WATERTOWN — Today’s Watertown City Golf Final at Ives Hill Country Club will feature a couple of champions. Six-time winner John Bufalini and defending champion Adam Brown will tee off for a 36-hole title match at 9 a.m.
Both Bufalini and Brown advanced to the final after securing victories over George LaBarr and Chris Denesha respectively.
Both Bufalini and Brown took early leads in the match play event, going up by four on the first nine. Brown was able to sustain that lead, defeating Denesha 5-and-4.
However, Bufalini saw his lead diminish on the back-nine from up-5 to up-2 — he ultimately pulled off the 3-and-2 victory. LaBarr’s comeback started on the 11th hole when he birdied on the par-5. He then took points in the following two holes, hitting another birdie on 12 and winning by concession on 13.
While Bufalini secured the victory, a win looked anything but definite on the 12th hole.
“He made some great up and downs, I had the lead but he hits the ball so far that I knew he was going to make some birdies on those par fives and that’s exactly what he did,” Bufalini said. “I was one under after 11 holes and made the bogey on 12, that was a big turning point, 12. George made a great up and down, I didn’t get mine up and down and so that was a swing right there.”
LaBarr struggled at the start, which contributed to his five-hole deficit by the time they reached the 10th. He said it wasn’t so much nerves as it was adrenaline. This is the sixth City Golf Tournament for the 24-year-old and his first time making it to the semifinals. Peter Beames, one of his initial instructors, emphasized when LaBarr was young how significant the City Golf Tournament is.
“This tournament has meant a lot to me since I started playing,” LaBarr said. “I started in 2010, 2011 playing golf, and right from the beginning, Peter Beames, the pro here at Ives, he was the first person to teach me the game and he made this City Tournament out to be like the most important golf tournament around, period.”
Bufalini remained calm throughout as LaBarr chipped away at his lead. While he was confident, he’s learned over many years of golf to never get too comfortable with a lead.
“In my book, no lead is too big,” Bufalini said. “So, you try to build the lead but [Jeff] Fallon made it interesting with me [in the quarterfinals], Jeff was three down with three to go and then he goes birdie, birdie and the next thing you know we’re walking on 18.”
Brown’s last three matches, including Saturday’s, have been fairly decisive. The top seed defeated Brian Sheley 4-and-3 in the round of 16 and T.J. Penn 3-and-2 in the round of eight.
“Going in, obviously being the one-seed, you look at it as an opportunity to come back and if the draw lines up, then you might have a good opportunity to get back,” Brown said. “I’m glad to be here, you never take it for granted.”
Brown was able to play a consistent game in his victory over Denesha.
“I was really pretty steady,” Brown said. “I made a bunch of pars and there are times where that’s good enough and other times when it’s not and thankfully today it was.”
Brown is playing for his third City Golf Championship while Bufalini will play for his seventh.
“We’ve played on a few different occasions,” Brown said. “He’s great to play with, he’s a gentleman and it will be fun, I’m looking forward to it.”