country Club, winning the Berks County Golf Association Match Play Championship with a 2-and-1 victory over Henry Pilliod. Furness defeated Brock Kovach with a 2-and-1 victory in the semifinal round earlier Sunday morning, while Pilliod defeated Aaron Sepkowski 4-and-3 to advance to the final.
The victory is his first career victory in the event and was a victory overdue for Furness, who said he was proud to have played focused golf throughout the tournament.
“It’s great,” Furness said, “to be able to concentrate for five rounds and play five really good rounds is a good achievement and I’ve wanted to win this one. So I’m happy.”
After birdieing the 370-yard par-3 third hole, Furness held a one-hole lead as both golfers made par the rest of the front nine.
A double bogey on the 429-yard par-4 10th hole allowed Pilliod to tie things up with a par before Furness quickly regained the one-hole lead by birdieing the 171-yard par-3 11th as Pilliod made par.
The turning point of the round came at the 402-yard par-4 14th when both Pilliod and Furness hit their approach shots on the green to look at birdie, with Furness holding a one-shot lead over Pilliod.
Although he was closer to the fringe than Pilliod, Furness made his long putt for birdie to put pressure on Pilliod, who would go on to miss his putt to within 10 feet. With a two-hole lead, the momentum swung in Furness’s favor and he was able to win another hole on No. 15 when he made par and Pilliod bogeyed.
“On the 14th it broke (the green) about two feet and I just felt the break with the slope of the green,” Furness said. “I got a good contact and hit it just the way I wanted and it went in, which was lucky because Henry was in there six feet, so it was a good make.”
Pilliod didn’t go down without a fight on the final holes, hitting a solid approach shot out of the rough to within a few feet of the par-4, 438-yard No. 16 for an easy look at birdie, while a wayward out of the sand on his approach forced Furness to concede the gap.
Needing to win on No. 17, Pilliod missed the green on his approach and chipped over the green, allowing Furness to two-putt for par and seal the win.
For Pilliod, a birdie miss from close range on No. 11 that would have tied him with Furness proved to be a key flaw in his round. Like Furness, Pilliod emphasized the importance of staying inside one’s own head.
“I think I played pretty well this weekend,” Pilliod said. “There were some shots and some putts that I wish I could get back for sure, but that’s going to happen with every tournament. I’ve learned that when I play well, my game is good enough to beat somebody in the county and I just have to stay in my own head and it’s important to stay level even though I had some bad shots.
“The putt on No. 11 was a dagger. I had about an 18- or 20-inch putt to probably tie and missed it; just had a really bad shot. And we would have been all square, but I missed it. I was one down and kind of felt like the momentum shifted his way, so I’d say that’s what I’d like to have back.”
Brian Golembiewski won the First Flight bracket by defeating Luke Fagley two-and-one.
As he did last year after winning the Hawley Quier, Furness credited his family for helping him achieve the feat.
“The whole focus on the shot, paying attention and refocusing all comes from her,” Furness said of his wife Dr. Jennifer Furness. “And I actually won my Bellewood Club Championship about three weeks ago down in Pottstown in a similar format and she caddied for me in that. It was pretty cool. So she deserves credit and so does my mom (Mazie) and dad (James Furness) is always really supportive.”