ST. CHARLES – It wasn’t exactly Joe Namath guaranteeing victory in Super Bowl III, but Matt Daly’s comments heading into the final weekend of the St. Charles Men’s Tournament at Pottawatomie Golf Course made it clear he fully expected to successfully defend his title.
“I didn’t guarantee it,” Daly insisted after defeating Chris Thomas, 5 and 3, in the championship match Sunday, “but it was sure in my mind. It was the focal point of the week.”
After prevailing in a grueling 20-hole match against 2011 champion Jon Woods in the quarterfinals, Daly said he was “going to win the show.” He backed up that expression of confidence with a dominating 7 and 5 victory over David Lanciotti on Saturday and by going 4-up on Thomas at the turn.
“I had a lot of good starts and really didn‘t give anything back,” Daly said. “Everything was working.”
“My front nine I didn’t play too well,” Thomas said. “The back side, I started to turn it around. I hit a few good shots and that got me going again, but it was just too big a deficit to come back from at that point.”
Daly, 28, was 5-up with five holes to play, but Thomas put a beautiful hooking approach shot on the 378-yard, Par-4 No. 5 to within six feet of the pin to win the hole and stay alive.
Thomas ran into trouble off the tee on No. 6, however, going wide right of the trees lining the right side of the fairway. His next two shots both solidly connected with tree trunks.
Meanwhile, Daly’s second shot on the hole from the left rough was one of the highlights of his round.
“That last 8-iron from a buck-70 something … out of a [bad] lie to five feet (from the pin), yeah, I’ll take it,” Daly said.
That shot basically meant Thomas had to hole a chip shot from about 25 yards to have any chance of winning the hole, which he was unable to do that. After missing a long bogey putt attempt, Thomas conceded the hole and the match.
Although he was confident he could defend his title, Daly still found something to be surprised about in his weekend play.
“I’m really in shock right now,” he said. “I haven’t hit the irons this well in a couple years. The distance control today was exemplary. That was really what did it. I didn’t hit it on line all that often, but the distance was good.”
Daly’s next challenge will come Aug. 26, when he tries to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, which will be played Oct. 5 to 10 in Birmingham, Ala.
“Then, rest and relaxation,” Daly said. “It’s been a lot of fun playing in this. It’s been a long three weekends, believe me. It’s been a lot of sleepless nights.”
Championship: Matt Daly
A: Clint Van Laningham
B: Shawn Furrie
C: Rich Artz
D: Patrick DeVito