Iona Prep tops Molloy for CHSAA golf title

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Iona Prep was celebrating in front of the team it had just beaten. Moments earlier, Archbishop Molloy’s golf team had returned from the golf course where they lost the CHSAA city championship to the Gaels, and now were seated under a tent facing the dining hall of the Waccabuc Country Club in Westchester, watching the awards for first place get passed out. They looked like dates who had been stood up at the prom.

When the Stanners were given their second place trophies, Brian Flood, a senior from Forest Hills, rushed the stage and asked for a trophy to give to his fallen teammate, Robert Holzhauer, who was stricken with chicken pox and missed the final three matches of the season.

Holzhauer was on everybody’s mind. With him, Molloy had gone undefeated during the season. When he got sick with four matches left, Molloy lost to St. Joseph’s and came close to losing several other matches because the team decided to forfeit his spot rather than fill it with someone else. The players wanted to hold his spot on the roster in case he returned, but he never did.

On May 26, competing on the untested greens of Waccabuc without Holzhauer, Molloy fell to Iona Prep 4-1 in 18-hole match-play for the city ‘A’ championship.

“Robert was a senior who we played with for four years, and it wasn’t the same without him,” Flood said. “We missed him.”

Holzhauer, who rose through the ranks of the ‘B’ team to star on the ‘A’s’, would have been proud of Flood and Mike Testa, who along with teammate Kevin Judge, qualified for the state Individual Catholic championship, and who battled back from a poor back nine to severely test Iona Prep’s top two players.

Molloy had to overcome more than just the Gaels. Waccabuc’s slippery greens disagreed with the Stanners, who were used to playing on public golf-courses where the greens are flat and the fairways are sticky. Molloy (11-2) used its early holes to get used to the course. By the time they got comfortable many, like Flood and Testa, had fallen behind in their matches.

Stephen Mortati, an investment banker and graduate of Holy Cross, dipped into his own pocket to pay for the teams at the country club.

“This is a beautiful place, but putting at country clubs is like putting on ice,” said Molloy’s coach, Bill Niklaus, who made his second straight appearance in the city championship and has won six consecutive division titles in the Brooklyn-Queens division.

Testa, a goalie on Molloy’s soccer team, bogeyed his first and double bogeyed his second. Testa was having trouble figuring out the slants on the green, while his opponent in the second spot, Iona Prep’s Pat Malonso, birdied the fourth, fifth and seventh holes, sinking a 25-foot put on the seventh.

Meanwhile, Flood was having his own problems. He double-bogeyed the third hole on a 165-drive that landed in the rough, and bogeyed the fourth. After nine holes, Flood, Molloy’s No.1 player, trailed Iona Prep’s only senior, James Egan, 3-and-2, while Testa trailed 5-and-2.

Flood and Testa used the break in between the front and back nines to get a drink and towel themselves off and the pair returned to the course rejuvenated.

“I realized I was down, and I started concentrating more,” Flood said. “I started playing my man instead of playing the course. I started capitalizing on his mistakes.”

Flood won five out of his next six holes, using an 8-iron on the approach shot and a three-foot putt to birdie the 12th hole, and he parred the 16th hole to clinch the match, winning 4-and-2.

Testa, settling down and hitting his approach shots, also birdied the 12th hole using a 7-iron and birdied the 14th, and he trailed Malonso by two heading into the 17th hole. Last year, Malonso fell to Fordham Prep in the quarterfinals when he lost his nerve up three with five holes to go. The junior from Tarrytown lost the sixth, seventh, and eighth holes before losing his match by one.

Malonso found himself in a similar situation against Molloy, up two going into the 17th hole. He nearly made a 30-foot par putt on the 17th hole, and Testa, needing a five-foot put to get a chance to tie, missed to bogey to give Malonso the win 3-and-1. Iona Prep (19-1), which had already won its third and fourth matches, won its fifth city title under coach Kevin O’Meara.

“You can’t win if you don’t make your putts,” said Testa, who will play soccer at Columbia University in the fall. “It was ridiculous how many putts [Pat] was making. I wasn’t expecting that. I take my hat off to him. They’re a good team.”

In the ‘B’ CHSAA City Championship, St. Francis Prep fell to Stepinac 4-1 last Thursday at Wingfoot Country Club.

Reach reporter Mitch Abramsonby e-mail at orcall 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.

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