Saturday, June 26, 2004

Volpenhein wins Met


Seven-time champ hints it may not be end

By Colleen Kane
Enquirer staff writer

Jim Volpenhein said all week he wanted to get just one more Metropolitan Amateur title before settling down to start his family. But after tasting his seventh overall title - his first in five years - he gazed at his fianc»e standing in the distance and shouted:

"Can I play again next year?"

[img]
Jim Volpenhein, right, shakes hands with Kevin Hall after Volpenhein won the championship.
(Gary Landers photo)
So maybe the Met hasn't seen the last Volpenhein final, but Friday afternoon at Triple Crown, the crowd of about 70 people was treated to a championship Volpenhein says is the sweetest.

Volpenhein, 44, defeated 21-year-old defending champion Kevin Hall 4 and 2 in 34 holes.

"I think it gets better every year," Volpenhein said. "When I won the sixth time, it was so great. ... But I think the last win is the best."

Volpenhein, who won his first title in 1981 and his sixth in 1999, has never lost a Met final match. After Hall missed a putt for par on the final hole, Volpenhein hugged Hall and then picked up fianc»e Marli DaSilva on the green to kiss her. During the trophy ceremony, he dedicated the win to DaSilva, whom he plans to marry in October.

"I really wanted to win it for Marli. She's seen all my scrapbooks and trophy cases," Volpenhein said. "She gave me pep talks at night. She'd say: 'You don't have a positive attitude. You're not thinking right. What do you mean if?' ... I wanted to do it for her - because I love the girl and want to impress her."

Volpenhein didn't qualify for match play last year but credits his improvement this year to playing more in the weeks before the Met. Friday's matches weren't Hall's or Volpenhein's most impressive, possibly because of fatigue. Both said their legs bothered them. Hall's so much that it affected his downswing, he said.

"After a whole week of grinding every match, the worse golf is played the last day, because you're tired and there's pressure," Volpenhein said. "It's about survival when it gets to the last day."

And Volpenhein methodically played through two marathon matches, the first of which lasted 4 hours and 20 minutes. The match remained tied through the first 18 holes, but Volpenhein went ahead out of lunch when he birdied 19. He didn't lose the lead again and was "hitting everything solid." He said he never hit a ball out of play all week.

"It was just my day - again," Volpenhein said.

Hall, on the other hand, struggled with his short game, missing several putts.

"I just didn't trust the lines I chose," Hall said.

"I tried to steer the ball, and you're not going to do anything with that."

[img]
Jim Volpenhein blasts from a bunker on the seventh hole.
(Gary Landers photo)
Hall went four holes down when he double-bogeyed 32. He avoided being eliminated by sinking a long chip shot for birdie on 33, cracking a smile for the first time in several holes.

"I knew I had to make it or it's over, but at that point I didn't care," Hall said. "All I was thinking about was what I was going to eat, but it went in. I think it was just a Hail Mary."

Hall, a medalist at the Big Ten Championships for Ohio State this year, hopes this Met was his last. After more amateur tournaments this summer, he plans to turn pro in September. Volpenhein, who tried his own stint as a pro when he was 21, said Hall has a shot.

"I think he can go a long way. I don't think this was indicative of his play," Volpenhein said. "He's got a good golf swing. I would say keep working at it. ... He's got a heck of a game - he's just got to keep getting better."

Hall said he has great respect for Volpenhein, as well.

"Jim played like a great champion," Hall said.

A champion now seven times ... and counting.




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