WESTERLY — After the first 18 holes of the Winnapaug Country Club championship on Wednesday, Austin Cilley found himself in a bit of a hole.
He was four holes behind defending club champion Karl Salia in the match-play event and with 18 holes remaining he could not afford to allow the deficit to grow much larger.
“I just tried to play for fairways and greens and try for par,” the 23-year-old Cilley said. “I wanted to play mistake free golf. I pared the first 13 holes of the second round.”
Those 13 pars pulled Cilley even with Salia. Cilley birdied No. 14 and 15 to go up two. Salia won No. 16, but they tied the final two holes as Cilley prevailed by one hole.
Cilley said he only had to three-put the final hole to earn the win. “The first putt went way too far past the hole, but the second was within a foot and he gave me the final putt,” Cilley said.
Cilley won the club championship in 2016, but lost in the quarterfinals in 2017.
Cilley finished his final season at Rhode Island College in the spring. He earned All-Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) and All-New England honors for the Anchormen. He led the team in scoring average with a 74.46.
Cilley finished second in the New England Intercollegiate Golf Association tournament last fall with a 68.
He won a tournament for RIC last fall and another in the spring.
Cilley graduated from Westerly High in 2013 and was the boys basketball all-time leading scorer then. He had a promising career in the sport cut short by a severe back injury his freshman season at RIC and then turned to golf.
Cilley will play in the Rhode Island Open on Aug. 14-15 and the Lake of Isles club championship Aug. 25-26. He will also be playing in the RIGA John B. Burke Memorial Tournament that concludes Oct. 9 and 10 at Newport Country Club and Wanumetonomy Golf and Country Club. Cilley shot a 71 at Shelter Harbor Golf Club in the first round in May. He is in second place.
“I want to see where the game of golf can take me,” Cilley said. “This is only my third year of putting in a full-time effort. Next year, I will do the amateur stuff again and see where it goes from there.”