DEMAREST, N.J. Mark McCormick, Head Professional at Suburban Golf Club, relied on steady drives and a solid putter to win the 88th NJSGA Open Championship today at Alpine Country Club. Perhaps a certain comfort factor with Tillinghast courses also helped. McCormick, whose home course is a Tillinghast design, was not intimidated by Alpine’s greens and was able to gauge their subtle, sweeping breaks better than anyone else in the field, recording only two three-putts all week.
With rounds of 70-73-71 for a two-under par total of 214, McCormick won his first New Jersey major championship by one stroke over a hard-charging Greg Farrow of Deerwood. The day began with McCormick and Brian Gaffney of Rumson and Brent Studer of Manasquan River in a three-way tie for the lead, and several other notable players like Mark Schaare, Frank Esposito, Jr., Chris Dachisen and Bill Britton just a few strokes behind. Gaffney struggled on the opening holes of his final round and ended up shooting 77, finishing at 220 (+4) and a tie for seventh place. Studer got off to a steady start but a triple bogey seven on the short 12th hole ruined his chances at winning; he finished at 221 (+5) and a tie for ninth place.
Greg Farrow, who began the day three strokes off the lead, carded one of only five sub-par rounds on the final day. With four birdies coming home, Farrow’s three-under par 69 earned him second place and was almost good enough to force a playoff. On the last hole, a 600 yard par-5, McCormick had to two putt from 35 feet for the win. His four-foot putt for par, and the win, tested every bit of his putting stroke. “See it. Feel it. Trust it,” he kept repeating in his head on every important shot.
The amateur contingent didn’t have its usual success in this Open Championship. Defending champion Brian Komline of High Bridge Hills was not in contention through the first two rounds, but a strong finish of 69 gave him a 220 total (+4) and a tie for seventh. Low amateur was Patrick Fillian of Jumping Brook, another Tillinghast course. Fillian closed with a two-under 70 and a total of 217, tying Esposito for third place. Chris Gold of Little Mill and Robert Cronheim of Twin Brooks eked out top ten finishes with their 221 totals.
For McCormick, this is the biggest win of his professional career. He came close to winning the State Open in 1996, losing in a playoff to Ed Whitman at Essex Fells. “I’ve always wanted to win the State Open,” McCormick said. “I was born in New Jersey, grew up here, went to school here and work here. I’m very proud to be the New Jersey Open champ,” he said. For the 45 year old PGA Professional, his only other significant victory was the 2001 NJPGA Charity Clambake at Rockaway River.
The C.W. Badenhausen Trophy was presented to McCormick, along with the winner’s check of $15,000, by Ben Del Vento of the NJSGA and Jeff Liebler and Merv Smith, representing co-title sponsors Lincoln Mercury and Prudential. Also on hand for the presentation ceremony were the son, grandson and great-grandson of Carl Badenhausen, who donated the Championship’s trophy.