Talamore’s Robinson wrangles 32nd Jock MacKenzie title in playoff
ORELAND, Pa. — Like an author flabbergasted by the last line penned, Ron Robinson dropped his instrument — a putter in this analogy — to the ground and blankly stared at the pages. A birdie putt to prolong his chances of winning the 32nd Jock MacKenzie Memorial hung on the lip for seven seconds, taunting the Talamore Country Club member.
When it finally tumbled in, Robinson exhaled, collected his pen and wrote the final chapter of his 2016 Junior campaign on the Golf Association of Philadelphia circuit. He defeated Woodcrest Country Club’s Noah Schwartz on the third playoff hole (No. 1, par 4, 347 yards) to win the Jock MacKenzie at a steamy Sandy Run Country Club (par 72, 6,370 yards) Monday. Both players carded 1-under-par 71s in regulation.
“It feels amazing. I feel like finally, my hard work, with all of the hours on the range, is paying off,” an ecstatic Robinson, 17, of Hatfield, Pa., said. “Recently, I really haven’t been playing under the pressure well. Today, I really wanted to play well.”
On the second playoff hole (No. 9, par 4, 324 yards), Robinson, a rising senior at North Penn High School, tattooed a drive to the left side of the fairway. He then flipped a wedge 30 yards to 12 feet above a front center hole location. Schwartz, also in the fairway, hit a 52-degree wedge 99 yards to 15 feet. With honors, he converted a left-to-right slider for 3, handing the pressure off to his opponent. In a matter of seconds, Robinson went from helpless to hopeful.
“I was thinking, ‘You worked your butt off for five hours, and you left it not even an inch short,’” Robinson said of the birdie attempt to match. “It was a good stroke, so I guess I could be happy with that. My face was in my hands and I heard it drop. It was awesome.”
“I thought his putt was four feet short honestly, and it just kept on going,” Schwartz, 16, of Cherry Hill, N.J., said. “When I saw it on the lip of the cup, I’m like, ‘It has to drop.’ And it did.”
Both players returned to No. 1, the third playoff hole, and promptly found the fairway. Schwartz, in between yardages at 115, flew the green with a toned-down pitching wedge. Robinson, thinking “hit the green, win the tournament,” adhered to his inner-dialogue, knocking a sand wedge 107 yards to 25 feet. Schwartz ran his downhill chip 12 feet by and missed the comebacker. A safe two-putt assured Robinson a victory.
“I wanted to win the tournament and also win the Harry Hammond Award. That was important to me,” he said. “I felt like if I could make a couple of birdies, I could win this award.”
He made four, to be exact.
Robinson trailed playing partner Marty McGuckin of RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve by two strokes entering the award’s final leg. Both stood tied at 255 through 63 holes before Robinson accelerated into the winner’s circle.
The Harry Hammond Award is given to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the Junior Boys’ Championship Qualifier, the Christman Cup and the Jock MacKenzie.
Robinson’s flatstick, on base throughout the day, finally drove in a few runs. On No. 14 (par 4, 403 yards), he drilled a 6-iron 175 yards to 20 feet and poured it in the center. Robinson powered a 3-wood 240 yards onto the par 5, 487-yard 15th hole’s lower shelf, ran his eagle attempt eight feet by and made the comebacker. A snap-hooked drive on No. 16 (par 4, 375 yards) nearly spoiled the red rhythm, but Robinson, following a fortunate kick, smacked a sand wedge 105 yards to 12 feet for 3. Knowing he needed one more to bump then-clubhouse leader Stephen Lorenzo of Manufacturers Golf & Country Club, Robinson parted the fairway with a safe 3-iron. He then slung an 8-iron 150 yards to 25 feet. The straightway birdie, sprinkled with the proper dose of speed, induced a fist pump reflective of Tiger Woods.
“All day I was feeling the putter. I felt like I was playing a lot better than my score,” Robinson said. “I felt like if I just hit the ball onto the green, I could make a putt. I wasn’t hitting my approaches overly close; I was just finally getting the speed, and the putts were going in.”
Conversely, Schwartz, a rising junior at William Penn Charter School, bogeyed three of his last five to fall into a deadlock. He lipped out a five-footer for par on No. 17 (par 4, 386 yards) and a six-footer on No. 16 (par 4, 375 yards) Schwartz did birdie the 15th hole after lifting a 30-yard chip to four feet. However, Schwartz, who led the tournament at 3 under following a chip-in birdie on No. 12 (par 3, 161 yards), found trouble on No. 14. A poor drive forced a punch-out. Standing 30 yards from the flagstick, Schwartz coddled a chip to six feet and left the par putt in the heart. A birdie opportunity presented itself on No. 18 after Schwartz sent a choked down 9-iron 135 yards to eight feet above the hole location. The speed was there; the line a hair off as his golf ball took a 360-degree turn out of the jar.
“There was a lot of good from today, and a few bad,” Schwartz said. “I played pretty well. This is my first time shooting under par in a tournament. Ron’s a really good player. I knew the playoff with him was going to be tough.”
Monday almost never happened for Robinson. He missed a four-footer for birdie on his last hole in an AJGA qualifying event at Huntingdon Valley Country Club over the weekend. Had that putt dropped, Robinson may have been elsewhere Monday.
“If I got into [the AJGA Philadelphia Junior], I don’t know what I would have done. I’m so happy that I didn’t get in,” he said.
“I was very happy with how I played yesterday. I was hoping it would carry over into today, and it did,” Isztwan, 13, of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., said. “I just tried to make as many pars as I could. I think I succeeded in that.”
Isztwan, an incoming eighth grader at Penn Charter, points to the par 4, 328-yard 13th hole as a highlight. He hit an uphill 7-iron 125 yards to nine feet and logged two putts for par.
Two weeks ago, he and clubmate Brett McGrath joined forces to take the Junior-Junior title in the Francis X. Hussey Memorial. McGrath finished tied for second at Sandy Run.
Jock MacKenzie served as Sandy Run Country Club’s head professional for more than three decades. The Memorial tournament, which originated in 1985, is named in his honor. It is open to Junior golfers — both male and female — from GAP Member Clubs. Sandy Run hosts the event each year.
Golf Association of Philadelphia