Brad Valois knows the feeling that comes with winning, but it doesn’t ever seem to get old.
Valois, a Warwick native who plays golf out of Metacomet Country Club in East Providence, captured his fourth Rhode Island Amateur title on Saturday with a 4-and-3 victory over defending champion Charlie Blanchard at Quidnessett Country Club in the 108th Rhode Island Amateur Championship.
A conceded par putt on the 15th hole – the 33rd hole of the day – gave Valois the victory in the 36-hole final, his first since 2011. He previously won in 2006 and 2007 as well.
“My first one when I was young, I was excited to be a part of the Rhode Island golf elite, being a winner for Rhode Island golf,” Valois said. “As I get older, to win my fourth one, my family has been able to do some great things with athletics around the state and it makes me feel proud that I’m able to do something like this.”
The win capped a long week that began with Valois qualifying for match play thanks to an even-par 144 score through two days, good for medalist honors that he shared along with Brendan Lamp, Bobby Leopold and Jay Barrow.
Once into the match play, Valois shined. A former state high school champion at Toll Gate and a Junior Rhode Island Amateur champion as well, Valois beat Potowomut’s Tyler Cooke 3-and-1 on Thursday in the round of 32, then beat Dave Kraunelis, the two-time defending high school champion, 6-and-5 in the Round of 16 later on that day.
On Friday, he disposed of Andrew Fiorenzano 5-and-4 in the quarterfinals, then out-lasted 2011 high school champion Jamison Randall in the semifinals in a match where he never trailed. Valois won the first hole against Randall with a birdie three, and went on to shoot 33 on the front nine. Randall won the par-4 10th with a birdie to get to one down, but Valois won the par-4 13th with a par after Jamison missed a short putt for the halve, and he never looked back, ending the match with a par on the 17th hole to win 3-and-1.
“He’s a good player,” Valois said of Randall. “I’ve played him before, when I won my first amateur. I was five or six up after the front nine, and he bucked like a bronco the whole way back. He got back to even and took me to extra holes. I knew that no matter how much I got up on this kid throughout the day, he has that passion to be able to keep fighting.”
That win put Valois in the finals on Saturday opposite Blanchard, a seven-time RIGA Player of the Year. Blanchard had beaten former champion Bobby Leopold 5-and-3 in their semifinal match.
Valois and Blanchard halved the first seven holes of the day, both going one-under over that span thanks to birdies on the par-5 third hole.
On the par-4 eighth, Valois made his move. He parred the hole, while Blanchard struggled to a bogey. After halving the next two, Valois birdied the par-5 11th, edging out Blanchard’s par to take a 2-up lead.
Valois gave one back on the par-5 14th, as Blanchard birdied to get within one, but Valois won 15, 16 and 18 – sandwiched around a win at 17 for Blanchard – to put Valois 3-up after the opening 18. He shot 69.
“I’ve been playing well the last three weeks, after the Northeast Amateur,” Valois said. “I’ve been playing exceptionally well – better than average – the past few weeks.”
With periodic rain showers on the second 18, Valois went four-up with a birdie on the par-4 first, and then got it to 5-up with another birdie at the third. At the sixth hole, Blanchard drove the ball right, missed the green and couldn’t get up-and-down, while Valois parred. That put Valois 6-up with just 12 holes to play.
Yet, it wasn’t over.
“Charlie is a great player,” Valois said. “As expected, he’s always capable of coming back. I was playing solid this morning, but I got a little tired towards the end. I knew deep down inside he definitely had the ability to come back if I didn’t stay sharp.”
Sure enough, Blanchard made a charge. He won the 26th hole of the day, the par-4 eighth with a par, then birdied the par-5 ninth to win that one as well. When he won the par-4 10th with a par, he was only 3-down.
But with the momentum squarely in Blanchard’s favor, Valois put together a huge hole when he needed it most. On the par-5 11th, both players hit the fairway, laid up on their second shots and then hit the green on their approaches.
Blanchard grazed the edge on his 10-foot birdie putt, and Valois capitalized, burying his six-foot putt to get his lead back to 4-up with seven to play.
“He definitely had the momentum at that point,” Valois said. “At that particular point it wasn’t about whether or not I thought I was going to lose the match, it was just about killing momentum and bringing it back to my side. Or at least leveling it out. That was a big part of the match today.”
Blanchard won the next hole with a par, but after they halved the 14th, Valois was 3-up with four to play. On the 15th, both players hit the fairway, with Blanchard about 20 yards ahead of Valois. Valois put the pressure on, though, knocking his approach up to five feet.
“Charlie was up there close,” Valois said of his shot. “You know he’s going to have a good chance for birdie, or you would expect him to. I had a good number in there, and it worked out well. I was able to hit it within five, six feet.”
That was the last full swing Valois would have to take. Blanchard knocked his approach well over the green, then left his chip shot short of the green from there. His par chip nearly went in, but he had to settle for a bogey five. Valois simply tapped his putt up to a foot away, and Blanchard conceded it to give Valois the win on the hole, and his fourth career title.
Afterwards, Valois received the trophy and reflected on a week in which he played 120 holes in five days. With his win, Valois has the second-most RI Amateur titles in history, trailing only Ronnie Quinn.
“The players are getting much better, and I’m not as good as I was when I was in college,” Valois said. “This means just as much to me as my first one. It’s still just as hard to win.”