STAMFORD, Conn. Stamford golfer Mike Ballo Jr. won two events on the West Florida Professional Golf Tour earlier this year. But he considers Wednesday's second-place finish in the Massachusetts Open a much bigger accomplishment.
Ballo, a first-year pro who played at Trinity Catholic and St. John's, finished with a 54-hole total of 206, one shot behind winner Kyle Gallo. Ballo posted a final-round 69 and finished 54 holes at 4-under-par. The tournament was played at Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg, Mass.
"As good as those wins were, this is the biggest tournament I've played in as a pro,'' Ballo said. "It's the most prestigious professional tournament in New England. It's one of the majors for New England pros."
Ballo came down the homestretch with a chance to win. He birdied the 14th hole to reach 7-under-par and was three clear of Gallo. He double-bogeyed the next hole when his drive took a bad bounce out of bounds. He also bogeyed the 16th hole. Gallo, a Nationwide Tour pro and a former Connecticut Open winner, birdied 14 and 15 to take the lead.
"I got a little quick,'' said Ballo, who grew up playing at Woodway Country Club in Darien, where his father, also Mike, was the head professional. "I didn't go through my check list like I normally do. I got a little excited. I wasn't that bad of a shot. There's a huge difference being in that position in pro golf as opposed to amateur golf. It's like going from high school to college. You have to learn how to make that jump. I'm happy. I played very well. There's no shame in losing to someone as experienced as Gallo."
Ballo plans to remain in the region for most of the summer. He'll play in the Westchester Open next month and at the Connecticut Open, which is scheduled for Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield.
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