BRIELLE — Ben Smith finally put his name on one of New Jersey’s major golf trophies.
The 25-year-old Voorhees resident, who plays out of Little Mill, scored a front-running one-shot victory in the 92nd New Jersey State Golf Association Open Championship on Thursday, becoming the first amateur to win the state’s biggest tournament since 2007. Smith shot a final round 2-over 74 and finished the 54-hole event at the Manasquan River Golf Club at 4-under 212.
“There is certainly a little weight off my shoulders,” Smith said. “I still have U.S. Amateur qualifying next week. That is an event I have never played in and I really want to play in that event, the biggest amateur event in the world. So this is going to give me a little positive energy going into that.”
Smith sealed his first major win with a two-putt par on the final hole after fellow amateur Niall Handley had a treacherous downhill birdie putt from the back fringe of the 18th green roll 35 feet past the cup.
It made Smith’s 6-foot birdie attempt go from a tournament winning try to a routine par that made the finish anticlimactic for a player who has been knocking on the door in New Jersey events in recent years. He finished second in the state amateur in 2011 and was a top-15 player in this event last year.
Handley shared second with professional Bill Britton of Trump National-Colts Neck, who pocketed the $15,000 first-prize as a low professional.
However, the final round, especially the last 10 holes, was a match-play event between Smith and Handley, a 40-year-old Dublin-born player who now lives in West Caldwell and plays out of Essex Fells.
Handley moved into a tie for the lead at the par-3, 15th when Smith three-putted for bogey.
Smith moved back into the lead with the only final-round birdie on No. 16, when he hit a 6-iron to six inches, while Handley scrambled for par.
Smith gave the lead back at the 17th when he snapped his drive under some trees and eventually missed a 15-foot par saver.
Smith, who shared the first-round lead with Mark Issler and held a two-shot advantage after 36 holes, had six bogeys and four birdies in his final round.
“I didn’t play great, but I played well enough to win,” said Smith, who works at a packing company in Pennsylvania.
Centerton’s David Quinn tied for 12th at 217. Wildwood’s John Appleget and Sea Oaks’ Jeff Bonicky tied for 20th at 220. Stone Harbor’s Alex Hicks tied for 28th at 222.
a-Ben Smith, Little Mill 68-70-74—212
a-Niall Handley, Essex Fells 70-70-73—213
Bill Britton, Trump National-CN 72-70-71—213
a-Michael Stamberger, Spring Lake 72-73-69—214
Jakob Gerney, Trump National-Phil 74-70-71—215
Paul Poandl, Bedens Brook 75-72-68—215
Mark Issler, Toms River GC 68-75-72—215
Brian Gaffney, Rumson 73-71-72—216
Bobby Gage, Forsgate 72-68-76—216
Sam Kang, Farmstead 71-71-74—216
a-Brandon Dalinka, Ridge at Back Brook 69-72-75—216
David Quinn, Centerton 70-73-74—217
Brent Studer, Manasquan River 75-73-69—217
Frank Esposito, Brooklake 72-71-75—218
a-Brian Roth, Darlington 74-70-74—218
Ed Whitman, Knickerbocker 76-72-71—219
Mark Yannotta, Riehl Golf 70-72-77—219
Craig Smith, Trump National-Bed. 71-73-75—219
Craig Lindsey, Madison 72-73-74—219
Dave Laudien, Howell Park 72-76-72—220
a-Robert E. Cronheim, Twin Brooks 69-75-76—220
John Appleget, Wildwood 71-73-76—220
Jeffrey Bonicky, Sea Oaks 77-69-74—220
a-Charles Cai, Old York-Chesterfield 74-74-73—221
Brad Olson, Rumson 74-74-73—221
Mike LaBrutto, Greenacres 74-72-75—221
Mike Burke, Montammy 74-73-74—221
a-Tom Gramigna, Tavistock 74-76-72—222
Greg Baker, Rockaway River 72-74-76—222
a-Alex Hicks, Stone Harbor 76-70-76—222
Chris Dachisen, North Jersey 72-77-74—223
David Glenz, Black Oak 76-73-74—223
Matthew Freitag, Hamilton Farm 71-75-77—223
a-Gregory Mergel, Manasquan River 72-77-75—224
Todd Rickenbach, Roxiticus 73-73-78—224
a-Stuart Greenberg, Ash Brook 72-77-76—225
a-Charlie Edler, Rumson 78-72-75—225
a-Anthony Aloi, Mercer Oaks 74-75-76—225
a-Cory Wilson, Panther Vly 74-76-76—226
a-Jerry Wall, Manasquan River 73-77-76—226
a-Brian Komline, Black Oak 75-71-80—226
Peter Busch, Galloping Hill 71-78-78—227
a-Doug Walters, Rolling Greens 75-74-78—227
Ken Pridgen, Liberty National 78-72-78—228
Matthew McKeon, Plainfield 70-76-82—228
Patrick Fillian, Canoe Brook 78-71-80—229
Brian Varsey, Rumson 76-74-80—230
Lou Kubisa, Knob Hill 75-75-80—230
George Ancuta, Knoll 74-74-82—230
a-Marc Grinberg, Charleston Spring 74-76-81—231
Rob Schaal, Tara Greens 74-75-83—232
a-Dan Marino, Due Process Stable 71-77-84—232
a-Michael DiMeglio, Mercer Oaks 75-75-83—233
David Polchinski, Bayonne 72-78-83—233