By Paul Kenyon
CRANSTON _ George Pirie and Tom Acciardo have turned in many impressive performances as they have piled up RIGA titles over the past 30 years, but their work on Tuesday might have been their best and most satisfying yet.
Those two won the association’s 23rd Senior Four-Ball Championship at Alpine for the fourth year in a row and fifth time overall with a great display of teamwork. They combined for the low round of the tournament, a 5-under 67, for a 36-hole total of 6-under 138. That was two better than the teams of Paul Quigley and Mike Soucy and Don Wright and Norm Levesque.
What made the performance even more special than usual was the way they did it. Where Pirie, an RIGA Hall of Famer, often has been the leader, this time he struggled much of the way. It was Acciardo who kept the team in the title chase and held everything together as the two posted a 71 in the opening round.
``He knows that he didn’t have the same partner he used to have,’’ Pirie said of Acciardo.
Pirie had undergone heart surgery in which a pacemaker was placed in his body last fall. The 66-year-old periodontist posted his highest round ever, an 87, in the opening round of the Burke Memorial last week at Wanumetonomy. It looked as if his championship days were done. But, ever the competitor, he refused to quit. He called his old teacher, Mike Harbour.
``I begged him to see me,’’ Pirie related.
The doctor did dental surgery on Friday then headed to Harbour’s teaching school.
``I didn’t get out of surgery until 6 o’clock. I didn’t get to see him until 7:30. He waited for me,’’ Pirie said. ``He took one look at me and said, `I can’t believe this move you’re making.' He instantly spotted a problem and he told me how to fix it.’’
Pirie said it took some work.
``You can’t automatically go from one thing to another. I’m not that good. The move was very foreign to me,’’ Pirie explained. ``I told myself I was trying to figure this thing out. I spent at night watching tapes.’’
Still, in Monday’s first round, he struggled. It was Acciardo, the former Barrington High golf coach who now works at Agawam Hunt, who kept the team in the chase.
``He keeps me focused. He’s a great partner. He supports you regardless of the shot, so you really want to grind for him,’’ Acciardo said of his partner. ``Yesterday, he was trying to find his swing. He kept me going and we were able to keep the round going.’’
Early on, fellow Hall of Famer Quigley created the spark. He holed out for eagle on the par-4 third hole then birdied the next hole. Through the first half of the round, everything was wide open. A wild finish was expected since so many teams were bunched heading down the stretch. Through 27 holes, no fewer than six teams were one stroke apart at the top of the leaderboard.
The teams of Quigley and Soucy and first-day leaders Levesque and Wright stood at 3-under. The combinations Acciardo and Pirie, Joe Hassett-Herb Stevens, Barry Higham-Kevin Nery and Dave McNally-Peter Sozek all were 2-under with nine to play
Then Pirie and Acciardo turned on the gas.
``Yesterday, he was trying to find his swing,’’ Acciardo said. ``Today it was the doc of old. The ball never left the flag and we got it going on the back nine.’’
The pair birdied 10, 12, 13 and 16 for 31 on the back side.
``In the end, we actually started to play really strong. We got stronger irons on the pin, longer tee shots. I’m excited at 66-years-old,’ Pirie said. ``After last week, you’ve got to be kidding me.’’
``We’re such a good team. We’re such good friends,’’ Acciardo added. ``We feed off each other.’’
First Round Recap
By Paul Kenyon
CRANSTON _ A quick start vaulted Norm Levesque and Don Wright to the top of the scoreboard early in the day Monday in the first round of the RIGA Senior Four-Ball Championship and the pair never left the first-place position.
The team from West Warwick combined for a 4-under 68 at Alpine, boosted by five birdies on the front side, to earn the lead heading into Tuesday’s second and final round.
The leaders actually had reason to be a bit disappointed to be ahead by only two. With both players making contributions, they went out in 5-under 32 with birds at 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7. The kept it going when they back the back side with birds at 10 and 11. However, they went 3-over from there to ``settle’’ for a 68.
That left them two ahead of the team of Dave McNally and Peter Sozek. Their 70 included three birdies and one bogey and then 10 straight pars to finish the round.
Four other teams put up 1-under 71s, led by three-time defending champions Tom Acciardo and George Pirie. Three birds in a four-hole stretch helped get Acciardo and Pirie under par.
Former champions Paul Quigley and Mike Soucy (2010) also had 71, highlighted by birds on each of the last two holes. The teams of James Irving and Jim Rose and Barry Higham and Kevin Nery also had 71.