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Bassler bellies up with long putter on way to 5th club title

For the third straight year and the fourth time in the 90-year history of the Rolling Road Club championship, Matt Bassler faced off against Rick Sovero in the finale, and for the second time in the past three years Bassler came out on top.

Bassler, 25, closed out Sovero, 42, after 30 holes for a 7 and 6 victory in the 36-hole match play competition.

The triumph was Bassler's fifth club championship, while Sovero holds 10 titles, including one over Bassler in 2005, when the pair first met in the finals, and one last year.

Bassler attributed his victory to his new, longer belly putter, which he started using just two days before the tournament quarterfinals Sept. 3.

The start time for the finals, Sept. 5, was pushed up a half hour so players could get the match in before the predicted rain.

"We decided to start a little earlier and just keep going and it probably helped me because I got a little rhythm going," said Bassler, who won the first hole with a birdie and third and fourth with pars to go 3-up after four holes.

He built that lead to five after winning seven and eight with pars.

"It was pretty much even after that," Bassler said.

Sovero's best chance to make up some ground came after he birdied the par three 17th to cut the deficit to four and then was 20 feet away from the cup on the 18th.

But Sovero's putt lipped out and Bassler sunk a 10-footer for birdie to push the lead back to five.

"That kind of got the juices flowing again," Bassler said.

The lip-out was typical of the way things went all day for Sovero.

"He made a lot of putts and I made zero putts and I had seven lip-outs where the ball didn't go in the hole," Sovero said. "I felt like today it was one step forward and two steps back."

Bassler, the Program Director for First Tee of Baltimore, stepped forward thanks to the his new putter.

"I had been putting so bad I couldn't do any worse," Bassler said of the bold move to the belly putter before the final three rounds.

Before switching putters, Bassler got a scare in the opening round of the tournament when he trailed David "Moose" Brown by three holes on the back nine before rallying for the victory.

Brown, a Mount St. Joseph graduate like Bassler, played in the 1993 U.S. Open at Baltusrol, N.J.

Bassler advanced to the finals with a 5 and 4 victory over Chris Derby in the semifinals.

Sovero, who trailed in his semifinal match on the back nine to Dr. Andrew Pataki, advanced when Pataki withdrew with an injured wrist.

Although Sovero and Bassler have split their four meetings in the finals, Bassler still feels Sovero is the one to beat.

"He's the champ up here," Bassler said. "He just did not have a good day today and I did."

Notes: Rolling Road flight winners included: Mark Poehlman (1st flight), Wayne Barth (2nd flight), Jeff Schollaert (3rd flight), Jamie Kopper (4th flight) and Joe Volta (5th flight).

Cory Christensen defeated Dr. Liz Stiller to win the women's club title and David Long upended Andrew Sovero to win the Junior Club championship.

Sam Krug won the Twighlighter title and Steve Hargest won the Senior crown.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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