Resuming his dominance after a year off, Chris Grady on August 24 claimed his sixth Woodstock Golf Club men’s championship, defeating the defending titleholder, Jesse Jenifer, 3 and 2 in the 36-hole final of the match-play competition.
With six titles, Grady is now tied with Boyer Gonzales and Pat Noonan for third place on the all-time list of WGC championship winners, trailing only William Van Aken, the leader with 10, and Alex Sharpe III, who won seven times.
This year’s outcome recalled the result in 2011 when Grady, a 54-year-old history teacher at Onteora High School, won his fourth consecutive championship, and fifth over all, by defeating Jenifer by the same score, 3 and 2, in the final. When Grady skipped the 2012 championships, opting for a family vacation, Jenifer seized the moment, capturing his first title.
But Grady returned to the fray in top form this year, birdieing three holes (nos. 29, 31, and 32) on the final nine-hole stretch to take a commanding lead of four holes up with four to play. Jenifer promptly fought back, sinking a clutch birdie putt on no. 33 to stay alive, but the defending champion’s rally ended on the following hole, as both players made par and Grady secured his latest crown.
The finalists were tied after the first 18 holes. Grady led by one hole after 27 had been played. The lead grew to three holes when Jenifer three-putted no. 28 and Grady birdied no. 29. The score remained the same after both players bogeyed no. 30 and then birdied no. 31, a tough par 3 over a pond between the tee and the green. “I hit a beautiful, drawing 7-iron and made a 25-foot putt for birdie,” said Grady in a recent interview. “But Jesse made a birdie on top of me to stay three holes down. That was very classy of him.”
Grady’s birdie on the following hole, a par 5, built the four-hole lead that ultimately proved insurmountable. “I hit a great 7-wood (second shot) from a bad lie,” he said. “The ball went off the back edge of the green, but I two-putted for birdie, making a six-footer on the second putt.”
Grady praised Jenifer for both the quality of his golf game and his sportsmanlike demeanor. “Jesse is a great guy,” said Grady, noting his opponent’s remark, as the pair strolled down a fairway near the end of the match, that he would savor the occasion regardless of the outcome. “He will get better every year. It’s good for me to face a challenge from him and other younger guys at the club.”
“I love grinding it out with Chris,” said Jenifer, 33, a website specialist who grew up in Woodstock and graduated from Onteora before earning a degree at SUNY Binghamton. “To be the best you have to beat the best. Chris will go down in our club’s history as one of its greatest competitors. To beat him requires 36 holes of flawless golf. That takes not just skill, but also physical endurance and mental fortitude.”
Reflecting on the current state of his game, Grady observed, “I feel that I’m as good or better each year. As I get older my swing gets shorter but more consistent. I hit the ball much more solidly than I did three or four years ago. I have been playing in state tournaments, so I feel less pressure in the club championships and the Herdegen.” (The Ulster County Men’s Amateur Golf Championship is known as the Herdegen.)
Grady competed in the New York State Men’s Amateur Championship in July. He subsequently qualified for the state Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship, which will be held in the Syracuse area at the end of September, by shooting a 77 at the Country Club of Troy.
In other club championship matches, Chris Helsmoortel won the A Flight title, edging Steve Swanson by a score of 2 and 1, while Sal Misasi defeated Ken Meisler 4 and 3 in the Gold Tees flight. Asa Spurlock, with the low 18-hole score of 81, won the junior club championship.