Nicholas Vecellio wins 2023 Hawley Quier Memorial on sixth sudden-death playoff hole

Aug. 11—A closely contested Hawley Quier Memorial came down to the 18th hole on Friday.

And if the spectators standing in the gallery on the par-4 hole of Moselem Springs Golf Club wanted to see drama, they weren’t disappointed.

Nicholas Vecellio held a one-shot lead over Matt Dolinsky going into the final hole in regulation. After Vecellio made par for a 2-over 72, Dolinsky made a long putt for birdie, also for a 72, to tie it at 3-over 143 and force sudden death.

The two would play No. 18 six more times. The first five times each made par.

However, the sixth time proved to be the charm for Vecellio, as the 27-year-old hit a strong approach from the fairway — which he had missed on the previous five tee shots — and got within a few feet of the hole. Meanwhile, Dolinsky hit his approach from the fairway into the bunker and his recovery landed on the fringe, leaving a daunting look for a much-needed par.

In the end, Dolinsky came up inches short of his par putt, and Vecellio two-putted to win.

“He made a hell of a putt on 18 to get us into the playoffs,” Vecellio said. “I hit a bad tee shot on 18 (during regulation) and scrambled to make a good par. You’re just trying to get across the finish line at that point. So once you get into a playoff the pressure is off a little bit and you’re just like, ‘All right, let’s see what I can do.’ “

As Vecellio alluded, despite the fact that the tournament was on the line with every swing, neither faltered during the playoff holes until the sixth attempt. Despite missing the fairway often, Vecellio nailed his approach shots and kept his composure on the green to make par, while Dolinsky consistently hit the fairway off the tee and found the green all but twice on his approaches.

Dolinsky went into the bunker on the fourth and the sixth playoff holes. However on the fourth, he was able to chip out for an easy look at par.

“You got one guy to beat so you can kind of react to what he’s doing a little bit in terms of what you’re hitting off into the green and where you’re trying to hit it,” Vecellio said. “I hit the fairway for the first time in the six playoff holes, so it made controlling the distance a little bit easier. It was basically a kind of a stock 8-iron for me and I hit a really good swing. And I think it put the pressure on him, which is what you’re trying to do in that situation.”

After starting the day tied for the lead at 1-over 71 in the final group along with Chris Storck, Dolinsky and Vecellio were even heading into the par-4 16th when Vecellio missed the fairway right. With a decent lie in the rough, Vecellio used a pitching wedge to get out of trouble and on the green. He then made the birdie putt to take a one-shot advantage.

Both Vecellio and Dolinsky struggled with bogeys on the back nine as Vecellio bogeyed the par-4 14th and par-3 15th, and Dolinsky bogeyed the par-3 13th and the 14th.

“I was hitting the driver really, really good up until the 14th hole and I hit a bad one then I kind of lost the feel that I was working with,” Vecellio said. “So I hit a bad one on 14, hit bogey, hit a bad one on 15 and hit bogey, and on 16 I hit a bad one but I got a really nice lie in the rough over there. And I’m just like, ‘You know what, I finally got a good number, we got to do something here to kind of get off the bogey streak.’

“I wish I could say I was trying to hit that close. I was trying to hit on the green to putt, but got lucky to hit it to 3 feet and that was definitely a big help coming down the stretch.”

Though it was not the ending he wanted, Dolinsky said he felt like he played solid golf against a formidable opponent.

“Nick’s pretty consistent; these young kids hit it a mile,” Dolinsky said. “He’s ultra consistent as I am and he’s a good iron player. We were just hitting darts out there and somebody needed to make a putt to win it.

“I know I was hitting the ball well and I felt like I could win the golf tournament, but it’s a funny game. It’s hard winning, and look at how well both of us played. He’s the winner by one stroke; I’m upset because I want to win, obviously, but how can you get upset? You just got to keep putting yourself in position and contention and it’s tough to win, especially when you know that the field is pretty decent.”

Michael Fioravante posted the low score of the day with an even-par 70 and finished in third place at 5-over 145. James Furness, last year’s champion, shot 75 and finished fourth at 9-over 149 and Bill Schultz (76) finished fifth 10-over 150.

After having recently won the club championship at Moselem Springs and now his first Hawley Quier Memorial title, the win is significant for Vecellio, who has been playing at the club since he was 13. Indeed, with the right clubs in hand, Vecellio has conquered one of the toughest courses around.

“It’s awesome,” Vecellio said. “When I was living in Texas last year I actually flew home for this golf tournament. So it means a lot to me. What’s funny is for that tournament last year, my clubs didn’t make it out. My flight got delayed and I landed at 3:00 a.m., I teed off at 10, and my clubs didn’t make it so I was playing with a backup set of clubs in a demo driver and I played poorly. So it’s nice to kind of redeem myself this year and play really well and get it done.”

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