Merion’s Michael McDermott wins fourth career Middle-Amateur titleGREENVILLE, Del.–It was another magical Mid.-Am. for Merion’s Michael McDermott. The 38-year-old secured a record fourth career Middle-Amateur Championship title on Thursday at Fieldstone Golf Club (par 71, 6,638 yards) with a dazzling birdie on the final playoff hole against Pete Barron, III of Stone Harbor Golf Club. McDermott recorded 16 strokes in the four-hole aggregate playoff. Barron finished the playoff with 17 swings after carding bogeys on the final two holes, Nos. 17 (par 4, 434 yards) and 18 (par 5, 523 yards). Both players finished the 36 holes of regulation at even par.
“It was such a battle for two days. It’s such a tough course,” said McDermott. “The leaderboard was all over the place all day. There were moments when I was four back of Ray Thompson and he’s just playing perfect golf and I’m figuring he’s going to finish at 2 under and I have to do something miraculous. Then he had his unfortunate stumble. Then I have a feeling I can win it which I end up in a playoff. The playoff was such a roller coaster. Pete outplayed me. He did everything but win the playoff. And then I make that great birdie at the last. I’m very, very excited.”
McDermott, of Bryn Mawr, Pa., won his last Middle-Amateur in 2008, also at Fieldstone. His other titles came in 2001 and 2004. Barron was in search of his first GAP Major Championship. Barron’s only Association victory came in the 2012 Tournament of Champions.
Barron grabbed command of the four-hole playoff early when he knocked a pitching wedge from 110 yards on No. 9 (the first playoff hole, par 4, 443 yards) to 10 feet and made birdie. McDermott’s approach stopped long in the back rough. He made bogey.
Barron three strokes, McDermott five strokes.
Barron remained one stroke ahead thru two playoff holes after both players parred No. 16 (second playoff hole, par 3, 130 yards).
A pulled Barron tee ball on No. 17 (par 4, 434 yards) resulted in bogey, however. McDermott went first-cut rough and green and a two-putt par.
Barron 11 strokes, McDermott 12 strokes.
On No. 18, the final playoff hole, both players found the treacherous fairway bunker visible from the tee. McDermott escaped and caught a break when his second shot stopped short of the pot bunker in the center of the fairway. He had 146 yards to the flag. Barron, too, escaped, though up the left side of the fairway. He had 110 yards remaining from the light rough.
McDermott, playing first, cranked a wedge that stopped 12 feet left of the hole to a smattering of applause from onlookers. Barron sent a knock-down chip into the ridge of the massive green only to watch his ball trickle back into the fairway. Barron’s next pitch, too, came up short and rolled out into the middle of the green below the plateau of where the flag stood. His 25-foot par putt stopped four feet on the other side. McDermott staring at a 12-footer for the win watched his birdie run trickle over the front edge. A fist pumped ensued.
“It was the same exact putt, half the distance, but same putt I had an hour earlier to win the tournament,” said an elated McDermott. “Having that read earlier was really helpful.”
“I hit the ball well yesterday and today. I was very happy to end up in a playoff,” said Barron. “He had the same exact putt an hour earlier in regulation. I had a pretty good feeling he was going to make it. I was thinking just make par and see what happens in sudden death.”
McDermott carded a second consecutive even-par 71. Barron carded a 2-under 69.
It was topsy-turvy Day Two at Fieldstone under constant threatening skies and persistent winds. So much so, that a remarkable 11 players stood within three shots of the lead with less than nine holes to play.
Barron reached the clubhouse first. He birdied two of his final three holes to finish level. Barron, of Mays Landing, N.J., had a chance to apply even more pressure on the field with an eagle try on No. 18. He bombed a drive and subsequent 245-yard, 3-wood up the final hill and into the wind but watched his 25-foot putt at a 3 just roll past.
At age 61, Thompson of Overbrook Golf Club was looking to become the oldest Mid.-Am. winner in its 30-year history. Thompson led by as many as two shots at various points of the round; however, a pair of double bogeys and a triple bogey mid-way thru his final nine holes, derailed his chances.
McDermott birdied No. 14 (par 4 457 yards) after blasting an 8-iron from 166 yards to three feet to move to 1 over. Good birdie opportunities at Nos. 15 (par 4, 439 yards) and 16 (par 3, 130 yards) slipped through his fingers before he headed to the last hole in need of a 4 or better.
McDermott, too, blasted a drive and subsequent 4-iron from 240 yards to 25 feet. His eagle try sailed a few feet by but the birdie was good enough to force overtime.
“For a good chunk of the back nine I was two to four (strokes) back. I didn’t hear a word about Pete.
After I made birdie on No. 14, I thought I was at the lead at that point and those other putts were to take the lead. It turns out I needed that one more birdie to tie Pete,” said McDermott. “I did know that when I got to No. 18 in regulation. I can’t really play a golf hole any better than I played No. 18 in regulation today. A good drive and a good 4-iron up there with a reasonable try at eagle.”
McDermott’s final score was two shots better than the last time he won the title at Fieldstone.
Defending champion John Brennan of Philadelphia Cricket Club tied for 38th at 12-over-par 154.
Day One leader Joe April, also of Philadelphia Cricket, struggled early and never recovered en route to a final-round 83.
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 143 Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.
NOTES–The scoring average for Round 2 was 76.8. The Round 1 scoring average was 79.9.