By Mike Dougherty
HASTINGS — There was a distant roar when St. Andrew’s assistant Greg Bisconti holed out from the fairway to build a sizable lead six holes into the match.
And then came a string of solitary groans.
Bisconti lost the next four holes and was only 1-up in a semifinal against Winged Foot assistant Grant Sturgeon Wednesday before he settled down, posting a 4-and-3 victory in the MasterCard Westchester PGA Championship at St. Andrew’s.
Playing in familiar surroundings certainly helped down the stretch.
“There is a home-course advantage for sure,” said Bisconti, a 41-year-old South Salem resident who doesn’t have this championship on his extensive résumé. “It’s a hard course, and if you get on the wrong side of the hole, your confidence will start to dwindle.”
He bogeyed three of the four holes that went to Sturgeon during the slide.
Bisconti won the 11th with an up-and-down par and then put some local knowledge into play on the next hole, a reachable par-5.
He played the angles perfectly and got home in two while Sturgeon pulled a hybrid into the woods below the green and put a provisional up against the rocks before conceding the hole.
“There are some nuances out there you have to be aware of,” said Bisconti, who outlasted Wykagyl assistant John Deigan in 23 holes in the quarterfinals.
After halving the next two holes, Bisconti found a flat putt on the 15th, some eight feet away, while Sturgeon left his approach on the top shelf. The delicate putt slid by the hole and stopped on the bottom shelf. The match was conceded after the long putt back up the hill was short.
Up next is Kyle Baehler, who’s also been playing from in front.
The 31-year-old Sunningdale assistant was 2-up on Winged Foot head pro Mike Gilmore early in the match, but had to hang on tight at the end.
“I’m not sure anyone, with the spring we’re having, is confident about their game right now,” said Baehler, who posted a 5-and-4 win over GlenArbor director of golf Rob Labritz in the quarterfinals. “I hit some good shots. My putting was just OK. It was good to hit some nice shots the last four or five holes under pressure against Mike.”
Gilmore was 2-down late in the match, but stole momentum at the 17th hole when he reached the par-5 from the right rough in two while Baehler got hung up in a deep greenside bunker.
It came down to one good bounce on the last.
Baehler hit into the green from 112 yards and watched as the ball spun back to within birdie range.
Gilmore was 10 yards closer in the fairway and his approach took a bad hop and got hung up in the back rough.
A difficult chip rolled off the green.
The visor came off a short time later for the handshake.
“I was only 10 feet away,” Baehler said. “It was down that hill though, so I’m really glad that I didn’t have to putt that one.”