Bryan Smith cruises to Vermont Am title
MANCHESTER >> After three days and 72 holes of championship golf, just about everyone on the course at the 110th Vermont Amateur at Ekwanok Country Club had their ups and downs.
One, however, kept even keel, and after blowing a lead two years ago at Burlington, Bryan Smith wouldn't let that happen again.
Smith led by six going into the final day and finished with a 70-72 to finish at 1-over 281 and cruise to a eight-shot victory over last year's defending champion, Alex Rainville.
After an even-par 70 during a late-morning round, Smith started Round 4 with a birdie on 1, but gave back a pair of shots with bogeys on No. 2 and 3.
After a bogey on No. 9 put him back over par for the tournament, he bogeyed 13 and at the same time, Rainville was 3-under.
Rainville, the defending champion was 2-under on the front nine after birdies on No. 4, 6 and 8.
He then birdied the par-5 10th to pull to 6-over for the tournament, five shots behind Smith, to get into contention, but he was doomed with a bogey on 11 and a double-bogey 6 on the 14th.
Smith came back in a big way going forward, birdieing 14 and then with the tournament well in hand, put an exclamation point on his victory with a birdie at the 18th, pumping his fist as the ball dropped. After shaking hands and a couple of hugs, his 2-year-old daughter ran out over the green to meet him.
"I saw that [Rainville] was doing well, heard the claps [from the gallery] and I didn't do well for a couple of holes," Smith said. "I tried to block that out for three holes and I got to 14 and asked [what the lead was], heard it was 5. I did great on 14, made some noise and put pressure on him, then I heard it was an 8-shot lead at 15, so I went into cruise control."
Smith, who finished seventh at last year's Amateur at Champlain, was solid from the first tee on Tuesday morning, with all four of his rounds between 68 and 72. He was the only player to do that, as others had low rounds, including Drake Hull's third round 68 and Jared Nelson's final round 69, but no one as more consistent then the St. Albans 31-year-old, playing out of the Jay Peak Golf Course.
"I had good swing thoughts and a good game plan going into the week and stuck to it," Smith said. "I was disciplined and very proud of myself, which is why I'm standing here now. I putted really well, but I didn't make it easy on myself. But I executed when I needed to."
Eric Lajeunesse rallied back from a 76 in the second round for a 70-72 finish to take third at 11-over 291. Hull ended his day with his highest score of the tournament in the final round, a 76, to finish fourth at 13-over 293.
Logan Broyles, a 15-year-old sophomore at Rutland playing out of Green Mountain National, ended up fifth at 15-over 295.
The top local finisher was Hans Albertsson. He was 17-over 297 at his home course after a third round 70 and final round 75 as the course heated up and the greens became fast.
Cory Jozefiak, from Mount Anthony Country Club, finished ninth at 21-over 301 after firing a 72-72 finish. He was the leader in the clubhouse for a good chunk of the afternoon until the top players finished.
"My goal coming in to [Thursday] was to shoot 145 for two rounds, I got to that," said Jozefiak, a 2004 Mount Anthony grad. "I hit a little better today, made a few putts early which helped confidence-wise and that made a big difference. I had better starts these two rounds. I was happy with how I played today."
Mount Anthony CC's Taylor Bellemare was 12th at 24-over 304, one year after finishing 13th. Walker Allen and Dan Favreau were tied for 23rd at 31-over 311, while Cooper Bleakie was 29th at 33-over 313.
The top 30 players are exempt from qualifying for next year's tournament, which is scheduled to be at the Dorset Field Club.
Manchester CC's Chris Antonez and Dorset's Mike Rollyson each finished at 35-over 315, tied for 35th.
For full scoring results, go to www.vtga.org.
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