Matt Dolinsky was five strokes back on Sunday morning as he tees off for the second round of the Berks County Golf Association Publinks Championship.
Dolinsky rallying to defeat Bill Schultz on the first playoff hole at Golden Oaks Golf Club is just the latest chapter in comeback history that began about a year ago.
Dolinsky, who won his third Publinks title in 2010, was about eight years away from the game before returning on time for the Publinks Championship at his home course, Galen Hall Golf Club, last year.
The Publinks Championship is open to BCGA players who are not members of a private golf club.
“Maybe it was good that I had a break,” said Dolinsky. “My children played sports and I concentrated more on it than playing golf. I didn’t want to miss that.”
But Dolinsky said the eldest of his three sons took him back to golf last year. Dolinsky said he worked hard to regain his game and made a big step in his comeback when he bogeyed the first playoff hole and Schultz, the first-round leader, shot a double-bogey 6.
To get into the playoffs, Dolinsky had to shoot a second round of 70 after shooting a 75 for a 1 over 145 on the par-72 course on Saturday. It shared the lowest score in the tournament with Schultz, who shot 70 on Saturday before ending at 75 on Sunday.
Henry Pilliod was the only other golfer in the 20 to end the tournament with a sub-par round. He shot a 71 on Saturday but ended with a 75 on Sunday to put one shot back in third place with 146.
“I thought I’d have to shoot 3 or 4 under to have a chance,” said Dolinsky. “I shot 2-under on the front nine, but couldn’t keep it on the back nine, even though I played pretty solid.”
It was enough to force a playoff when Schultz made three putts on the 18th green and narrowly missed the tournament victory when his par putt stopped just a few centimeters from the cup.
At the playoff hole, Schultz hit his drive and couldn’t keep up with Dolinsky’s 5 on the par-4 as the first.
The win was an exclamation mark for the year-long comeback for the 47-year-old Sinking Spring resident.
“I’m definitely back where I was,” said Dolinsky. “I’m probably even a little better. Now I’m a little more mentally mature and I’ve learned to see things differently.”
Dolinsky said he also exercised, changed his diet and lost weight to improve his game. He qualified for this year’s Philadelphia Amateur and Pennsylvania Amateur.
Dolinsky will compete at the Pennsylvania Amateur at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore from July 26-28.
“I’m just trying to get my game so far that I can take part in these tournaments,” said Dolinsky. “I’ve qualified once before, but now I want to be competitive.”
West Lawn’s Chris Haueisen won the maiden flight title with 20 over 164, two strokes better than Reading’s Kyler Zeller.