Despite a rolling thunder creeping in from the south, the starting field of 80 players at the RGA Men’s Amateur has been whittled down to its championship pairings after Saturday afternoon’s match rounds, with reigning champion John Rosenstock and area newcomer Peter Gasperini earning their spots in the final.
This year’s tournament is a first for Gaspierini, a native of Halifax, who said advancing was a nice welcome to the area.
He will be joining VCU’s squad for his final year of NCAA eligibility after spending his undergraduate years at Radford. The redshirt senior was named to the Big South All-Conference team and recorded a 6-under in the final round of the VCU Invitational in 2019.
“I’m driving it good, wedging it really good,” Gasperini said. “… I’ve just been sticking to my game plan for the most part. My last three rounds have all been bogey-free, so if you’re hitting fairways and getting gains, you can make someone have to come beat you, which is nice.”
He toppled Jordan Utley 4 and 3 to advance. Utley advanced to the semifinals after upsetting Mark Lawrence Jr., who medaled in a playoff over Gasperini during qualifying to earn top seeding, 2 and 1.
With both players competing at a steady level with nine birdies through the start of the course. Lawrence’s bogey on the 17th hole was the only over-par stroke of the match.
Utley and Lawrence, both graduates of Mills Godwin High School, finished seven and six under par, respectively, with Utley maintaining his lead through the course.
“Mark and I have played some really good, important matches against each other in the last few years, and I really think we bring the best out of each other when we play,” Utley said.
Rosenstock needed an extra hole to decide both of his matches Saturday.
His quarterfinal faceoff against Ryan Rettberg saw both players come out to an uneven start, but he was able to finesse a final 20-foot putt to progress.
“I played great yesterday, but Ryan and I both really struggled today,” Rosenstock said. “Luckily, I was able to gut it out in the end.”
His second round against Tom Vlahakis — a repeat pairing from last year’s quarterfinals — showed a noted improvement. While his quarterfinal saw him go 3-over, Rosenstock said he was “two or three” under during the semis.
Rosenstock said that while it was fun defending a title, he didn’t feel particularly pressured, and he looked forward to facing his opponents.
“[I’m] drained, but I’m really happy I got to play that second match because I hit it a lot better than I did this morning,” Rosenstock said. “I’m really looking forward to tomorrow morning. … Pete is an awesome player. I look forward to the challenge, but he’s going to be really tough.”
Sunday’s finals will begin at 8 a.m. at Meadowbrook Country Club.
Championship flight: John Rosenstock d. Rettberg, 19 holes; Tom Vlahakis d. Brett Chambers 6 and 5; Jordan Utley d. Mark Lawrence Jr. 2 and 1; Pete Gasperini d. Joey Jordan 4 and 3
First Flight: Jeff Spears d. Patrick Galleher 3 and 2; Trevor Elliott d. Chris Corrada 2 and 1; Brock Kelley d. Jim Woodson 3 and 2; Ryan Taylor (75) d. Marco Poccia 2 and 1
Second Flight: Garrett Kuhla d. John D’Aiutolo 6 and 5; Phillip Collier d. Joseph Weinstein 1 up; Andres d. Hoyle 2 and 1; Sean Dougherty d. Jay Zapko 20 holes
Third Flight: Ian Quindoza d. Rusty Breedan 3 and 2; Ben Keefer d. Brayden Coleman 8 and 6; McKetta d. Greg Gerczak; Jeff Fiebelkorn d. David Kopsick 4 and 2
Championship flight: Rosenstock vs. Vlahakis 19 holes Gasperini d. Utley 4 and 3
First Flight: Spears d. Elliot 4 and 3; Taylor d. Kelley 4 and 3
Second Flight: Collier d. Kuhla 5 and 3; Andres d. Dougherty, 5 and 4
Third Flight: Keefer d. Quindoza 8 and 6; McKetta d. Gerczak; Fiebelkorn d. Kopsick 4 and 2
Championship flight: Rosenstock vs. Gasperini, 8 a.m.
First flight: 8:09: Spears vs. Taylor, 8:09 a.m.
Second flight: 8:18: Collier vs. Andres, 8:18 a.m.
Third flight: Keefer vs. Fiebelkorn, 8:27 a.m.