GCIT’s Kelly wins Carl Arena

Posted: May 05, 2011

The Carl Arena/Al Rifkin Memorial Golf Tournament presented a new challenge to the 55 high school teams and 220 golfers participating in the 29th running of the event Thursday.

The prestigious tourney, considered the unofficial South Jersey championship, moved from the par-72 Valleybrook Country Club in Blackwood to the RiverWinds Golf and Tennis Club in West Deptford.

As the name suggests, wind is a factor on the par-72 layout, and although the winning score had been higher than 74 only four times in Valleybrook history, it was expected to be higher at the new venue, which covers more than 7,000 yards.

For GCIT's Louis Kelly and Middle Township's Alex Hicks, each of whom played in the afternoon flight, it wasn't that much higher. The two seniors ended in a tie at 75 at the end of regulation.

Kelly sank a seven-foot putt on the second playoff hole for the win. His shot made par on the par-3, 165-yard No. 2 hole, which Hicks bogeyed.

Williamstown's Amber Smith placed first among females by carding an 81. The senior, who is headed to Alabama State in the fall, won last year, too, by shooting an 84 at Valleybrook.

Hicks led the Middle Township quartet, which also included James Kelly, Kevin O'Donnell, and John Longstreet, to the team title with 329 points.

"It took me four years to win [the tournament]," Kelly said. "My score came down each time."

Hicks said the adrenaline had been flowing, causing his putt at the end to break to the left. He had made a pressure-packed, 33-foot putt to tie the score at 75 on the 18th hole.

"[Kelly] birdied 17 to go one ahead, so I knew I had to make it," Hicks said. "I hit it along the line I wanted. I felt the pressure, but I've been in this situation before. I hit a perfect putt."

Both golfers spoke about the wind, which was gusting all day, as a factor in their game. However, they were able to adjust.

"I think it was blowing close to 40 miles an hour," Kelly said. "It was swirling."

Three golfers tied for first place with a score of 80 after the first flight. They were Lenape's Craig Smith, Woodstown's Nick Sherm, and Moorestown's Rob Filipe, who finished at about 12:30.

Meanwhile, Burlington Township held the team lead with 338 points in the morning round. The second flight was punished more by the wind, in the opinion of some officials.

John Petronis (83), Colin Roche (81), Anthony Godleski (81), and Jay Feldman (93) combined scores to move Mainland to second place after the morning flight.

Sherm, a senior, said he'd heard about the wind but had expected to play his average, which is 38.9, on the front and back nine.

"This is much worse than I expected," said Sherm, who shot two 40s. "My putting saved me. I started on the first hole. By the sixth hole, the wind picked up."

Smith also started at the first hole and shot a 37 on the front nine, noticing little interference by the wind. But that changed.

"At [hole] 10, the wind was in my face," Smith said. "Holes 14 to 17 were straight into the wind, so add 100 yards to each hole because the ball doesn't go anywhere in the wind.

"The wind plays in your head every shot."

The 6-foot-3 senior also said that the absence of a putting green on which to warm up made it difficult to get used to the fast greens.

Woodstown senior Tom Smith, who won the tournament at Valleybrook last year with a 74, shot a 91. That ended his chances to become the first repeat winner since Pitman's Dan Nellio in 1984-85.

"It's a lot more difficult," Smith said of RiverWinds. "With every shot, you have to calculate the wind."

The Results

Teams: 1, Middle Township (Alex Hicks, James Kelly, Kevin O'Donnell, John Longstreet), 329. 2, St. Augustine, 332. 3, Burlington Township, 338. 4, Mainland, 339. 5, Washington Township, 342. 6, Egg Harbor Township, 342. 7, Woodstown, 347. 8, Lenape, 349. 9, Absegami, 350. 10, Moorestown, 351.

Individuals: 1, Louis Kelly, GCIT, 75 (won two-hole playoff). 2, Alex Hicks, Middle Township, 75. 3, James Kelly, Middle Township, 77. 4, Cody Drazen, St. Augustine, 80. 5, Craig Smith, Lenape, 80. 6, Rob Filipe, Moorestown, 80. 7, Nick Sherm, Woodstown, 80. 8, Corey Johnson, Rancocas Valley, 80. 9, Roman Ammirato, St. Augustine, 80. 10, Colin Roche, Mainland, 81.

Contact staff writer Bill Iezzi at 856-779-3826 or biezzi@phillynews.com.

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