Albert rallies to win Jake Gittlen Memorial
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
Brixton Albert acknowledged that he was getting a little bit frustrated.
In a handful of recent amateur golf tournaments, the 2006 Warwick High School grad was knocking on the door, but couldn’t quite finish the deal.
Last Sunday, he finally did.
Competing in the prestigious Jake Gittlen Memorial Tournament at Hershey Country Club’s East Course, Albert defeated Lower Dauphin grad Griff Bashore on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff to claim top honors.
That also completed a solid comeback for the Lititz resident. His 2-over 73 left him four shots behind the leaders following Saturday’s first round, but he battled back to pull even with Bashore after regulation with a 1-over 143.
Then on a difficult 465-yard, par-four 18th hole in the playoff, Albert got himself out of the rough to finish with par, edging Bashore, who bogeyed the hole.
For Albert, it was his first win since taking home the championship in the 2005 George Crudden Golf Tournament just prior to his senior year at Warwick.
“It was a really good win,” said Albert, who played three years at Radford University following a redshirt season and then finished up at the University of Tampa (Fla.). “I’ve been close. The last six Lanco events I played, I think my worst finish was 10th. I’m a competitive guy, obviously I like to do well, and I’ve been close a lot, so it’s kinda gotten to the point where anything outside of winning these tournaments is definitely frustrating. It was nice to finally win this one.”
Remarkably, Albert’s two-day score of 143 was his worst in five tournaments this summer. By his own estimation, he hit the ball only with his “C-minus game” at the Jake Gittlen Memorial, an amateur tournament which began in 1970 for players from the central Pennsylvania area. The event is held in memory of Jake Gittlen, who died of cancer, and it was started by his son, former Penn State golfer Warren Gittlen, to raise money for cancer research.
“The first round, I just kinda hung in,” Albert said. “I didn’t really hit the ball well for two days. But around the greens, literally I just chipped the ball unbelievably for two rounds. I really didn’t even putt great because I just chipped it so close every time.”
That was certainly the case on the playoff hole, as well. Having used a 3-wood on his first two attempts on the 18th, Albert switched to a driver and sliced a shot off to the right of the fairway into the rough.
“It was weird because it was a blind shot up over the trees, so I had to walk about 100 yards to see my line,” he said.
Albert nailed it, however, dropping the ball within 15 feet of the cup with a 6-iron.
“When I saw that lie, I was like, ‘Holy crap, this is a good opportunity to hit this thing close and really put the pressure on (Bashore),’” Albert recalled. “It was almost that I flipped a negative into a positive when I saw the opportunity there. I just missed a putt, (but Bashore) made a bogey. You kinda hate to win that way, but 18 is a difficult hole.”
Battling from behind following his 2-over 73 on Saturday put Albert in similar circumstances to the 2010 Jake Gittlen Memorial, when he had that exact score after the first round. In the second round, he was tied for the lead after 10 holes, but then finished the last eight holes 3-over and lost by two strokes to eventual champ William Smith.
Last Sunday, Albert flip-flopped those results, shooting 2-under over the final eight holes.
“I kinda managed my game well, but it was definitely a win because of the mental side of the game,” Albert said. “I just really hung in there and thought positively and never got down on myself. That’s definitely why I was able to hang in there and pull it off.”
Albert also gave credit to Chase Duncan, a past winner of the Jake Gittlen Memorial who has been giving him lessons. Duncan, a Conestoga Valley product and a former golfer at North Carolina State, had offered some suggestions about what Albert could do differently going into the final couple of holes at the Hershey Country Club.
“I knew if I got into the same position this year that I had a good chance,” Albert said. “Those last couple of holes are tough and I knew if I could play them well, (the leaders) might come back to me a little bit.”
Albert is hoping to continue playing well as he plays in different amateur tournaments. He is also maintaining ties with Listrak, a company he worked with in sales last year in Tampa while taking classes toward his MBA.
“I got a great education and had a great experience (in college), but as far as golf, (it) didn’t really meet my own personal expectations,” said Albert, who expects to move to Tampa in the next few months. “It’s a learning experience. There’s more to life than golf.” More ALBERT, page B-3