The 24th annual Maryland Stroke Play championship at Mount Pleasant Golf Course came down to a putting contest yesterday -- leader Justin Klein and pursuer Joel Kaye, from 40 feet.
Each got a first putt to 3 1/2 feet, and Kaye, going first, put his ball in the center of the cup for a par-4. Klein, 17, took time only to look at the putt and then rapped his ball into the cup for a matching par.
The final sound marked the finish of a 2-over-par round of 73 and a 54-hole total of 216, and made Klein, from Hunt Valley Golf Club, the youngest champion in tournament history.
After some shaky holes on the front nine, Kaye, from Woodholme Country Club, had not made Klein's tour easy, closing with 12 straight pars to finish 74217. Michael Kuntz of Woodholme wound up third, 73-218.
The final putt by Klein, a Gilman School senior who had missed the cuts in his two previous appearances in what is considered one of the premier amateur events in the state, clinched the victory.
However, the one he made the hole before might have been the decisive stroke of the day.
Klein missed the green at the par-3 17th and chipped to 15 feet, but when he stood over it, Kaye already was in with his par.
"Fifteen feet downhill with a break," Klein said, and he rolled it in for a par.
Jim DeBusk (220) of Chantilly Manor, a perennial contender in this event, and Britt Sloan (222) of Prince George's shared the day's low round with 70s.
A lightning storm forced a suspension of play for 1 hour, 25 minutes. The delay came with the leaders on the ninth tee.
Kaye, bidding to end a series of close but non-winning performances in this tournament, knocked Klein out of the lead with a birdie at the opening hole, but a bogey at the second, a double bogey at the fifth and another bogey at the seventh helped drop him three behind the eventual champion at the turn.
At that point, Klein was plus-1 against par, followed by Sheldon Kalish (plus-2), Buddy Peoples (plus-3), Kaye (plus-4) and Kuntz (plus-5) after starting the round with double bogeys at the first two holes.
Peoples took himself out of it with a double bogey at No. 11, and Kalish did likewise at No. 12. Despite playing his last 16 holes 2-under, Kuntz had too much ground to make up on the leaders.
Klein, who had tightened the chase with a 76 after his opening 67, seemingly brought the field back into it again when he bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes, shrinking his lead to a stroke.
Klein then made three straight pars, birdied the 15th and bogeyed the 16th to set up the dramatic finish in front of 200 spectators. Meanwhile, Kaye had kept his string of pars intact with two marvelous up-and-downs at the 14th and 15th holes.
"I was basically playing for the middle of the greens, looking for pars, but willing to go for a birdie if the opportunity was there," Kaye said. "I was looking for Justin to come back to me, but he didn't crack. He played well, especially considering the circumstances."
Klein was just glad it was over. Ahead of him is a tournament today and a 36-hole qualifier for the U.S. Juniors tomorrow at Green Spring. After that, he's looking at some hard-earned beach time.
Peoples, of Crofton CC, who has been as high as a tie for second in this event, finished fourth, 74219, and Don Bachtell of Fountain Head CC used a par-matching 71 to share fifth with DeBusk at 220. There were two other 71s -- Joe Franz of the CC of Maryland, 221, and Gary Moore, Crofton CC, 226.
Larry Storck of the CC of Maryland, second in three of the previous four years, never really had a chance to improve on that record after an opening 77, and he wound up tied for 16th with 225.
Justin Klein. . . . .67-76-73-216
Joel Kaye . . . . . .72-71-74-217
Michael Kuntz . . . .74-71-73-218
Buddy Peoples . . . .72-73-74-219
Jim DeBusk. . . . . .72-78-70-220
Don Bachte. . . . . .71-78-71-220
Joe Franz . . . . . .74-76-71-221
Britt Sloan . . . . .74-78-70-222
Matt Shiley . . . . .71-77-74-222
Scott Seymour . . . .72-74-76-222
Dave King . . . . . .76-74-73-223
Walt Grabowski. . . .74-74-75-223
David Fenichel. . . .72-75-76-223
Tripp Shreves . . . .75-77-72-224
Sheldon Kalish. . . .72-73-79-224
David Rasley. . . . .76-77-72-225
Larry Storck. . . . .77-73-75-225
William Stout . . . .73-75-77-225
Gary Moore. . . . . .79-76-71-226
Tom Densberger. . . .75-76-76-227
Wayne Ridenour. . . .77-73-77-227
Tim Dilli . . . . . .77-77-74-228
Mike Michalek . . . .81-73-74-228
Chris Cantone . . . .74-78-76-228
Greg Bolling. . . . .77-76-76-229
Charles Narciso . . .81-73-75-229
Dirk Schulze. . . . .76-76-77-229
Robert Bramson. . . .77-75-77-229
Bob Kaestner. . . . .75-73-81-229
Henry Green . . . . .75-81-74-230
Colyn Keller. . . . .78-75-77-230
Tim Linck . . . . . .77-76-77-230
Jason Wells . . . . .76-77-77-230
Mike Chambers . . . .78-74-78-230
Rick Meissner . . . .75-77-78-230
Jeff Sunday . . . . .77-79-74-230
Greg Henry. . . . . .76-75-79-230
Rodolfo Gil . . . . .74-76-80-230
Robert McChesney. . .76-81-74-231
Randy Scott . . . . .76-75-80-231
Robert Lentz. . . . .79-80-73-232
James Sutton. . . . .78-79-75-232
Dan Freeman . . . . .79-78-75-232
Mark Leander. . . . .79-77-76-232
Bill Dornbusch. . . .73-81-78-232
Maryland Amateur Stroke Play
The winner . . .
Justin Klein. . . . .67-76-73-216
. . . and followers
Joel Kaye. . . . . . 72-71-74-217
Michael Kuntz. . . . 74-71-73-218
Buddy Peoples. . . . 72-73-74-219
Jim DeBusk . . . . . 72-78-70-220
Don Bachtell . . . . 71-78-71-220
Joe Franz. . . . . . 74-76-71-221
Britt Sloan. . . . . 74-78-70-222
Matt Shiley. . . . . 71-77-74-222
Scott Seymour. . . . 72-74-76-222