LAKE PLACID - Andy Donatello successfully defended his title in the 14th annual Flaming Leaves Golf Tournament held at the Lake Placid Resort over the weekend, and needed a big rally on Sunday to get the job done in the 36-hole event.
Donatello didn't think he had a shot at winning for the second year in a row after starting off with an 82 in Saturday's first round played on the resort's par-71 Links Course. He was eight shots behind fellow Lake Placid resident Don Mortensen, who owned the lead after shooting a 74 in windy, rainy conditions.
But in weather more conducive to golf Sunday, Donatello finished with a 75 on the Mountain Course and a 157 total to win by one stroke. Brandon Haase wound up in second with a pair of 79s for a 158 total, while Mortensen landed in a tie for third place with Cory Reid, with both golfers firing 159 totals in the tight match.
"Somehow I did it again, and I didn't expect it," Donatello said. "I did the same thing last year. Because I work at Northwood, school started back up and I hadn't touched a club since August 28."
Playing in a group with Mortensen on the first day, Donatello said he actually thought his run toward another possible championship ended nine holes into the tournament when Mortensen scored a hole-in-one on the ninth.
"It was a pretty tough day out there, and Donny was playing great," Donatello said. "When Donny sank it, I thought it was over right there. I was pretty excited for him. He never has had a hole-in-one and neither have I. I was already behind by a lot at that point. Fortunately, I had a really good day on the Mountain Course, especially on the back nine.
"There were two more groups playing after I finished, so I really didn't think about winning," Donatello added. "I was eating lunch when I found out, about an hour after I got off the course."
Despite the disappointing finish, Mortensen said he was thrilled to be in the hunt, and even more so about the first ace in his 28-year golf career.
"It was awesome," Mortensen said. "We were actually watching Nick Politi on the sixth green. You can see it from where we were on ninth tee. He was putting and I yelled 'Go in the hole.' Then I took my tee shot and yelled 'Go in the hole.' Mine went in and Nick's didn't.
"The tournament was mine to win," added Mortensen, who was also in the hunt for another title earlier this month after a strong opening round in the traditional September invitational at Craig Wood but had a tough second day. "I think I had a four- or five-shot lead, and usually I have a lower score on the Mountain Course, but not this year. I'll break through sometime."
Mortensen used a seven-iron to record his ace, which was also witnessed by Dave Clark.
In addition to a gross champion, the Flaming Leaves also included a net competition, where Scott Burslem earned the win with a 145 total. Chip Nagle finished runner-up with a 150.