It’s a shot that 2019 NJPGA/NJSGA Senior Open Champion Mark McCormick of Suburban will never forget.
Playing out of the left greenside bunker on the par 4, 17th hole, McCormick holed out from 30 feet, carding a birdie and propelling him to his first career NJPGA/NJSGA Senior Open title earlier today at the par 72, 6,564 yard Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson.
McCormick followed his stellar birdie on No. 17 with a par on No. 18 to complete his second round at one-under par 71. He was the only player to break par on Wednesday, as the challenging Metedeconk National played decidedly more difficult after the first round which saw four players under par.
The left-handed McCormick was in the clubhouse at even-par 144 for nearly a half hour, until he watched two-time champion Jim McGovern of White Beeches bogey No. 18 to seal the win. With his victory today, McCormick claimed his first “major” championship since the 2010 NJPGA Charity Clambake. He also won the NJSGA Open in 2008 at Alpine.
McCormick, 56 of Middletown, trailed McGovern by five shots entering the final round, but it was his back nine in the second round where he made his move.
Including his hole-out from the bunker on No. 17, McCormick birdied three of his final six holes. His birdies on the par 4, No. 13 and the par 3, No. 15 were also impressive. On No. 13, he hit a six iron from 155 yards to eight feet and made the putt. Two holes later, on the par-3, 177 yard No. 15, his tee shot with a five iron landed on the back fringe. He then sank a 30-foot birdie putt.
“Coming into today, I thought I had a chance, but I was still upset about how I finished Tuesday’s round. On my last nine holes, I had seven putts inside 10 feet for par or birdie and only made one. I was determined to finish it off better than the previous day and it happened.”
Two-time champion McGovern finished as runner-up at 145 (68-77) and was followed in third place at 146 by Brent Studer of Metedeconk National (73-73) and defending champion Frank Esposito of Forsgate (71-75). Jim Beadle of K-Motion Interactive placed fifth at 71-79-150, while Tom Hyland of Little Mill took low amateur honors at 76-75-151.
Beadle had gone to three-under-par for the championship following a birdie on the par-4 No. 10. After McGovern (who was paired with Beadle) bogeyed the par 3, No. 11 to Beadle’s par, Beadle had a two-stroke cushion which proved to be short-lived.
Beadle double-bogeyed the par-5 No. 12 and the par-4 No. 13 to hand the lead back to McGovern, at 1-under-par. As the round unfolded, McGovern could never build on his lead, adding another bogey on the par-3 No. 15 to bring him back to even par.
“I just could never find the rhythm in my putter. Yesterday (Tuesday), it was almost easy with the putter, but not today,” said McGovern, the former PGA Tour professional who won the event in 2015 and 2016 and was co-runner-up with Studer in 2018. McGovern missed birdie putts of 12 feet on No. 16 and 10 feet on No. 17. He faced a five-foot downhill par putt on No. 18.
“I knew the line was outside the hole, but my stroke was rushed and I missed it,” he said.
McCormick, en route to garnering the Emery Thomas Trophy, made some key adjustments before his second round.
“I pulled out a putting training aid and used it for 10 minutes before my round today,” said McCormick, who played in the 2012 U.S. Open. “I was taking my stroke back too far inside. I needed to take my swing straight back and then follow it straight through.
“It’s been so long since I won a tournament like this, going back to the NJPGA Clambake in 2010. I thought as I got older that these tournaments would get easier, but with all the good players in our section, they’ve only gotten tougher. It’s nice to win one.”