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Dynamic Duo Take TK Invitational

Silver, Pollard Avenge Last Year, Beat MacDonalds For Title

Tyler Silver, right, helps Zach Pollard, get the lay of the land before Pollard’s putt on the 15th green during the championship flight of the 38th Tommy Keane Invitational. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage)

Tyler Silver, right, helps Zach Pollard, get the lay of the land before Pollard’s putt on the 15th green during the championship flight of the 38th Tommy Keane Invitational. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »

Hanover — Midway through the Tommy Keane Invitational championship match last year, Tyler Silver and Zach Pollard were pretty much golf’s version of roadkill.

At the turn this year, they were at the wheel instead of under it.

Although they got the charge they expected from the father-son team of Shane and Nick MacDonald, the Lebanon High grads answered with a Silver birdie on 16 and a Pollard eagle on 17 to win the 38th renewal of the Keane in style.

Silver and Pollard agreed that last year’s growing pains — they didn’t win a hole while losing to Nick MacDonald and DJ Lantz on the 14th green — made a huge difference this time round.

“It was definitely helpful,” said Silver. “Last year was ugly. We were shocked by the amount of people that were watching. Nick and DJ bombing it by us. We were caught out of our comfort zone.”

Added Pollard: “We were so much more relaxed this time than we were last year. We knew what to expect from them and from the environment. It was unbelievably different from last year.”

In their first championship appearance Pollard and Silver found themselves down four holes at the turn.This time they were up by the identical margin, with Silver winning three of the holes and Pollard one.

“That was important,” said Pollard of the fast start. “We had struggled through the first stretch of holes all week. So it was huge to get a good lead right off.”

While they were four holes to the good through nine they could well have been up even more because Silver kept burning the edge of the cup.

“The first six holes I felt confident over everything I was hitting,” he said. “I lipped out for birdie on one, two, four and six.”

Those near-misses left the door open a crack for a seasoned father-son team that knows how to kick it down. In addition to winning the TKI together in 2010, Shane won in 2002 and 2009 with Andy Hydorn, and Nick won last year with Lantz.

And it’s not like they weren’t playing well. They began the day with a convincing 5&4 win in the morning match and Nick MacDonald, like Silver, was scaring the hole time and again on the front nine.

“Eventually it comes around,” MacDonald said. “It just sometimes takes longer than others. This morning they came quick. This afternoon they came late.”

Which is what caddie Dana Silver was reminding his son and Pollard.

“We had a four-stroke lead,” the younger Silver said, “but as my dad kept telling us, ‘Ty and Zach, there’s golf to be played. They are good. They’re going to make birdies on you. They haven’t made anything all day. They will come back.’ ”

Nick MacDonald started the comeback by sinking a 2-footer for birdie on 10 to cut the deficit to three holes.

After the teams halved 11 there was drama on 12 when Silver poured in a 25-footer from the fringe but Nick drained a challenging putt to keep the difference at three.

Silver had another opportunity on 13 but missed a 3-footer to let the hole slip away. As would happen again two holes later, Dana Silver helped his son settle down when things went south.

“He knows after caddying for me all these years that I sometimes will get hotheaded on the golf course,” the younger Silver said. “All he does is give me positive thoughts and keep me cool. It definitely helped today. Especially after a bad hole on 15.”

While Silver’s second shot caromed off a pine and into a hazard on the left side of the 15 fairway, Nick MacDonald was facing tree trouble of his own after his tee ball went over the cart path on the right. Rolling the dice, he took a drop on a bare lie that would allow him to spin the ball for control, and hit a nice punch draw through the trees.

“I’m glad that worked out,” his wise-cracking father said after the shot.

And it did work out, leading to a birdie putt that won the hole.

Their once-comfortable lead down to one hole, Silver and Pollard strategized about how to play the 16th, a 412-yard dogleg left.

“We knew Nick was carrying the trees because he hits the ball higher than we could,” Silver explained. “We can’t carry the trees. Zach asked me, ‘Can I hit driver over the corner?’ I said, ‘No. Just get three wood out there so it doesn’t put as much pressure on me.’

“And he hit a great shot that gave him a good shot he hit into the green. That opened the doors for me, and I hit a nice 9-iron close.”

With Silver’s birdie on 16 the MacDonalds needed need to win 17 and 18 to extend the match. Pollard made sure they never had a chance after hitting a perfect tee ball on 17, a 512-yard par-5.

“I had about 280 to the pin and I stepped on a three-wood about as hard as I could hit it,” he said. “Luckily, I got a pretty good bounce off the down slope and rolled it to about 15 feet.”

With neither McDonald on the green in two, Pollard could halve the hole and win the match with two putts. He needed only one, confidently rolling his eagle putt into the jar.

A gracious Shane MacDonald gave credit where credit was due afterward.

“They played great,” he said. “They were seven-under without a bogey. That’s pretty solid. We got down early and couldn’t quite get all the way back.”

Because they couldn’t, Pollard will begin his sophomore year on the Bentley University golf team with renewed belief after a difficult year. “I came into this weekend looking for a confidence boost, and that’s what I got,” he said. “It’s been rough but I kept everything in perspective and just kept working through it. It’s finally coming around.”

As for Silver, he’ll continue in the Golf Management program at New Mexico State University — although he likely won’t be spending the entire summer in Las Cruces the way he originally planned. He had promised Pollard coming in that if they won the TKI he’d be back next July.

“I’m going to have to come back to defend our title,” he said, adding with a grin, “I guess I’m going to have to talk to my parents about that.”