By Gary Kalahar, JTV Sports
A more stable life has helped Tom Butterfield re-establish a firm grip on his golf game.
“Life is more settled now and that’s led to better golf, that’s a perfect way to say it,” Butterfield said Sunday after re-claiming a spot as one of Jackson’s top golfers with a victory in the Lyle Ambs Memorial at Sharp Park Golf Course. Butterfield capped off four victories over two warm, taxing days with a 2-and-1 triumph over two-time champion Mike Brockie.
It was the sixth major local championship for Butterfield, but the first since 2014. That year, he won two titles and lost a playoff for a third while capturing Player of the Year honors. But he has played in just a few tournaments since then.
“Just circumstances, I didn’t get a chance to play much,” Butterfield said.
In addition to putting that behind him, Butterfield has settled into a new career that not only has him more comfortable but has benefitted his game. After being in business for 15 years, he decided to put his master’s degree in education to proper use. He moved into a job last fall teaching science at Northwest Alternative School.
“Being behind a computer and on the phone all day, that wasn’t me,” Butterfield said.
He said the extra practice time in the summer is spent more on the course than on the practice range.
“I like being on the course,” Butterfield said. “I hate going to the driving range.I prefer to go out and play. Mike and I were actually talking about that. A lot of young guys, that know how to hit the ball, but they don’t know how to play golf.”
Butterfield, who lost in the Lyle Ambs finals in 2012, won it for the first time while never having to play the 18th hole in his four victories. He beat Tom Raymond 6 and 4 and ousted defending champion Logan Anuszkiewicz 6 and 5 on Saturday, then topped Brett Casto 4 and 2 in the semifinals.
“I didn’t play great in any round,” Butterfield said. “And the championship match was probably the worst I played in the four matches. But I didn’t make a lot of mistakes. I just wanted to keep it in play, hit fairways and greens. I felt confident coming into this. The only thing I was struggling with was the pace of putts, and I still had trouble with that.”
Brockie, looking for his third Lyle Ambs title in five years, reached the final with victories over Dave Crandall (3 and 2), Luke Girodat (1 up) and Steve Maddalena (4 and 3). His semifinal match with Maddalena was all square after 10 holes before Brockie went birdie-birdie-birdie-par-eagle. Maddalena, the qualifying medalist, had advanced Saturday with a 23-hole victory over Todd Marston.
Brockie hung in the title match despite battling a wayward driver. He hit just one fairway, but still scrambled his way to all square through 13 holes. Neither player held more than a 1-up lead until Butterfield won the 17th to end it.
“I love playing with Mike,” Butterfield said. “He’s a down-to-earth, tell it like it is guy. It’s a fun match to play with Mike. He struggled, but there’s not many holes in his game.”
Butterfield took the third hole with an eagle before Brockie answered with back-to-back winning birdies on Nos. 5 and 6. Butterfield birdied the 8th to pull even, but Brockie took the lead to the back nine after a short birdie putt on No. 9.
A par by Butterfield evened things on No. 11. Brockie then had to take an unplayable lie after his drive on No. 12 landed in the middle of a pine, and a bogey put him behind. He answered right back withi a 7-foot birdie putt on the par-3 13th, but then it was his putter that ultimately did him in. He lipped out a par putt to lose the 14th, then watched a 4-footer to win the 15th horseshoe out. He did sink a gutsy 10-foot birdie putt on the 16th after Butterfield had just made one from the same distance. Brockie couldn’t survive a drive to the left of the trees on the 17th, losing the hole to another solid Butterfield par.
Chris Chaney won the first flight with a 4-and-3 victory over Sean Vann, and Ray Hill took second flight honors by downing Jeff Parker 4 and 2.