|Thursday, August 4, 2016 - |
GENEVA, Ill. -- The duo of Michael Natale and Steve Sawtell claimed the inaugural CDGA Amateur Four-Ball Championship Thursday at Eagle Brook Country Club with a 1-up victory over John Ehrgott and Rick LeHew. Sawtell, a Northfield native and two-time CDGA Amateur champ, and Natale of Indian Head Park were the fourth seed following stroke play qualifying on Monday, before advancing through the match play bracket.
“It means a lot to win,” Sawtell said. “It’s a great new event; it’s been seven years since I won my last CDGA (Am). It’s a lot of fun and a good partner to share it with.”
The seesaw birdie fest of a championship match saw Sawtell strike first, draining an 8-foot eagle on the par-5 second hole. That put Ehrgott and LeHew behind for the first time in four matches. The deficit was short-lived as Ehrgott knocked down his third of five front nine birdies at the fourth to level the match. Another Ehrgott birdie at the par-5 seventh gave he and LeHew their first advantage of the day, one which they extended to 2 up when LeHew sank a 15-footer for birdie on 10.
“I didn’t feel really confident on the long drive going to number 10,” Natale said. “I said to Steve, somewhat jokingly, ‘let’s try to make nine birdies—I’m going to make more birdies than you,’ and I think for a little bit we stopped looking at what they were doing.”
The eventual champions found their stride in the final eight holes, with Sawtell birdieing the next three holes—including a 25-footer at the 13th to tie the match. After Natale and Sawtell took the lead with pars at the 14th, Ehrgott again evened the match up with a 12-foot birdie at the 16th. After three of the four narrowly missed birdie attempts at the 17th, the match took its final turn on the 18th. After Ehrgott and LeHew both put their ball on the lower level of a multi-tier green—and with his partner Sawtell without a clear shot in the left rough—Natale put his 8-iron approach from 167 yards to 4 feet hole-high, carding the final of the match’s 21 birdies.
“We both hit good tee shots, Steve’s unfortunately ran through the fairway a little too far,” Natale said of the final hole. “Steve talked me into an 8-iron and it worked out. Sometimes you feel more pressure (on putts like those) because you’ve got a teammate with you,” Natale noted about the standing over the championship-clinching putt.
“At that point I just had my poms poms out to cheer him on,” Sawtell added with a chuckle.
The inaugural CDGA Four-Ball was widely heralded by players for its format, as teams consisting of teenagers, seniors—and in some cases mixes of both with fathers and sons competing together—all advanced to the Championship proper and into match play. Designed to mirror the USGA’s Four-Ball Championship, which began in 2015, the event was praised as a success by its competitors.
“I love the format,” Sawtell noted. “The older I get, competing against 20-year olds, it’s difficult to win. When you have someone you know well and play a lot of golf together, it becomes easy. You know each other’s game and it’s a good partnership.”
The CDGA Championship Schedule doesn’t take a break, as the 55 and older golfers take center stage next week, Aug. 8-11, with the 15th CDGA Senior Amateur Championship at Wynstone Golf Club in North Barrington.
|Chicago District Golf Association|
The Chicago District Golf Association (CDGA) is a non-profit association of member clubs and individual golfers in Illinois and parts of Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. With more than 80,000 member golfers at nearly 400 member clubs, the CDGA is one of the largest and oldest golf associations in the United States. The CDGA’s Sunshine Through Golf Foundation brings the benefits and resources of the game of golf into the lives of beginners, juniors, individuals with disabilities, minorities and the economically disadvantaged throughout the District. The United States Golf Association named the Foundation’s camps the largest grassroots golf program for individuals with disabilities in the country.