ONEONTA — It matters not if you’re talking about margin of victory or distance off the tee, Justin Harris is way ahead of the field.
Harris overpowered Oneonta Country Club, taking four strokes off of par Saturday and Sunday en route to a 10-shot victory in the Otsego County Amateur Golf Championship. Oneonta resident Harris earned his third straight Atchinson Cup title and won the 36th annual event for the fifth time in six years.
“I putted well and that kept me in front,” said Harris, who won last year’s tournament by 17 strokes.
Harris, 27, followed an opening-round 69 Saturday with a closing 71 on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon at the par-72 OCC. He finished 10 shots clear of Bruce Miller and Mike Pugliese.
“Justin is just so solid,” said Miller, who won the last of his three Atchinson Cup titles in 2004. “You have to play your best to have a chance and none of us did.”
Unatego graduate Harris, playing in the final threesome with Miller and Richard Myers, consistently hit his drives 30-40 yards past those of his playing companions. That left Harris with short irons into the greens while his partners were hitting mid-irons.
And get this, Harris said his long game was a little off.
Harris started Sunday with a three-shot lead over Miller, who shot even-par Saturday, and a four-stroke cushion over Myers and Pugliese.
Through 12 holes Sunday, Miller stayed within shouting distance of Harris. He trailed by five shots with six holes to play, but Miller said his short game cost him any chance at a victory.
“I didn’t have a single chip on Saturday (when he hit 14 greens),” said Miller, who shot a 78 Sunday. “But Sunday, I just couldn’t get them up-and-down.”
Myers said he didn’t play for two weeks leading up to the tournament because of a sore back. That soreness returned when Myers attempted to match Harris’ power on the par-4 15th hole. He tried unsuccessfully to carry the creek and continued to struggle until the 18th. There, he knocked his approach shot to 3 feet for a closing birdie.