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Katz says good-bye with another BDGA win

Jake Katz played his final round in Buffalo as an amateur golfer on Saturday for what he hopes is a long, long time.

That, of course, would mean his dream of becoming a professional golfer will have come to fruition. Before he pursues the next phase of his career, though, he ended this one in grand style.

Katz shot a final-round 2-under-par 70 at Brookfield Country Club to win the 88th Buffalo District Golf Association Men's Individual Championship, defending the title he won for the first time last year. His three-round total of 206 was 10 strokes under par, and eight better than playing partners Matt Stasiak (74) and Chris Covelli (73), who tied for second at 2-under 214.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to play well and be competitive this week," Katz said. "It was nice to finish my BDGA career with a win."

The former Binghamton University standout started the day with a four-shot lead over Stasiak and a five-stroke advantage over Covelli, so if either of them were to challenge, they'd have to shoot something special.

Whatever suspense there may have been disappeared early. A birdie-birdie start by Katz pushed his lead to five shots and sent the message that the tournament was his to lose.

"They're pressing to make birdies from the start, and that made them have to press even harder," Katz said.

His laser-like wedge play was the difference Saturday. On the 436-yard, par-4 opening hole he hit a lob wedge to within a foot for an easy birdie. He followed that by tucking a 54-degree wedge shot 3 feet from the hole on No. 2 for another kick-in birdie.

"When I needed to make birdie and I had good yardages, I made birdie," he said. "I really made it easy on myself. I think I made one 15-footer all week and shot 10 under."

Katz's only slip-up on the front was a bogey on the long par-4 seventh, but he followed that by getting up and down for birdie on the par-5 eighth.

Stasiak, meanwhile, once again couldn't convert on the greens. The longtime rival of Katz opened with a bogey and dropped another shot on the par-5 sixth hole, shooting 38 on the front nine.

"I worked on my putting a lot [Friday] and it really didn't pay off [Saturday]," he said. "That really cost me the tournament this week. I have a lot of work to do on my putting to get where I want to be."

Covelli's struggles came off the tee.

"I just couldn't hit my driver. I don't think I hit a fairway until the end of the back nine," he said.

Katz had a minor hiccup on the back when he bogeyed the par-5 16th hole then three-putted from 5 feet for a bogey on 17.

He could only laugh in frustration after that, but it didn't last long. He closed with a birdie on the 417-yard par-4 to applause from the assembled gallery, once again sticking a wedge inside 5 feet.

Katz, 22, will now spend long hours at the driving range for the next couple weeks as he prepares for his final tournament as an amateur. He qualified Monday -- on his seventh try -- for his first U.S. Amateur. The tournament begins Aug. 22 at Erin Hills Golf Course outside Milwaukee.

Barring a top-two finish, which would qualify him for next year's Masters and delay his pro career (he'd be required to remain an amateur in order to participate in the Masters), Katz will then participate in a Monday qualifier for the Nationwide Tour's Mylan Classic in Canonsburg, Pa., what he hopes will be his first event as a professional.

"I'm excited to see what Jake's going to do at the next level. It's good to see local guys are making a move to the next step," Stasiak said.

email: jskurski@buffnews.com