McGuckin keeps truckin; RiverCrest member claims Christman Cup
PITTSGROVE, N.J. — Marty McGuckin entered the summer with two golf goals in mind: perform well in tournaments and prepare for college golf. The RiverCrest Golf Club & Preserve youngster is achieving both with flying colors.
McGuckin, runner-up in the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s Junior Boys’ Championship two weeks ago, filed a 3-under-par 141 to capture the 17th Christman Cup presented by GlobalGolfPost at a humid Running Deer Golf Club (par 72, 6,666 yards) Thursday. He was the only player to finish the 36-hole affair under par.
Spring Ford Country Club’s Benjamin Pochet, playing in his first GAP event, placed second at 144.
“I really wanted to win the Junior Boys’ (Championship) and I just ran into [David Colleran, Jr.], who played really well. I really wanted to win this championship to show that I can do it,” McGuckin, 18, of Valley Forge, Pa., said. “I’m really happy that I did. It was important to rebound.”
He pried a trophy from the rim and dunked it Thursday.
At a venue that preaches tee precision, McGuckin, a burly basher who favors ball-striking, put his driver on standby and focused on distance control to take command of the leaderboard. A driving 2-iron and 3-iron did the weightlifting throughout the day. McGuckin also ingested a Running Deer prescription: avoid fairway bunkers at all costs.
“If you hit it in the fairway bunkers here, you’re probably not going to make par unless you hit really good shots out of them,” he said. “You have to keep the ball in the fairway and you have to hit the ball on the greens. They’re very sloped, and some of the pins are tough to get up-and-down from.”
In the morning, McGuckin, who started on the back nine, birdied four of his last seven holes to emerge as the event’s 18-hole leader. On No. 3 (par 4, 365 yards), he knocked a 9-iron 142 yards to 15 feet. He walloped a 6-iron 233 yards to 15 feet on the par 5, 520-yard No. 5 and logged two putts for a 4. Tight approaches on Nos. 7 (par 3, 157 yards) and 8 (par 4, 392 yards) also led to red. He stopped a 9-iron at three feet on the first, a gap wedge 152 yards to a foot on the latter.
McGuckin held a two-stroke lead over Austin Barbin of the GAP Junior Players Club and Matt Graeff of Cedarbrook Country Club. That margin quickly ballooned to five. McGuckin’s chasers gave a few back while he started Round Two the same way he started Round One: by stuffing wedges for birdies. On No. 1 (par 4, 384 yards), he hit a lob wedge 106 yards to a foot. McGuckin used a gap wedge from 132 yards on No. 10 (par 4, 378 yards) in the morning. Same result.
As temperatures escalated into the mid-90s, the 78-player field struggled to keep pace. Pochet, 16, of Royersford, Pa., remained McGuckin’s closest threat at even par. He netted 14 greens per round, but only turned four into birdies on the day.
“My game is where I want it to be. ‘Was I going to make putts?’ was the only question coming into today,” Pochet, a rising junior at Spring-Ford Senior High School, said. “It didn’t really happen all day. On a hot day like this where you’re just going to get tired, mental mistakes are likely to happen. I had four bogeys and no doubles. I was really happy with how I performed out there.”
Through 27 holes, McGuckin, a Malvern Prep graduate, remained at 5 under. He encountered bunker trouble on No. 10 and made bogey after hopping from fairway to right greenside. With his wits in check, McGuckin birdied the next hole (par 4, 355 yards), cutting a 7-iron 167 yards to 25 feet — the putt swerving like a stunt driver in an avalanche.
“It was a putt that went left up the hill, right down the hill and then left at the end. I just poured it in the middle of the hole,” he said.
McGuckin relied on the guidance of good friend and caddie Tim Irvine to secure victory. Two bogeys coming in — a failed sand save on No. 15 (par 4, 340 yards) and a short-sided situation on No. 16 (par 3, 171 yards) — didn't seem to sting.
“It was nice to have Tim on my bag for me,” McGuckin, who will attend Temple University in the fall, said. “He helped me out with a lot of reads and club choices. He really kept me focused for the last nine. The second round was a lot more difficult mentally because I knew what I had to do to win, and the golf course was playing much harder because the greens were harder.”
McGuckin’s interest in competitive golf deepened when he earned a spot on the Malvern Prep golf team during his junior year. He worked on improving over the winter, his sights set on the collegiate level.
Thursday’s triumph is a sign he’s ready.
“Thirty-six holes is mentally tough on me and probably most kids,” McGuckin said. “You have to stay strong and focus. I think in college, it’s important to mentally be strong: focus on your targets, focus on the greens and focus on what you want to do with the ball.”
The Christman Cup is named in honor of J. Fred Christman, a longtime Director of Competitions for the Golf Association of Philadelphia who retired in January 2000.
Golf Association of Philadelphia