By Gary Kalahar
A new season yielded a familiar story in Jackson golf.
Steve Maddalena added another couple lines to Jackson’s greatest amateur golf resume, grinding out a victory Sunday in the Spring Thaw at Cascades Golf Course. A second-round 74 gave Maddalena an even-par 144 total, good for a two-stroke margin over Mike Brockie and Andrew Tindall. Joe Marzano, Logan Anuszkiewicz and Todd Marston tied for fourth at 148.
Maddalena is the fourth player to win the Spring Thaw at least four times. With a victory 25 years after his first one, he became the tournament’s oldest winner at age 58.
Frightful spring weather finally gave way – a little bit, anyway – to sunshine and mild temperatures for Sunday’s final round. But the big improvement over Saturday’s cold conditions did not produce lower scores. The top seven players from the first round all shot worse in the second round, and no one was able to make a charge from behind. No player matched par after four were under par in the opening round.
“I think the greens were a little faster. They were drier,” Maddalena said about the difference in scoring, pointing to some Friday night rain that softened the course for the first round. “Today is was really hard. So you had to gauge the bounce. That’s what made it difficult. And it was longer. With the tees all the way back, it was probably 200-300 yards longer. That makes a big difference.”
That made it a grind-it-out sort of day, and Maddalena prevailed with two back-nine birdies to offset two bogeys. He carried a one-stroke margin over playing partner Brockie and Tindall, already in the clubhouse, to the 18th before making his final birdie.
“It wasn’t real pretty,” Maddalena said. “I hit some good shots, but I hit a lot of bad ones. I played a lot better (Saturday).”
Maddalena was able to work on his game some during a trip to Arizona the first week of April. But like everyone else, his preparation for the season opener was limited by the unfriendly weather of the last three weeks.
“In the spring I just try to work on my tempo,” Maddalena said. “The greens are usually so bad, you can’t practice putting or chipping. I just work on tempo and try to get my golf swing in a groove.”
Brockie, the defending champion and first-round leader by a stroke over Maddalena and Marzano, lost the lead when he bogeyed Nos. 10, 11 and 12. Tindall, playing a group in front, briefly grabbed the lead until he bogeyed the 13th and 15th while Maddalena was making birdie from 10 feet on No. 12 to move to the front.
“The putt on 12 was a good one, because I didn’t know what that was going to do,” Maddalena said.
A par on the par-5 10th was just as important to Maddalena. His drive found trees to the left, and he was still facing tree trouble to the side of the green for his fourth shot. But he pitched it within six feet and saved par. With his birdie two holes later, he had the lead for good. He ran off four pars in succession, missing birdie chances inside 15 feet on three of them, until a bogey on the 17th sliced his margin to one.
His approach from about 80 yards out on the 18th settled within seven feet, and he made it after Brockie made a good run at a difficult 28-footer he needed to tie.
Marzano was still in the chase, just two off the lead until a double bogey on No. 17. He still posted his best finish in a Jackson major tournament.
Greg Zeller shot the day’s best round, an even-par 72 that lifted him into a tie for ninth at 151.