By Dalton Balthaser
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WARWICK, R.I. - Chris Francoeur didn’t take long to get familiar with Rhode Island Golf Association events.
He won the 70th Four-Ball with Metacomet Golf Club’s Eric Marchetti in his first RIGA event and made the Round of 16 in the Rhode Island Amateur.
Francoeur, highlighted by an exquisite final round of 66, continued that momentum in claiming the 36th Stroke Play Championship at Valley Country Club (par 72, 6,458 yards) Wednesday with a 54-hole total of 9-under 207.
He held off Wannamoisett Country Club’s Billy Forcier who finished at 8-under 208.
Francoeur, a rising junior at the University of Rhode Island, played his final 36 holes in 7 under to catch Forcier and Valley’s Brad Valois who both held the 36-hole lead at 7 under.
Valois faded with a final-round 75 and finished solo third at 4-under 212.
“It feels really good to win this event,” said Francoeur, 20, of Amesbury, Mass. “This was a round of golf I finally felt satisfied with. I have been hitting the ball so well and putts haven’t been falling. But my putter got hot in the final round.”
Starting the final round four shots back, Francoeur wasted little time trimming that deficit.
He birdied Nos. 1 (par 4, 344 yards), 2 (par 5, 593 yards), 5 (par 5, 494 yards), 6 (par 3, 133 yards) and 7 (par 4, 378 yards) without having to make a putt outside of 10 feet.
“I wanted to play more aggressively knowing I had some ground to make up,” said Francoeur, of Beaver River Golf Club. “I hit a few more drivers to have more wedges in my hands.”
A lob wedge to eight feet on No. 10 (par 4, 387 yards) gave him the solo lead at 9 under.
“After I turned in 5 under, I wanted to see how low I could go,” said Francoeur. “I wasn’t thinking about the leaderboard for a second. The only time I looked at the leaderboard was on No. 12 and I made bogey. I just wanted to finish strong and see if it would be enough.”
He rebounded nicely on No. 13 (par 4, 387 yards). With the wind starting to gust at 20-30 miles per hour, Francoeur chipped a 9-iron from 120 yards to five feet.
Five consecutive pars coming in gave him the clubhouse lead. With the final pairing of Valois, 2019 Rhode Island Amateur champion Andrew O’Leary and Potowomut Golf Club’s George Cidade, struggling to get any momentum, the only person with a chance was Forcier.
Knowing he needed an eagle three on No. 18 (par 5, 544 yards), Forcier took a driver off the deck in hopes of reaching the green in two. Instead, he found himself in the trees 20 yards right of the green needing to hole his third shot.
His ball mark would land right next to the hole but he was one shot short after his closing birdie. Sealing the deal for Francoeur.
“I figured who went deep in the final round had a good chance of winning,” said Forcier, 33, of Rumford, R.I. “Then the wind came up and I felt I was in a good position being 2 under after nine in the final round. Then I heard through the grapevine that Chris [Francoeur] was 5 under at the turn and I started to press a little. I may have run out of gas.”
Francoeur will compete next in the third major of the RIGA season at the Rhode Island Open at Green Valley Country Club Aug 13-14. He said his 9 under cumulative tournament total was a career-best. Not a bad way to head to URI in the fall.
“Today’s final round was a big step forward for me,” said Francoeur. “I am excited for what’s to come.”
Jon Fasick is making his presence felt in the RIGA senior events.
He claimed the John Burke Memorial Gross (Senior Division) in May to kick off the season with a bang.
Fasick, backed by a clutch putter and solid iron play, claimed the Senior Division of the Stroke Play at Valley (par 72, 6,175 yards) after a final-round 69.
His rounds of 71, 72 and 69 were good enough for a six-shot victory over Green Valley’s Paul Quigley.
Fasick was the only senior to shoot all three rounds at even par or better and the only one to shoot under par for the 54-hole event.
“It’s a good accomplishment for me especially with the last day being 36 holes,” said Fasick, 66, of Bellingham, Mass. “It’s tough to keep your game through that many holes in a day. I love the competition of these events. That’s why I play. When I can’t compete anymore in tournaments I probably won’t play golf anymore. That’s how much I enjoy competing.”
He said he was pleased with his clutch putting inside five feet. With all of the traffic on the greens, Fasick said they got a little bumpy but was pleased with how he was able to roll putts in.
“I don’t take myself to seriously in golf,” said Fasick. “The better the field the more fun I have. There are lot of great senior players in Rhode Island like Quigley and Mike Soucy, so it means a lot to come out on top.”