First-time winner Mulieri wins Rolling Road Golf Club crown

Mike Mulieri defeated Matt Bassler and became the latest first-time winner of the Rolling Road Club championship since Bart DeLuca in 2008.

Mulieri, 25, closed out Bassler 3 and 2 with delicate chip from the bunker on the 34th hole of the 36-hole match-play championship.

The chip from the bunker on the 16th hole rested within two feet of the hole and Bassler's par putt from 18 feet that could have extended the match leaked wide.

Bassler and Mulieri were teammates on the golf team at Loyola College and Bassler persuaded him to join the Catonsville club two years ago.

Mulieri, who lives in Silver Spring, lost to Bassler in the semifinals last year.

He appeared destined for a similar fate when he was 2-down on the 17th hole and his drive on the par three drifted wide with a downhill chip to the green.

"I was high right with a really tough up and down I hit a great flop shot to five feet and I made the putt and that got me to one down," Mulieri said.

Bassler, who was on the green after his tee shot, three-putted for bogey.

Bassler eventually fell behind by one hole, but he evened the match on the 26th hole after making a long birdie putt on the 8th hole.

On the 9th hole Bassler took the lead one-up when he drove the green on the par four 284-yard hole and made birdie.

"It hit the upslope, but it's a little lucky to have it hold the green at that point," Bassler said.

Bassler hit the green on the par three 10th hole, but Mulieri made a spectacular up and down from the bunker beyond the green to halve the hole.

"Where I would really say the match turned was on the 10th hole (28th of the match), I was in the bunker with a downhill lie to a short pin and I got up and down there," Mulieri said.

"He's got a really good short game and when you are playing someone like Mike you have got to expect that he is going to get it up and down," Bassler said.

Bassler's second shot on the par five 11th went out of bounds and Mulieri won the hole with a par to even the match.

On the par five 12th, Mulieri hit a 290-yard 3-wood second shot that club professional Bill Bassler Jr. said "was one of the most memorable shots I've ever seen here."

"When it came off I knew it was going to be good," said Mulieri, of the shot that nestled six feet from the hole. "I swung pretty hard and it just came off perfect."

Bassler had a tough uphill chip and he got up and down for birdie while Mulieri missed his eagle putt and the match remained all square.

Mulieri birdied the par four 14th hole to go one-up and after both players pared the 15th, Mulieri made a 15-foot birdie putt to go two-up on the par three 15th.

He credited his caddie, Rick Sovero, a 10-time club champion, who he defeated in the semifinals, for the clutch putt on 15.

"Rick has been a member here forever and he gave me a really good read," Mulieri said. "I would have missed that putt if he didn't give me that read."

"It was a good match and he won the last couple of holes and I didn't," Bassler said. "It was as simple as that."

It was the eighth straight year Bassler reached the finals since he has entered the tournament (he did not play in 2008) and he was gunning for his sixth title.

Mulieri admitted the club tournament atmosphere and spirited gallery made the match more dramatic.

"I did have fun, but it's pretty nerve-wracking to be honest because so many people are watching and it's your club and you have to be here all year long so you want to show how well you can play and hit some good shots out there and entertain everybody," Mulieri said.

If he thought that was nerve-wracking, just wait until later this week when he plays in the United States Mid-Amateur (Sept. 8-13) in Chicago.

Should he win that event, he would qualify for the Masters in Augusta, Ga. in April.

"I'd rather choose beating Matt," Mulieri joked. "This is the biggest tournament I've ever won."

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