Photo Gallery | MGA Amateur Public Links Championship
WILLIAMSTOWN — As Matt Cowgill approached the tee at No. 17 during a sudden-death playoff against Cody Booska, he needed to conquer the hole (modeled after the Road Hole at St. Andrews) that he just bogeyed during regulation.
Cowgill used strong play on the front nine to move toward the top of the leaderboard, but hitting a tee shot out of bounds on 17 was one of the few blemishes of his round.
This time, with the championship on the line, his tee shot stayed true and it was Booska who hit his tee shot into the leaves. Booska's penalty was too much to overcome, as Cowgill tapped home a birdie putt to clinch the MGA Amateur Public Links Championship on Monday at the Waubeeka Golf Links in a playoff that took three holes.
"It's a tough hole," Cowgill said of No. 17. "It's a tough hole for a playoff."
Cowgill started Day 2 four shots behind the leader, but he caught fire on the front nine. After a bogey on hole No. 3, he reeled off a stretch of two birdies and an eagle on holes 4, 5 and 6, respectively. He finished with birdies on seven and eight, before shooting par on nine. He shot 1-under par for the back nine. He finished Day 2 at 4-under par, with an overall score of 3-under 139 for the tournament.
"I had a great front nine. I got on a stretch where I was 6-under through five holes," he said. "I stumbled a little on the back [nine]. Tee ball hurt me a little bit. I got out of position, but I hung in there and made a couple putts."
The James Madison University golfer credited his father, Richard, with helping him stay calm through the intensity of the playoff.
For Booska, he said he took a risk off the tee at 17, deciding to go long over a bunker along the left side. But he tried a little too hard, pulling the shot right and into the trees.
"You need to hit it pretty good to get over the bunker, so I was telling myself — 'let's try to get over this to get a good shot at the green and a par,'" he said.
"I tried to find an extra gear, for whatever reason. I probably shouldn't have, but you can't do anything about it now. I tried to swing a little hard and it went way right. I knew it right when it hit it."
Booska finished Day 2 at 1-under par.
James Patterson, currently of Tekoa Country Club and formerly of Worthington Golf Club, finished with a 1-over 143 for the tournament. He tied for seventh.
The high-pressure situation of the playoff caused Booska to take a high-risk approach, and Day 1 leader Herbie Aikens also felt the pressure of his competitors coming for the spot atop the leaderboard. Aikens held a one-shot lead after Sunday, however, an even-par front nine brought him back to the pack.
He had a chance at an eagle putt on 17 before falling short and settling for par. He went for a birdie chip-in on 18 as well, which also fell short. He finished the day at 1-over par, putting him in a tie with John Clancy for third at 2-under 140 overall.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't add a little bit of pressure," Aikens said of entering Day 2 with a lead. "You get the feeling on the first tee that it's your tournament to lose. Sometimes it's more comfortable to come from behind. ... I've done it before and been able to hold the lead.
"Today, putting let me down and I wasn't super, super sharp with my ball-striking, which it normally is."
Cowgill said the greens played a little fast, but Aikens' problem with putting may have been a result of a new grip he's trying. Aikens is putting cross-handed now, and he even got some instruction from Champion Tour player Fran Quinn, father of 20th-place finisher Owen Quinn, to help him work through the kinks. Aikens said he'll continue to work on his new technique.
As golfers depart the Berkshires after a weekend on the links, Waubeeka owner Mike Deep said he was happy with the turnout of the tournament. He said hosting an MGA event is a big step in the grand plans he has for a course he saved from closing almost two years ago.
"We're so fortunate that the MGA selected Waubeeka," he said "It's a real honor for them to consider us.
"I'm extremely happy. I think we lived up to the billing. I think we've got 120 new ambassadors for the golf course."
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252