Georgia Tech Grad Wins Vermont Open
Golfer Richard Werenski checks yardage before setting up a shot to rescue his ball from beside a tree on the fourth fairway of Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington, Vt., during the final round of the Jeff Julian Memorial Vermont Open on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Werenski went on to claim the tournament title with a birdie on the final hole of play.
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Michael Tobiason Jr. watches the flight of his drive on the 12th hole of Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington, Vt., during the final round of the Jeff Julian Memorial Vermont Open on Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Tobiason finished runner-up to Richard Werenski, who birdied the 18th hole of Wednesday's round to win the title.
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Killington, Vt. — The perfect golfer doesn’t exist, although Richard Werenski is doing his best to prove otherwise. He stayed that way with the perfect finish to win the Jeff Julian Memorial Vermont Open on Wednesday at Green Mountain National Golf Course.
Solitary or shared holder of the tournament’s lead from the first round forward, Werenski sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to edge Delaware’s Michael Tobiason Jr. for the victory. That makes the recent Georgia Tech graduate a perfect 2-for-2 in his brief pro career, which began with a win at an NGA Pro Golf Tour stop in North Carolina last week.
That win paid $2,500. Victory No. 2, on a final tally of 8-under-par 205, paid three times as much and — with some prodding — drew a smile from Werenski, who betrayed little emotion through his 1-under-par 70 final round.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence right now,” admitted Werenski (66-69-70) before receiving his $7,500 winner’s check from Lake Morey Country Club director of golf Bill Ross. “I don’t feel like I had my best stuff today, or yesterday; I played good my first day out here. But I think my short game’s gotten so good that I don’t feel a whole ton of pressure. I don’t ever feel like I’m getting ahead of myself, like I used to.”
That level-headed approach served the four-year Ramblin’ Wreck men’s golf team member well. As an afternoon of minimal thrust-and-parry golf at the top of the leaderboard dragged toward early evening, the tournament’s title was decided on the final two holes.
Werenski opened the day with a two-stroke lead on playing partners Tobiason and Jhared Hack. With neither of the threesome — nor anyone else, for that matter — making a serious charge, Werenski’s advantage flexed between one and two shots until the 17th hole.
Admittedly amped up with the potential of a good-sized check within his grasp, Werenski overcooked his drive on the downhill par-3, skipping the ball off the back side of a mound and into the rough behind the left side of the green. Tobiason already had his ball 15 feet to the left of the pin; he sank his putt, Werenski couldn’t get up and down, and a two-shot lead turned into a one-hole drag race to the line.
“It’s not a course where you can kind of go for things all the time,” said Tobiason, who ended up at 7-under 206 (66-71-69) for the week. “It’s more of trying to manage, especially on this one, because you can make a big number anywhere.”
The co-leaders — who also shared the day one lead at 5-under-par 66 — both hit the fairway with their drives on 18, but Tobiason left himself with an extra 30 yards to go. It made a difference; his approach to the elevated green landed 30 feet to the right of his intended target. Werenski stuck his shot to 10 feet, then converted a downhill slider for the win.
“Junior golf, before college, even the first couple of years of college, I showed a lot of emotion,” said Werenski, who helped Georgia Tech make the match-play portion of this year’s NCAA Championship tournament. “That’s something that I’ve worked on really hard with my coach, my dad and everything. You just don’t want to get too down; you don’t want to get too up, even. Either of those can kind of affect you.”
The lead group spent most of the day letting good scoring chances get away.
Hack — the 2007 Western Amateur champion — dunked a 25-foot flop shot from the rough into the ninth hole for a birdie to signal his competitive intent. When Tobiason three-putted for bogey on 10, Werenski could have shut both of his partners down with a 4-foot birdie putt that somehow missed the mark. At 7 under, the South Hadley, Mass., native still had a two-shot cushion on the field.
Hack failed to close the gap on the par-3 13th, an elevator-shaft drop from tee to green. The Floridian stuck his tee shot to 5 feet, then missed the ensuing birdie putt. Hack also didn’t help his cause by playing 2-over-par golf on Green Mountain National’s three par-5s.
“I never really pressed; I just tried to stay patient and give myself some birdie putts,” said Hack, who finished at 6-under 207 with a final-round 70. “I hit a few poor iron shots on the par-3s and made good up-and-downs, so all in all it was a good day.”
Although he’d capitalize on 17, Tobiason could have reeled Werenski closer when he reached the par-5 15th hole in two, leaving himself a 14-foot eagle attempt. He settled for a birdie, which Werenski matched.
The good-natured Tobiason greeted observers at the 16th green with, “Are we boring you with this?” The final holes proved anything but, with Hack converting a birdie there to stay close, followed by the two-shot swing at 17 and Werenski’s winning putt on 18.
“When you lose, you want to lose when someone’s playing good,” Tobiason said afterward. “You want to lose by a birdie, not win by a bogey. It was good.”
From Werenski’s point of view, it was better than that. Like his pro career to date, it was perfect.
“I don’t know how long it’s gonna last,” Werenski grinned. “I think it’s gonna come to an end.”
Chip Shots: Ohio’s Mark MacDonald got within two shots of the lead but eventually slipped to fourth at 4-under 209. … Tobiason plans to play in a Monday qualifier for the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic next month. He should know the course well — he spent two weeks there last year as one of 12 competitors in the Golf Channel reality series Big Break Greenbrier, where winner Mark Silvers (a Savannah, Ga., pro) received $50,000 and an exemption into the West Virginia tournament. … Hack played the Open while on hiatus from the PGA Tour’s NEC Series Latinoamerica, a Central and South America-heavy circuit that is on winter break. … Kearsarge High graduate D.J. Lantz led the Upper Valley crowd, tying for 33rd at 5-over 218 following a closing 73. The two other area pros making the cut, Lebanon’s Pat Pelletier (227) and Joe Toland (230) were 55th and 63rd, respectively. … Low amateur honors went to New York’s Michael Mercier, who tied for 15th overall at 72-73-70—215.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.