EXETER — It was such a struggle for Eric Williams and Dave Kluger to even become part of the championship field.
Why would becoming John A. Allan Golf Tournament champions play out any differerntly for them?
But Williams made birdie with a three-foot putt on the final hole Sunday and Williams and Kluger survived a gallant, late-match rally by John Mikiewicz and Tom Biscotti to capture their second Allan title, 1-up at Fox Hill Country Club.
“It feels great,” Williams said. “So many things had to fall our way. It just seemed like it all did.”
Right from the start.
Williams and Kluger had to battle through a four-team playoff Friday to earn the 18th and final spot in the 32-team Championship Flight, and things didn’t get much easier for them from there on their way to their first Allan Tourney title since 2009.
Williams and Kluger were a hole down with one to play in Sunday morning’s semifinal match against Mike Answini and Shamus Gartley, but fought their way into the title match by winning in a playoff on the 19th hole.
“People were teasing us all weekend, ‘Once you make it, you’re destined,’” Kluger said. “We had four teams for one spot (Friday).”
“To get through that,” Williams said, “and end up here is a pretty good accomplishment.”
Mikiewicz and Biscotti didn’t make it easy.
Trailing by three holes with four to play, the last back-to-back Allan winners in 2013 and 2014 made things very interesting.
“Always do,” Mikiewicz said.
Mikiewicz curved an 18-foot putt into the hole for birdie on 15, Biscotti followed with a smooth birdie putt on 16 and suddenly, the sizeable lead Williams and Kluger held entering the tournament’s stretch run was down to 1 hole with 2 to play.
And when Mikiewicz made a spectacular drive grounded from the tree line to within eight feel of the pin and Biscotti lofted a shot to the green that landed the same distance away, but at a different angle, the gallary began chattering about the prospects of a tie match entering the final hole.
It wasn’t to be, though.
Both Mikiewicz and Biscotti just missed on attempted birdie putts, leaving Williams and Kluger 1-up entering the final hole.
“I thought we were gonig to have another playoff,” Williams said.
They very nearly did.
Mikiewicz drove a high, arching approach shot on 18 nearly 300 yards up the fairway and the crowd gasped in awe as it hit just in front of the cup and kicked back to within 10 feet of a birdie.
But Mikiewicz and Biscotti settled for par on 18, and Williams secured the one-hole advantage, and the victory, with a nifty par put to finish the match.
“A heartbreaker,” Mikiewicz called it. “But it happens. Eric made two good up-and-downs (putts) and we didn’t convert the birdies.”
For Kluger and Williams, it was sweet revenge.
They lost in the 2014 Allan finals to Mikiewicz and Biscotti when both teams were vying for their second Allan championship, then trailed them by two holes after the first three Sunday.
“It’s great to come back and beat them,” Kluger said. “They’re great.”
The victory locked up the third high-profile golf championship for Kluger on the area’s amateur circuit, and to him, it was the most meaninful.
“This is, I think, the greatest field,” said Kluger, whose birdie late in the semifinal match revived the team’s chances to take the tourney. “There are three or four young kids here, college kids, they’re just going to take this place over. Eric played the best of anybody this weekend. That’s why we won.
“We’re happy to be two-time champions.”
It was three in a row for Williams, a former pro from Honesdale who has now won championships at Glen Maura, his home course in Honesdale and the Allan on consecutive weekends.
“I’m hot,” Williams said. “It’s a nice run.”
Standing with the match on his putter, Williams made sure his team ran to the top of the Allan field again when he ended the suspense by sinking a slightly uphill shot from three feet away.
“It’s a three-footer I’m glad I made,” Williams said. “But Dave had a four-foot (shot) for par, also. It seems crazy to think we were in a four-for-one (qualifying playoff), and down one with one to play (in the semifinals) and down two to these guys (Mikiewicz and Biscotti).
“We’re happy winning it a couple times.”