By Tim Morris
Bobby Weise just knew it. He didn’t have to follow the flight of the golf ball after he had hit it from the fairway to know it was just what he was looking for.
“Once [the ball] came off the club, I knew that’s going to be good,” he said.
Weise wanted to turn the tables on his opponent in their sudden-death playoff for the Northern Junior Golf Championship at the New Haven Country Club in Hamden, Connecticut, Aug. 3.
Angelo Giantsopoulos from Ontario, Canada, had tied Weise for first place with a birdie on the 18th hole to force the playoff. Both had two-day scores of 140.
The playoff began on the 10th hole — a reachable par-5. Giantsopoulos out-drove the Freehold Township High School senior, which meant that Weise was up first.
As he stood in the fairway behind Giantsopoulos, his goal was to hit a shot that would make Giantsopoulos feel the pressure. He took out his 3-wood and nailed it flush, some 240 yards to within 10 feet of the cup.
Shaken, Giantsopoulos missed the green with his shot.
“It rattled him a bit,” Weise said.
After Giantsopoulos pitched onto the green and then missed his birdie putt, all that Weise had to do was two-putt from 10 feet. He put his eagle putt within inches of the cup and had an easy tap in for the biggest win of his career.
“It was one of the greatest moments I’ve felt on a golf course,” the Patriots’ golfer said. “To win against such a great field is a great feeling.
“It definitely gives me confidence going on.”
In the two-day tournament at New Haven, Weise had positioned himself well to make a serious run at the championship when he carded a 71 on the par-70 course on the first day. It left him just three strokes off the lead, and he knew he could score better the next day.
“I played pretty solid,” he said of his 1-over-par round. “The putts just didn’t fall.”
Weise played one practice round on the course and liked it because it was tree-lined.
“It favors people who hit it straight,” he said.
That was Weise’s ticket to the championship.
“I hit 17 fairways [in regulation the second day],” he said. “I gave myself a chance.”
Weise’ 1-under-par 69 had him in the lead on the back nine, and he parred out for a 71-69-140.
It was looking good for the Patriot to win until the 18th hole when Giantsopoulos, who had shared the first-day lead with a 68, birdied the final hole to go 1-under with Weise and force the playoff.
Weise did not let it affect him in the playoff. He stayed positive.
“I thought, Why not me to win this?’ ” he said. “It was showtime now — time to make a move.”
He did it with his 240-yard 3-wood becoming the first New Jersey golfer in the 15-year history of the tournament to win it.
One of the perks of being the Northern Junior champion is that Weise has gained special invitations to junior tournaments throughout the country. One next month is the Bobby Chapman Invitational in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Weise has been playing golf a lot this summer, competing in a number of tournaments before New Haven. All of that golf helped Weise, who is also a top 3-point shooter for the Patriots’ boys basketball team that won the Shore Conference A North Division title last winter, improve his all-around play.
“The more I played the more [my golf game] started to click,” he said.
What has clicked this summer for Weise was the affirmation that hitting greens in regulation is everything. His iron play has improved, helping him to do just that. He noted golf is a lot easier when putting for birdies and not trying to save par.
Weise still loves basketball and is looking forward to the Patriots’ 2016-17 season. But golf is what he will play in college. He’ll spend some of his remaining time before school starts checking out colleges. Certainly, his Northern Junior tournament victory is a nice thing to have on his résumé.