BRATTLEBORO, Vermont – It took three extra holes at the Brattleboro Country Club on Wednesday, but in the end David Arakelian of Lake George, New York, outlasted Greg Birsky to take the 2023 Vermont Senior Amateur title.
Birsky had a chance to put the tournament away on the second extra hole but his short putt curled away from the cup to extend the match. Had he sunk it, Birsky would have been in the unusual circumstance of having won two tournaments, but giving one back:
The Vermont Senior Am has three divisions—Senior (ages 55-64), Super Senior (65+) and Legends (70+). The first two groups use the same tee, and therefore a Super Senior can win the overall title, but in that case would have to concede the Super Senior title to the runner-up in that division. That’s what almost unfolded for Birsky, playing in the Super Senior division.
He secured that victory by a four-stoke margin, the same as Arakelian’s lead in the Senior division. So the scoreboard at the end of Wednesday’s play:
SENIOR CHAMPION: David Arakelian, 6-over
SUPER SENIOR: Craig Birsky, 6-over
LEGENDS CHAMPION: Hugh Barber, 6-over
The two senior divisions went around the Brattleboro course at 6,533 yards. The Legends took on the course at 5,377. From those tees Hugh Barber, playing at his home club where he has won multiple championships, pretty much decimated the field, his rounds of 75 and 73 leaving him 13 shots clear of second place.
“I’m 73, tired of playing against these flatbellies who can hit it a lot further than I can,” said Barber. “Today was pretty satisfying.”
As it was for Arakelian, who almost skipped the tournament just because the weather was so nice in Lake George. By the time he and his wife, Lois, took the two-hour trip to Brattleboro things were heating up. Temperatures were in the high 80s on both days of the tournament, briefly hitting 90 on Tuesday with plenty of humidity.
Putting the question, “How was it out there?” to competitors coming off the finishing hole was invariably answered with one word, “Hot.” But players also praised the conditioning of the course and the work of superintendent Dave Evans (who recently won Brattleboro’s senior championship). Club member George Roberge, who fired two rounds in the mid-80s, said, “The course is gorgeous. Other clubs are jealous we have Dave.”
David Washburn and Wayne Wright were other club members who played in the tournament, and Wright, 70, playing in the Super Senior division, made a run at the overall title with a first round 73, two-over at the par-71 BCC, tying him for first place with Arakelian, and one stroke ahead of Birsky and Bryan Laselle, playing out of the Dorset Field Club.
In the second round, Birsky, Wright and Laselle were grouped together, and the latter wound up in second place in the Super Senior division (he would have won the title if Birsky had captured first overall). Wright said he basically shot himself out of the tournament when gambling off the tee on the par-5 seventh hole, hooking two balls into the woods and walking off with a triple.
He carded an 80 in the second round, but still finished fifth overall, third in the Super Senior division.
It was Arakelian’s first go at the event, though he has played numerous amateur tournaments on state and national and international levels—he played in the 1998 British Amateur at Muirfield, won by a guy named Sergio Garcia.
“Thirty years ago I quit drinking, found God, and starting playing golf,” said Arakelian, and the formula worked for him Wednesday. He went out in even par on the opening nine with one bogey and one par, bogied 11 and 12, but it was a double bogey on 15 that gave him a 73 and put him into the playoff with Birsky, who had finished earlier with a 74.
Birsky had been shaving the cup all day, and the same happened on the second hole of the playoff. On the straightaway third hole, which had played as the fifth easiest in the tournament, both players ran into trouble. Birsky hit one in the woods on the right, Arakelian under a tree on the left. He managed to scramble a second shot into the fairway and put his third shot to about four feet.
Birsky was bemoaning the fact that his missed putt on two had now put him in a situation where he either had to play out of heavy brush or take a drop. He finally decided on the latter, put his fourth shot about fifteen feet away, but it wasn’t enough, as Arakelian dropped his putt for the win.
Full scoring: GolfGenius.com