Bobby Leopold Avenges 2019 Loss, Wins Third Rhode Island Amateur
By Dalton Balthaser
LINCOLN – At the end of one of the longest weeks in the history of the Rhode Island Amateur, Bobby Leopold cemented his name among the elites.
Leopold, a previous two-time champion (2009, 2014), put on a ball-striking clinic to defeat Pawtucket Country Club’s Andrew O’Leary, 5&4, to claim the 116th Rhode Island Amateur Sunday at Kirkbrae Country Club (par 72, 6,647 yards).
He played the 32 holes in bogey-free 10 under, including a 65 in the first 18 holes while O’Leary shot 70. That gave Leopold a 5-up edge heading into the second 18.
“Today my ball-striking was stupid,” said Leopold. “I stood over my driver on each hole and told myself to hit it as hard as I could each time. I was hitting bullets with the driver. It was one of those days where everything seemed to go well. My body felt good. I wasn’t tired and my body wasn’t in pain.”
The only other time in the history of the event where the 36-Hole Final was played on a Sunday due to weather was in 1989 when Dr. George Pirie defeated Patrick Sheehan, 1-up, at Valley Country Club.
This win gives Leopold three #RIAmateur titles on his mantle. Joining him with six others, five of which are Rhode Island Golf Hall of Famers. They Include: Harry E. Kenworthy (1910, 1912, 1955); Robert T. Kosten (1952, 1953, 1957); Marc St. Martin (1976, 1984, 1988); Dr. George Pirie (1989, 1994, 2004); Paul Quigley (1986-87, 1991) and Mike Soucy (1999, 2001, 2003).
The only one not in the Hall of Fame is Kenworthy.
“It seems like winning three Rhode Island Amateurs is the magic number,” said Leopold, 36, of Coventry. “Once you get to three you start to think if you can steal another you would be in really elite company with four. It’s special.”
O’Leary was the 2019 champion at Shelter Harbor Golf Club where he defeated Leopold, 3&1, in the 114th edition.
He just struggled to build any momentum against Leopold. When O’Leary did, Leopold answered. O’Leary didn’t lead at any point in the match.
“Getting down early hurt,” said O’Leary, 21, of Norfolk, Mass. “I don’t know what exactly caused it, but I didn’t strike the ball as well. Fighting from behind is tough. Especially when you don’t have your best stuff. Bobby played well. Playing bogey-free for 36 holes is impressive.”
While O’Leary didn’t win, he still made history. He became the sixth player to reach three consecutive Finals. He lost to Agawam Hunt’s Jamie Lukowicz, 2&1, at Pawtucket last year. Robert W. Allen (1958-60), John P. Burke (1938-40), Kenworthy (1908-10), Ralph D. Rooks (1921-23) and Brad Valois (2006-08) also accomplished that feat.
“I’ve never lost a match more than 2&1,” said O’Leary, a rising senior at the University of Notre Dame. “So being 6-down at one point was something that I haven’t experienced. I grinded hard to try to get myself back in it but I couldn’t catch up. I just didn’t have it today and that’s golf. I’ll learn and grow from it.”
Leopold’s lead grew to 6-up after pars on Nos. 25 (No. 7) (par 4, 411 yards) and 27 (No. 9) (par 3, 194 yards). O’Leary hit one in the water off the tee on the 25th hole and three-putted for bogey on the 27th.
But Leopold, the No. 4 seed, made a clutch 6-footer for birdie on No. 28 (No. 10) (par 4, 324 yards) to remain 6-up with eight holes to play.
But then O’Leary, the No. 2 seed, made his final charge. He made birdies on Nos. 30 (No. 12) (par 5, 479 yards) and 31 (No. 13) (par 4, 375 yards).
“When he started to make the run, I started questioning myself,” said Leopold, of Wannamoisett Country Club. “I stopped myself each time that happened. I focused on where I was at and focused on hitting each shot with the best mental attitude. I was able to calm myself. I wasn’t nervous at all today.”
Leopold closed it out in true championship fashion with a 12-footer on No. 32 (No. 14) (par 5, 502 yards). He forced O’Leary to have to make his 8-footer and he couldn’t convert.
It has been a long seven years for Leopold since he won in 2014 at Montaup Country Club. He’s won plenty of RIGA events since then. Just not the one all covet in this state.
Only five players have won the Rhode Island Amateur more than him. Daniel Fairchild set the standard with six, Allen and Cameron P. Quinn have five, Burke and Valois have four. He’s accomplished all of this in a 12-year span.
“Winning this once was a huge deal,” said Leopold. “I thought not winning it for five years was hard. These last seven have been tough from the sense of trying to know if I would ever win it again. This week was long and tiring. Somehow, I finished on top. I couldn’t be prouder.”