Aug. 27—For 2022 Hawley Quier Memorial winner James Furness, match play golf is all about blocking out distractions and taking the game one shot at a time.
“Focus on the individual shot in front of you and don’t worry about what the other person’s doing,” Furness said. “There’s some aspect of match play where you do need to play a little more conservative or a little more aggressive, but for the most part you focus on the shot in front of you and just do that.”
Furness did just that on Sunday at Heidelberg Country Club as he won the Berks County Golf Association Match Play Championship with a 2-and-1 win 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 win in the event and was one that was overdue for Furness, who said he was proud to have played focused golf for the duration of the tournament.
“It’s great,” Furness said, “being able to concentrate for five rounds and play five really good rounds, is a good accomplishment and I’ve been wanting to win this one. So I’m happy.”
After making birdie on the 370-yard par-3 third hole, Furness held a one-hole lead, as both golfers made par the remainder 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 making birdie on the 171-yard par-3 11th, while Pilliod made par.
The turning point in the round came on the 402-yard par-4 14th when both Pilliod and Furness nailed their approach shots on the green for a look at birdie, while Furness held a one-shot lead over Pilliod.
Though he was closer to the fringe than Pilliod, Furness made his long putt for birdie to put the pressure on Pilliod, who would go on to miss his putt from within 10 feet. With a two-hole lead, the momentum swung in Furness’ favor and he was able to gain another hole on No.15, as he made par and Pilliod bogeyed.
“On the14th, it (the green) was breaking about two feet and I just felt the break with the slope on the green,” Furness said. “I made good contact and hit it just the way I wanted and it went in which was fortunate because Henry was in there six feet so it was a good make.”
Pilliod did not go down without a fight on the final holes, as he hit a solid approach shot out of the rough within a few feet of the hole on 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 hole.
Needing to win on No.17, Pilliod missed the green on his approach and hit over the green while chipping on, 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 made him tied with Furness proved to be a key miscue in his round. Like Furness, Pilliod emphasized the importance of staying inside his own head.
“I think I played pretty well overall this weekend,” Pilliod said. “There were some shots and some putts that I wish I could have back for sure but that’s going to happen with every tournament. I’ve learned, when I’m playing well, my game is good enough to beat anyone in the county and beyond. I just gotta stay in my own head and it’s important to kind of stay level headed even if I had some bad shots.
“The putt on No. 11 was a dagger. I had about an 18 or 20-inch putt probably to tie and missed it; just had a really bad stroke. And we would have been all square but I missed it. I was one down and kind of felt like the momentum was shifting his way so I would say it’s that I’d want 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 accomplishment.
“The whole focus on the shot, staying mindful and refocus is all coming 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 one. It was pretty cool. So she deserves a thank you and then also my mom (Mazie) and dad (James Furness) are always really supportive.”