Match play isn’t supposed to be as easy as Michael Boss made it look this week.
The 21-year-old from Lewiston defended his title in the Buffalo District Golf Association’s Men’s Match Play championship Friday at River Oaks Golf Club by defeating Kris Boyes in the final, 4 and 3. That stuck with the theme all week for Boss, who in five matches reached the 16th hole just once.
“Things just went my way,” he said. “I guess I just like playing against one person. You know what they’re doing. It’s tough in stroke play when there are so many people and you don’t know what’s a good score. In this, you can take it hole by hole and shot by shot, which helps me focus more.”
Boss, the No. 3 seed in the 32-player field, came into the week with the added benefit of being in midseason form. He got home Sunday from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla., where he finished his junior season with the Saints’ golf team.
“That’s definitely an advantage instead of sitting at home in the snow all winter,” he said. “Playing a lot of competitive golf is key.”
Boss had his most successful collegiate season with the Saints, who compete in the NCAA Division II Peach Belt Conference. Flagler won the conference championship and Boss played in nine tournaments overall, with one top-10 finish.
“I learned a lot this season,” he said. “I got a lot better at grinding it out, realizing I don’t always have to hit it perfect to play well. I did a lot of work on my mental game, and I’m hoping to carry it over to this summer.”
So far, so good in that regard.
Boss took a 1-up lead over Boyes on the fourth hole, then extended it to 2-up on the par-3 fifth hole. His tee shot on the lengthy 222-yard hole barely cleared the front-right bunker, and got a favorable bounce to within 6 feet of the hole. Playing from the tips at 7,247 yards and in cool, breezy conditions, River Oaks tested each player’s length Friday.
“It got lucky and rolled up there,” Boss said. “I knew I was going to make that putt after that.”
He did, for a 2-up lead.
Boyes, who came into the match play as the No. 5 seed fresh off his win Monday in the Western New York Open, cut his deficit to one with a birdie on the par-5 seventh hole, but gave that right back when his tee shot on the par-3 eighth hole found the water on the left side of the green.
“On the tee, I thought I had too much club, so I tried to choke down on it a little bit and just came over the top and it went right in the water,” Boyes said. “It was not a confident swing, and when you don’t have that, it’s not going to be good.”
Boss, meanwhile, hit it to 4 feet off the tee, and his conceded birdie re-established a 2-up lead.
“That’s huge going into the back nine,” said Boss, who is spending the summer working at River Oaks. “There are a lot of risk-reward holes on the back nine where you can either lay up with an iron or bang a driver down there. When you’re up, you can kind of lay back and let them make mistakes.”
Boyes, a 26-year-old who played collegiately for St. Bonaventure and works at Ingram Micro, had his chances to get back into the match. But a three-putt bogey on No. 9 and a poor wedge shot on No. 10 after a great drive led to those holes being halved.
On the par-5 12th hole, both players laid up and had wedges into the green. Boss left himself with a tricky 10-foot downhill putt, but Boyes missed the green right. When Boss eased his putt in for a birdie, he had a commanding 3-up lead with six holes to play.
That meant Boyes had to get aggressive, and he paid for it on the par-4 13th when his tee shot went into the trees right. Boyes’ ball rested up against a tree, leaving him with no choice but to chip out to the fairway.
He wasn’t able to save par, giving Boss a 4-up lead with five holes to play.
“I tried to go for it there off the tee,” Boyes said. I should have played it more to the left, but I started pressing. It was a battle for me this week. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m looking forward to getting my swing right. I made some putts in the first four matches, but today I just didn’t have my stuff.”