In first try, Barbarossa wins golf club championship

To understand Mike Barbarossa’s accuracy with a golf club in his hands, you have to go back more than 30 years.

When Barbarossa was four years old, his dad cut some of his own clubs in half and duct taped the grips so his son could use them. For target practice, his dad then planted a baby tree in the family’s yard in Brewster (N.Y).

“The tree was about two-feet high,” said Mike Barbarossa. “We would spend hours out there hitting hundreds of balls, trying to get them as close to the tree as we could.”

Last weekend at the Ridgefield Golf Course, Barbarossa’s pinpoint accuracy was on display. Putting nearly all of his approach shots on the green, Barbarossa won two matches in two days to win the championship flight in the Ridgefield Golf Club’s club championship tournament.

Barbarossa, 39, defeated John Maiolo (the 2014 champion) by a score of 4 & 3 (four holes ahead with three to play) in Sunday’s match-play finals to become the fifth different championship flight winner in the past five years.

“I’m a big fan of match play, and I have a lot of practice with that format,” said Barbarossa, who lives with his family in Brewster. “There’s a lot more to it than hitting the ball straight. It’s also about strategy and psychology.”

Barbarossa’s steady play — he parred 17 of 18 holes on Sunday and birdied the other — allowed him to overcome Maiolo’s impressive tee shots.

“John is one hell of a ball striker; he outdrove me by 30 to 40 yards on nearly every hole,” said Barbarossa. “So the key for me were the second and third (on par-five holes) shots. I was able to either get them on the green or close enough for a small chip to get close to the hole.”

After spotting Maiolo an early lead, Barbarossa was one-up through nine holes. He then won the 10th, 12th and 13th holes to go four-up with five holes remaining. Maiolo used a superb chip shot to set up a birdie putt and win the 14th hole, but when Barbarossa took the 15th with a par he clinched the title.

“We were both left (of the fairway) on the 15th,” said Barbarossa, who was playing in his first club championship tournament. “I was able to punch it up to about 50 yards (of the green) and then got within two feet and sank the putt for the par. John pushed his second shot right of the green and then left himself a 15-foot putt, which he missed for a bogey.

“I didn’t try to do anything fancy,” added Barbarossa, a former scratch golfer at North Salem High School who went on to earn a two-year associates degree at the Golf Academy of the South. “My goal was to play for pars, and I was able to do that.”

Notes: Barbarossa is the 24th player to win the championship flight since its debut in 1974. Christian Bangert (2013), Maiolo (2014), Mike Tessler (2015), and Brian Ingram (2016) were the past five club champions.

Bob McBride is the leader with nine championship-flight victories. Other multiple winners include Ben Graves (four), Chip Reardon (three), Greg Jacobson (three), Peter Adams (two), Andy Inman (two), Mark Gaccione (two), Travis Wolf (two), and Bangert (two).

Also winning titles last weekend were Joe Arconti (first flight), Andrew Watson (second flight), and John Lee (third flight).