By STEVE WILLIAMS
Chris Cassetta fought off some past demons when he won the Triad Golf Today Tournament of Champions last April and now he’s hoping to claw his way to becoming the first back-to-back winner in 19 years.
The 23rd annual T of C is set for Greensboro National Golf Club on April 27-28 – the latest date ever – and will be played in conjunction with the Triad Golf Today Interclub Challenge, which is returning to its original scoring format.
Cassetta had been an almost annual contender in the T of C before finally emerging victorious last year as his 73-71 performance produced a six-shot margin over 2017 champ Matt Nelson. Cassetta counted three second-place finishes, two thirds and a fourth in previous T of C appearances. In 2002, he lost to Todd Chadwick in a six-hole playoff that was forced into a second day by darkness. Ten years later, when the event made a stop at Forest Oaks, he had the clubhouse lead before Ben Pinkleton eagled the final hole to cap a back-nine 30 that left Cassetta a runner-up.
“It was good for me to finally win this tournament after so many narrow losses,” Cassetta said.
The T of C win was the beginning of a solid year for the High Point resident that also was highlighted by a strong run in the North Carolina Mid-Amateur last September.
“I played OK most of the summer but I had a really good fall,” he said. “Things started clicking and I was in the mix for the State Mid-Am.”
Later in September, he teamed with John Major of Winston-Salem for a runner-up finish in the North Carolina Four-Ball. Rounds of 68-66-68 left the Cassetta-Major duo three shots back of Dustin Moore and Greg Earnhardt.
Then in October, he was a member of the Carolinas team that claimed victory over the Virginias in the Captain’s Putter Matches.
He also captured the club championship at High Point Country Club.
Cassetta pointed to a change to the claw putting grip as a key to his strong fall play.
“In June, July and August, I really struggled with my putting,” he said. “I felt I was basically putting with the yips. I started using the claw for the fall and starting seeing some results. Last year could have been a really good year. I hit the ball well but the putting wasn’t very good.”
He has taken the claw grip into 2019 and already has had some tournament success – teaming up with David Neveu for a second-place finish in the Mid-Pines Invitational Four-Ball in early February.
If Cassetta wins a second straight T of C it would end a long streak. Nobody has repeated since Chris Logan of Winston-Salem won three straight from 1998-2000.
Cassetta, who is now playing out of Sedgefield Country Club, hopes to be part of a foursome in the Interclub Challenge this year. He entered individually a year ago.
Maple Chase Golf & Country Club dominated the team event last spring but will be without the two players who led the charge. T of C senior champ Harrison Rutter has a schedule conflict on the tournament weekend and Interclub medalist Davis Womble has relocated. Rutter shot a pair of 68s and Womble posted 70-68 as the Winston-Salem club ran away to an 18-shot margin over Pennrose Park Country Club of Reidsville.
But there’s a deep roster of tournament-tested players at Maple Chase. Club champ Jeremy Rudock, former champ Drew Davis, senior champ Lance Link and Chris Logan are just some of the possibilities.
The Interclub scoring format, which has been varied over the last eight years, will return to the original method of counting the best two balls of four on each hole. The last eight years, the best two nine-hole scores were tallied for the team score.
The best two-ball format, which was used during the first 14-year run at Greensboro National, makes it more likely for total team involvement. Even if one player might be having an off day, a couple of birdies could be key.
Three individual divisions are played in conjunction with the team event.
In addition to the Tournament of Champions (open only to club champions or other tournament winners from the previous year), there’s the Interclub division (members of teams not eligible for the T of C) and the Senior Division (team members aged 55-and-over along with individual age 55-over qualifiers).
For the second straight year the Carolinas Golf Association will be awarding ranking points to the top-five finishers on the combined leaderboard of T of C and Interclub entries. And this year, for the first time, the top three senior finishers will earn points in the CGA’s senior rankings.
Clubs or associations are allowed to enter multiple teams of regulars and/or seniors. A foursome can be made up of all regulars or all seniors or a mixture. The seniors (age 55-over) play a shorter set of tees.
Entry forms are available at www.triadgolf.com. or by calling Tournament Director Steve Williams at 336-280-3722.