On the best of days, the course at Westlake Golf & Country Club puts a premium on accuracy. But factor in a cool breeze and it becomes even tighter, turning the Ocean County Boys’ Golf Tournament turned into a struggle for survival on holes lined with trees and water.
Finally, shaking off a double-bogey on No. 16, Southern sophomore Jackson Fiel produced solid pars on his final two holes to hold on for a two-shot victory, posting a 7-over-par 79.
A trio of players finished tied for second at 81, including Toms River North teammates Christian DeSilva and Chris Bekefi, and Central’s Kyle Van Duyne.
“I just managed to keep things together, focusing on each individual shot,” noted Fiel.
After finishing second by a shot to Southern at last year’s OCT at Sea Oaks, Point Boro captured the team title for the third time in four years. The Panthers’ four-man total of 344 was four shots better than Toms River North, with Southern finishing third at 351.
“We have five seniors, and they where one shot away from winning it all four years,” said Point Boro coach Pete Casalino. “I think that they all felt like we underachieved a little bit in the Wildcat Invitational, finishing third among Ocean County teams, 10 or 12 shots behind Southern and Toms River North. But we felt like this was a course we could hopefully take advantage of.”
Fiel actually sensed this might be his day on the first hole, when he nearly holed a shot from a plugged lie in a greenside bunker, settling for par.
“That up-and-down on one, I knew right away I was going to have a decent day,” he said. “I just continued on with some pars. I did miss a short one for par on No. 3, but otherwise just stayed in the moment.”
The next critical moment came on the par-3, sixth hole, which was playing to 160 yards and downwind. Fiel managed to loft a pitching wedge tee shot to within eight feet of the flag, rolling the left-to-right breaking putt in for birdie, eventually making the turn at 3-over-par.
“I was a little more confident with the putter after that, because the putter was shaky,” he added. “But after that I just hit good shot.”
Point Boro was led by Ryan Carr, who finished fifth with an 82, followed by Colin Costigan (84), Brett Blank (85) and Dave Taulafo (93).
“For the last week we talked about how you can’t just grip it and rip it,” said Casalino. “You can’t just bomb driver on every hole because there’s a ton of water in play, a lot of out-of-bounds. So we talked about plenty of holes where a 4-iron off the tee is going to be sufficient. We said that the team that keeps the ball in play is going to win.”
The top six teams and the top 26 individuals plus ties qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament, set for April 29 at Eagle Ridge in Lakewood.