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Second-seeded Brown eludes opening upset

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Qualifying medalist Adam Brown shot seven shots worse than he did the day before, but still won.

That’s the beauty of match play, and why the City Men’s Golf Championships can be so unpredictable.

Brown, the 2005 champion who carded a fine 3-under-par 69 Saturday to lead the qualifying, barely survived his first-round match Sunday in the 2013 event at Ives Hill Country Club on Sunday. The No. 2 seeded Brown was taken to the final hole by No. 31 seed T. J. Penn before Penn’s birdie putt to extend the match missed by just inches.

Most of the other favorites advanced easily with just five lower seeded players moving on to the second round of match play, which must be concluded by Wednesday.

Those moving on included defending champion and top-seeded John Bufalini, who beat No. 32 Brendan Laverty 8 and 7. Bufalini will next play No. 17 seed and Ives Hill teammate Steve Ahlgrim, the 1989 champion, who ousted No. 16 Bryan Clark 5 and 4.

Eleven-time winner Bob Hughes, the No. 3 seed, had little trouble with No. 30 Shane Smith, winning 6 and 5. He has a tough second-round match against last year’s runner-up, No. 19 Chris Denesha, who topped No. 14 Todd Slate 4 and 3.

Another former champion moving on was No. 8 seed Joe Tufo, an 8 and 7 winner over No. 25 Mike Bamann. Tufo next draws No. 9 George LaBarr, an impressive 8 and 7 winner over No. 24 Norm Stephenson.

James Ambrose, the No. 4 seed also seeking a second city title, defeated No. 29 Pearce Parsons 3 and 2. Ambrose will play veteran Jeff Fallon, the No. 13 seed, who disposed of No. 20 Mike Bufalini 6 and 4.

And former champion Tim Phillips, the No. 6 seed, was also taken to the final hole before surviving against No. 27 Jim Nevers. Phillips is next matched against No. 22 Glenn Gleason, who knocked off No. 11 Joel Daily 5 and 4.

The only ex-champion to lose was No. 12 seed Toby Draper, who fell 4 and 2 against No. 21 Don Rutherford. Rutherford will next play No. 5 seed Paul Ahlgrim, a 6 and 4 winner against No. 28 Mike Donnelly.

The only other upset saw No. 23 Dan Mullin eliminate No. 10 Chadd Call 3 and 2. Mullin faces No. 7 Shawn Thomas, who beat No. 26 Josh Sullivan 2 and 1.

Brown’s next opponent is No. 15 Brian Phillips, a 4 and 3 winner over No. 18 Steve Widrick. Brown said his game wasn’t nearly as sharp as Saturday, but “was just good enough to survive and advance.”

Brown won three of the first four holes to seize an early advantage against Penn. But then came a string of five straight Brown bogeys on holes 5-9 as he watched Penn take a 1 up lead heading to the back nine.

Brown won 10 and 11 to go back on top, but then lost 12 and 13 to fall down a hole again. They were even through 15 and 16 before Penn hit his second shot to the 17th hole over the green and could salvage only a double-bogey 6 to go dormie.

Brown missed his birdie putt on 18, giving Penn a chance to draw even. But his 15 footer just missed, and Brown avoided the upset that befell medalist Steve Ahlgrim last year in the first round when both he and defending champion Ryan Clark were both ousted.

“I didn’t putt nearly as well today,” Brown said, “but I still hit the ball solidly. When the putts aren’t falling, it’s tough to pull away in match play.”

Said Penn: “I wasn’t happy with the way I qualified (shooting 83 to barely make the championship flight cut). But today I played a lot better and really had a chance on the final few holes.”

Bufalini shot a 2-under-par 34 on his front nine, then finished his match on 11 with another birdie against Laverty.

”A very solid day,’’ Bufalini said. “But it just gets tougher from now on, especially against Steve.”

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