Loch Nairn GC's Walker grabs Marston Cup in playoff
CONCORDVILLE, Pa. - Loch Nairn GC's Michael Walker knocked off Byron Whitman of Golden Oaks GC to capture the Marston Cup Monday at Concord CC (par 71, 6,611 yards).
"It feels great," Walker said. "I didn't expect it. There are a bunch of good players in this field. I'm real excited. To have my name on this cup with all of the players that have won this is a special feeling and something I'll always remember."
Walker isn't a stranger to sudden-death scenarios. He triumphed in the 2007 Tournament of Champions by edging Mike Owsik of Plymouth CC, Rich Pruchnik of West Chester G&CC and P. Chet Walsh of Philadelphia CC in a playoff at Coatesville CC.
Playing in the same group, both Walker and Whitman carded respective 1-under-par 70s in regulation. Walker, of Oxford, Pa., gave himself opportunities to score, but he couldn’t find the right formula with the flatstick.
“I hit the ball pretty good all day,” he said. “My irons were pretty solid. I just couldn’t make many putts today. I kept putting the ball in the wrong positions on the green. I didn’t capitalize on my better iron shots.”
Walker didn’t get off to the start he anticipated. He pierced his pitching wedge to 15-feet above the No. 2 (par 4, 312 yards) flagstick, rolled his birdie effort four feet by and missed the comebacker to save par. Walker, 42, responded by striking his pitching wedge 130 yards and by sinking a downhill 18-footer for birdie on No. 3 (par 4, 334 yards). A second blemish occurred on No. 5 (par 4, 370 yards) as Walker three-putted from 15-feet. Once again, however, he redeemed himself by posting an eight-footer for birdie on No. 6 (par 5, 560 yards) thanks to a gentle 30-yard sand wedge shot. Walker carded another red figure on No. 11 (par 3, 187 yards) after lacing his 5-iron to 10-feet. He just missed an uphill 12-footer for birdie on No. 12 (par 4, 442 yards).
“I’m proud of the way I played,” Walker said. “I hit the ball real solid. If I putted better, it could’ve been a real good round, but overall, I’m happy with the way I competed today.”
“I’ve been riding kind of a hot streak,” he said. “I was hoping that would carry over. This was a shot-maker’s course where you needed to control your tee shots, and I felt like I did that fairly well today. I made some opportune putts down the stretch to overcome some bad swings.”
A “bad bogey” on the par 4, 312-yard No. 2 temporarily cooled Whitman off. His approach sand wedge flew the green and he couldn’t get up-and-down. Whitman went on to card three birdies on his outward tour. His smooth 4-iron settled 15-feet from the No. 4 (par 3, 178 yards) flagstick, and converted a left-to-right breaker.
“That got me pumped up,” Whitman, 51, said.
Whitman stuck his wedge 30 yards to three feet on No. 6 (par 5, 560 yards). Another solid tee shot on a par 3 (No. 8, 170 yards) set Whitman up for his third red figure of the day. His full 7-iron stopped three feet from the hole location. Facing a tricky lie on No. 9 (par 4, 409 yards), Whitman pushed his 5-iron into the greenside bunker, blasted out to within 12 feet and missed the ensuing par putt. A three-putt bogey on No. 13 (par 4, 430 yards) brought Whitman’s scorecard back to the blue. His approach landed close to the left fringe. Whitman ran his birdie putt four feet by and failed to convert the comebacker.
“I misjudged it there, and didn’t hit the second putt as firm as I would’ve liked to. It broke a little right on me,” he said.
Whitman blocked his 5-iron right on No. 15 (par) directly into a tree. He pitched up to 15-feet and couldn’t save par. Sensing that he needed a strong finish, Whitman registered back-to-back red figures on Nos. 17 (par 4, 333 yards) and 18 (par 5, 508 yards). He nearly drove the No. 17 green. With a comfortable yardage into the hole location, Whitman knocked his sand wedge to 10-feet. Knowing where Walker stood on the leaderboard, Whitman fired his 5-iron just short of the putting surface. His chip halted 10-feet from the cup, and Whitman executed the under-par chance.
“It felt good to make a putt like that,” he said. "Today was great. This was my best finish in a GAP event."
It began with the Walker Cup Matches where Marston won two matches as the Americans successfully retained the Cup. Marston returned home to capture the Patterson Cup and Amateur Championship in successive weeks and, in doing so, earned the Silver Cross Award. In July, he took the Pennsylvania Amateur title and finished as the low amateur in the Philadelphia Open.
In September, Marston traveled to Floosmoor Country Club outside Chicago, Ill. for the U.S. Amateur. He rallied in the second round to defeat tournament favorite Bob Jones, 2&1, before knocking off Francis Ouimet in the semifinals. He stopped defending champion Jess Sweetser in the final on the 38th hole. In that four month span, he also captured the Merion Cricket Club championship and Pine Valley GC’s Crump Cup.
The tournament is limited to players 40 to 54 years of age with a 10.0 handicap index or lower.