Souza Rallies on Second Day to Earn First Professional Win in Playoff
By Bob Weiner, Gazette Sportswriter
Stadium Golf Club head professional John Souza has two passions outside of his family: golf and road racing.
Since he enjoys running the longer distances rather than sprints, it’s not surprising that he picked up his first professional golf victory in a two-day tournament instead of the usual one-day events the local club pros play.
After shooting a seven-over-par 77 in the opening round, Souza carded a sizzling four-under-par 66 in the second round and then birdied the first extra hole to beat defending champion and first-round leader Bob Mucha of Greenock Country Club in a playoff to win the Cobleskill Pro Classic Monday and Tuesday at Cobleskill Golf & Country Club.
“I was nine back when I started out,” said Souza, who only began playing regularly in Northeast NY PGA events last year when he earned his Class A PGA card, which gave him complete playing privileges. .
“On the first day, I hit the ball well, but couldn’t make anything. I was playing with [Colonie Golf & Country Club assistant professional] Ian Breen, and neither one of us could make any putts. On the second day, I was already seven over par, so I just began to fire at the pins. I knocked them pretty close, and I made everything.”
Souza birdied the first two holes on Tuesday, and then added two more birdies on the fifth and sixth holes, respectively. When he birdied the par-5 ninth, he was already five-under-par at the turn.
“The back nine at Cobleskill is a bit tougher than the front so I was just trying to hold on,” he said. “I didn’t think I had any chance to win. I was just hoping to cash. I basically made every putt I looked at.”
Souza said key up-and-down pars on the 14th and 16th kept his momentum going.
“I was very surprised when I came in. The other guys had come back to me,” he said.
“I really didn’t think I hit the ball any different in the second round than I did in the first, but I was 11 shots better.”
Souza said he wasn’t nervous when the playoff started.
“I figured that I was coming off a round where I couldn’t miss, and Bob was coming off a round where he wasn’t playing well,” said Souza. “Bob ended up making a good two-putt par on the playoff hole, but I made about a 10 foot left to right downhill birdie putt, and it was over.”
Souza knows how a player’s game can change every day, so he’s not expecting to all of a sudden become a major factor on the NENY PGA tour. But he is happy that he finally broke through for his first professional win.
“I’m definitely more confident and happy now that I won,” he said. “It wasn’t a very big tournament, but it was a two-day event, and I think I’m more comfortable knowing that I had more time to bounce back from a rough start. In the first round, I made a double bogey on my first hole. I was a little tight. But I also knew that I had two full rounds to come back, and I did.”
Bob Weiner is a Gazette sportswriter. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach him at 395-3147 or firstname.lastname@example.org.