HAGERSTOWN -- A routine two-putt par on the sixth hole of the afternoon round did not seem like much at the time yesterday, but it heralded the beginning of the finest comeback in the 72-year history of the Maryland State Golf Association Men's Amateur championship.
Dave Rasley of Lakewood Country Club, 5-down to Bob Kaestner of Baltimore Country Club after 23 holes of the their scheduled 36-hole final at Fountain Head CC, proceeded to run the table.
He won eight of the next 10 holes (two were halved), scoring five straight 3s in the process. There were eight 3s in a 12-hole span. On the 17th, Rasley put an exclamation point on his effort with a 20-foot birdie putt for a 2-and-1 victory.
Of his last putt, Rasley said: "I told my caddy [Dave Fenichel, a second-round loser Friday] the hole looked the size of a basketball hoop. I knew the ball was going in."
Kaestner, 29, and past the quarterfinals for the first time in this event, appeared to be in control when he built a 3-up lead in the morning and expanded it to 5-up after five afternoon holes.
He missed a short par putt for a half at the seventh, halved the eighth when he missed from four feet and lost the ninth when he three-putted.
Kaestner's margin was down to two holes going to the final nine.
"That gave him momentum. A player of his caliber, you can't let them have a chance to get back into the match," Kaestner said.
Rasley, 44, a former Maryland State Mid-Amateur titlist, not only got back into it, he took charge.
Beginning at No. 10, those five straight 3s (four for wins) included birdie putts from 15 feet twice and from 20 feet, plus one conceded.
The keys for Rasley were a slight swing change and the return of a golden putting stroke that had brought him to the final.
"And when Bobby missed that short putt at the sixth, it was the first chink in his armor. . . . I don't hit it nearly as long as he does, but I started hitting it flush the last 12-13 holes."
On the well-conditioned Donald Ross course, where trees and teacup-sized greens make up for a lack of length (6,323 yards), the short game is vital, and Kaestner had no answer when Rasley's blade got going.