By Dalton Balthaser




CRANSTON – Joe Tucker wanted to finally make his mark. He was tired of coming up short.


Golfers winning percentages aren’t touted like they are for coaches in the National Football League or managers in Major League Baseball. Not because they aren’t important but because they happen less frequently.


Tucker, aided by his trusty putter and laser-like ball striking, claimed the 38th Rhode Island Stroke Play Tuesday at Alpine Country Club (par 72, 6,627 yards).


His 54-hole total of 7 under was good enough for a four-shot victory of Rhode Island Country Club’s Harry Dessel. He closed with a round of 69.


“It’s good to finally get the job done,” said Tucker, 22, of Warwick. “All of these years I have in contention in these tournaments but never put it all together. It means a lot to win with how strong this field is. I love Alpine, and I enjoy competing here. I am playing good golf. This is exactly what I needed to keep moving forward.”


After the first 18 holes of Day Two, Tucker found himself one shot back of Dessel after 36 holes at 4 under. He carded a second round of even-par-72. But 18 holes in the afternoon still separated the field from determining a champion.


An opportunity still within grasp for Tucker.


“The second time around today, I wanted to be more aggressive on the greens,” said Tucker, who plays collegiately at the College of Coastal Georgia . “I knew where all the hole locations were, so it made it easier for me to understand where I needed to hit the ball. Everything fell into place on the front nine.”


Like a puzzle. 


Tucker, of Valley Country Club, made the turn in 5 under and secured a five-shot lead with nine to play. His front nine was highlighted by hitting the flagstick on No. 1 (par 4, 326 yards) resulting in a tap-in birdie. His putter took care of the rest.


He rolled in a 15-footer on No. 2 (par 5, 510 yards), a 10-footer on No. 4 (par 5, 513 yards), an eight-footer on No. 7 (par 4, 353 yards) and an 11-footer on No. 8 (par 5, 540 yards).


“I didn’t look at the leaderboard until the back nine,” said Tucker. “I was in the zone, and I didn’t want to mess anything up. I had the juices flowing.”


Just shortly after looking at the leaderboard on the back nine, the story he is all too familiar with rear its ugly head. He made three consecutive bogeys on Nos. 13 (par 4, 407 yards), 14 (par 4, 391 yards) and 15 (par 3, 173 yards).


Those demons of not finishing out a tournament could have surfaced. But Tucker continued to believe in himself despite the adversity.


“When I made those bogeys, I was still swinging well,” said Tucker. “The adrenaline was kicking in and it caused me to hit some shots long. I wasn’t choking. I just kept reassuring myself that I was still playing well.”


His lead shrunk to three shots and he was reeling. Not mentally, but because bogeys kept appearing on his scorecard.


Another one looked imminent on No. 16 (par 4, 388 yards). But an unbelievable recovery with a 9-iron from 135 yards to 15 feet would end that streak. He flew his ball over tall trees and covered the greenside bunker perfectly. He rolled in a 10-footer for birdie to put one hand on the trophy. 


He had a four-shot lead with two to play. 


“It was a hard shot to pull off, but I hit it perfect,” said Tucker. “I didn’t have much of a punch out either. Luckily, I had a good lie to get it over the trees. I wasn’t sure if it would get there, but I am glad it did.”


One of the bright spots of winning the Stroke Play is the exemption you get after you win. A trip to Wannamoisett Country Club for the Northeast Amateur.


Tucker has waited a long time for the fruits of his labor to pay off. The challenges he’s faced will have been well worth it when he tees it up at Wannamoisett next June.


“Playing in the Northeast Amateur has been my goal for the longest time,” said Tucker. “I have always wanted to find a way to get invited. It’s one of the most prestigious amateur tournaments in the world. I am excited about next summer.”


Senior Division


Dean Parziale didn’t want to leave anything to chance.


He entered the final round of the #RIStrokePlay tied with Agawam Hunt clubmate Bruce Heterick, who he was paired with for the two rounds Tuesday.


“It’s always nice to play with the guys who are in the lead,” said Parziale, 61, of East Providence. “You can apply pressure to them and see how they are doing. It also helps you focus on what you have to do.”


Once the final round ended, there was no uncertainty.


Parziale played the 36-hole finale Tuesday in 4 under, culminating in a final-round of 69 to claim the Senior Division of the Stroke Play at Alpine (par 72, 6,317 yards).


His putting clinic helped him secure an eight-shot victory over Heterick with a 54-hole total of 3 under.


Starting on the back nine, Parziale rolled in 20-footers for birdie on Nos. 16 (par 4, 374 yards) and 18 (par 4, 420 yards). He mixed in a bogey and another birdie to make the turn in 2 under.


But like any true champion, it’s not how you start it’s how you finish.


Parziale closed out his surgical performance with birdies on his final two holes Nos. 8 (par 5, 525 yards) and 9 (par 3, 142 yards).


He rolled in an eight-footer on No. 8 and stuffed a 7-iron to three feet on No. 9.


“It means a lot to win this,” said Parziale. “I have been playing well and it was nice to piece it all together today. It’s unbelievable. There’s nothing better.”