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Bassler set to defend golf club championship after experience at U.S. Amateur

Defending champion Matt Bassler will be putting for his seventh Rolling Road Golf Club championship after competing in the United States Amateur championship last week.
Defending champion Matt Bassler will be putting for his seventh Rolling Road Golf Club championship after competing in the United States Amateur championship last week.(File photo/2012)

The Rolling Road Golf Club held its qualifying rounds last weekend to determine the field of 16 golfers who will compete in the 93rd annual club championship that begins on Aug. 23.

Top-seeded Matt Bassler was not one of those who had to qualify during the two-day, stroke-play format.

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Bassler, who has been in the finals for the Rolling Road Golf Club championship for nine straight years, is automatically entered in this year's event because he is the defending champion.

In fact, he is a six-time club champion of the match-play tournament, which starts Aug. 23 and concludes Labor Day weekend. The semifinals are on Aug. 30 and the finals are slated for Monday, Sept. 1.

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Bassler may hot have worked on his game over the weekend at the Rolling Road Club, but he did spend two days last week in intense competition on a much larger stage.

The 2004 Mount St. Joseph graduate competed in the United States Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club in Johns Creek, Ga.

The U.S. Amateur began with two days of stroke play and the top 64 scorers advanced to the match play format that concluded on Sunday, Aug. 17 where Gunn Yang defeating Corey Connors in the finals.

Although Bassler wasn't one of the 64 qualifiers for match play, he did surface on the leaderboard when he shot two-under par 34 after his first nine holes.

"It was fun to be in contention kind of, because I've never really been in that situation, but I felt comfortable," said the Catonsville resident. "I just didn't execute on the back nine."

Bassler, who began his round on 10th hole, birdied the 12th and 18th holes, both par fives.

The 2009 Maryland Open champion, who once before played in the U.S. Amateur, suffered a double bogey on the 456-yard par four first hole and three more bogeys followed on the final eight holes and he finished with a three over 74 on the par 71 course.

The cut for the final 64 after the second day was plus two and Bassler needed to shoot one-under par to reach that number.

He shot four over par for a total of plus seven for the two days, but he did cap his second day with a birdie on the final hole.

"It was kind of an amphitheater setting and I hit a wedge up there to five or six feet and made it so it was pretty cool."" said Bassler, who qualified for the U.S Amateur at Woodholme Country Club on July 7.

"He just had a couple of glitches each day," said his father, Bill Bassler Jr, the head golf professional at Rolling Road. "At least he had the moxie to birdie the final hole on the second day.

Bassler has been the program director for the First Tee of Baltimore for five years, so he doesn't have a lot of free time to work on his golf game like many of the amateurs at the tournament.

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"If Matt played as much as a lot of those guys do, he would be right there with them, but you have to work," Bassler Jr. said.

Bassler, 28, said the average age of the players was 21.

"They are all college kids so they play all the time," he said. "I play once a week if I get lucky, but it's 18 holes and the lowest scores get in. They are the best college kids."

At Rolling Road, Bassler is well-known among the players, having won club championships in 2004, '06, '07, '09, '11 and '13.

In Atlanta, he was one of 232 golfers who completed the two stroke-play rounds and he finished tied for 158th.

"Down there, no one knows who I am," Bassler said. "I'm the underdog. Here, everyone is shooting for you, so it's a little bit different feel, but it's fun to be back and talk to these guys. Everyone is asking how I did and how it was."

After all the camaraderie, it was all business on the Rolling Road course as 30 golfers started stroke-play Saturday, Aug. 16 with a goal of making one of the coveted 16 spots in this year's club championship field.

When all the scores were tallied on Sunday afternoon, three golfers, who posted scores of 155 over two days, were tied for the final two spots so they had to have a sudden-death playoff with the lowest two scores advancing to the sweet 16.

Steve Homans and Derek Williams parred the first playoff hole and Phil Zepp bogeyed the hole, so Homans and Williams advanced to the round of 16.

Williams will face top-seeded Bassler in the first round and Homans will play second-seeded Rick Sovero in the opening round which starts around 11 a.m. on Aug. 23.

Sovero, who has won the club championship 10 times, shot a 67 and 70 in the two-day qualifier.

The rest of the first-round pairings include: Nick Angelo (8th seed) vs. Steve Hargest (9); Andrew Lawton (4) vs. Ryan Woodward (13); Justin Jarvis (5) vs. Nick Yucha (12); Lance Nickles (7) vs. Mike Duffy (10), Bart DeLuca (3) vs. Mark Poehlman (14) and George Blyth IV (6) vs. Jeff Zepp (11).

DeLuca is the only other one in the field, besides Bassler and Sovero, who has won a club crown, winning in 2008.

That trio has 17 club championships between them, which is still short of Spencer Overton, who won 21 titles ranging from 1934 through 1962,

The club championship began in 1922 and D.B. Miller won the inaugural event.

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