PITTSFIELD — It has been a long way back for Wahconah’s Pat McLaughlin. On Monday, he could put a lengthy battle with Lyme Disease in the rearview mirror when he won the Western Massachusetts Division II individual golf championship.
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Division 2 West Sectional Golf Championship
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“It’s everything right now,” McLaughlin said, after posting a 3-over-par 75 at Berkshire Hills Country Club, to earn a one-shot victory over three players, including Taconic’s Nate Murphy and 2019 champion Matthew Garrity of Southwick.
“Especially after this year. It’s been such a rough year,” he said. “Where I am right now is great, it’s a great feeling. I had to go to the hospital every day for weeks. I had a huge brace. I could barely walk for months. After a long eight or nine months, I could actually start swinging a club. Just to be here now is just great.”
McLaughlin, who shot 83 in the Berkshire Classic on this course a week ago Sunday, said that when the alarm clock went off Monday morning, he was feeling pretty good, and thought he had a chance to win it all.
“Yes. If I stayed focused, played my game and stuck with it the whole time,” the Wahconah sophomore said, “I think I would have had a real chance of coming in [first].”
The tournament was played with cooler-than normal temperatures and some periodic showers. A more consistent rain blanketed golfers as they played their final three holes.
The win by McLaughlin marked the second time in the last three years that a Berkshire County golfer has won the Division II gold medal. Hoosac Valley’s Henry Sniezek won the title in 2018 and finished second to Garrity in 2019. It also marked the first Western Mass. Division II title for a Wahconah golfer since Nate Dos Santos claimed the 2017 championship.
McLaughlin’s two playing partners, Garrity and Patrick Ginnity of St. Bernard’s were one stroke back at 76, as was Taconic’s Murphy. Murphy, playing on his home course, started on the second hole. He had a double-bogey on the par-5 15th hole, but parred the final four holes to stay within a shot of McLaughlin. Both McLaughlin and Murphy are among the 11 golfers from this tournament to qualify as individuals.
“This one’s definitely going to hurt. I feel like I left some shots out there,” said Murphy, “but onto states we go.”
Leominster, moving to the Western Massachusetts section from its former Central Mass. home, shot a 324 to claim the championship in its first try. Leominster was three shots ahead of Southwick, the same school that finished second to Hoosac Valley back in 2019, the last time there was a Western Mass. Tournament.
The top three teams earn their way to the state tournament as do the top eight golfers, with ties. That is why there are 11 individuals who qualified.
Wahconah shot a 335, finishing fourth. The Warriors were one stroke behind third-place Belchertown.
“I think our boys played pretty well,” Wahconah coach Pete Terpak said. “I’m really happy for Pat. That’s tremendous. He kept a great attitude all day and shot a 75. That’s tremendous. I’m really impressed with Brady Breitmaier coming in with an 81. Our team over here, we have a lot of sophomores and freshmen. I think we have a very young team and it’s up and coming.”
McLaughlin and Murphy will head to Sandy Burr Country Club in Wayland a week from Tuesday for the MIAA state Division II championship.
McLaughlin, Garrity and Ginnity started at the first hole, as the tournament used a shotgun start. McLaughlin was third in his threesome, three strokes behind Garrity, as they made the turn onto No. 10.
McLaughlin went par-birdie to start his back nine, and any lingering doubts were gone. He said he hit a good drive in the fairway on the 364-yard, par-4 hole. He said his approach to the hole landed about five feet from the stick, and he was able to make birdie.
“That birdie on 11 was a big momentum booster,” he said. “The front nine, I kind of lost it a little bit. My putting wasn’t so good. After making that birdie on 11, I was good from there.”
McLaughlin bogeyed 12 and 13, but birdied 14 and 15, before closing out with three straight pars to shot 1-under 36 on the back nine and come in at 75.
Ginnity was steady over 18 holes, shooting 38 on the front and another 38 on the back for his 76. The reigning Western Mass. champion, however, had some issues on the back nine.
After making four pars and a birdie to make the turn at 1-over 36, Garrity could not find a birdie on the back nine. He had six pars and three bogeys, including one on the par-5 15th, to shoot 40 for his 76.
“My short game was really good all day, but then it started falling apart on the back nine,” Garrity said. “I was getting a little nervous about how the round was going. It happens, so I kept grinding it out.”
Murphy, who beat Lenox’s Devan Patel by two strokes in the Berkshire Classic, made the turn in 1-over-par 36, thanks to a birdie on the par-4 sixth hole. But Murphy had a double-bogey 7 on the 15th, which proved to be the difference.
“I putted good. I just didn’t make enough putts to win the tournament,” he said. “My last few holes coming in down the stretch, it was tough. It was raining, cold, windy. I stayed through and stuck with it.”
Breitmaier and Timmy Kaley (84) finished inside the top 20 for Wahconah. As did Taconic’s Camdyn McKillop (82).
(Top 3 teams qualify for states)
1. Leominster 324, 2. Southwick 327, 3. Oakmont 334, 4. Wahconah 335, 5. Belchertown 336, 6. St. Bernard’s 338, 7. (tie) Pope Francis and Tantasqua 343; 9. Quabbin 347, 10. Hampshire Regional 357, 11. Taconic 364, 12. Hopkins Academy 416.
(Top eight finishers and ties qualify)
1. Pat McLaughlin, Wahconah, 75; 2. (tie) Matthew Garrity, Southwick, Patrick Ginnity, St. Bernard’s, and Nate Murphy, Taconic 76; 5. Luke Grebinar, Leominster 77; 6. Jesse Johnson, Southwick 78; 7. (tie) Jaelyn DeBoise, Pope Francis, Jon Gastonguay, Oakmont, Levi Zelinski, Hampshire Regional, Andrews Morris, Southwick, and Aubyn Phillips, Tantasqua 79; 12. (tie) Cody Julsonnet, Leominster, Ryan O’Neil, Belchertown and Ryan Shea, Oakmont 80; 15. Brady Breitmaier, Wahconah 81; 16. Camdyn McKillop, Taconic 82; 17. (tie) Brayden Fennessey, Hampshire Regional, Colin McGrath, Tantasqua, and Daniel Simons, Leominster 83; 20. (tie) Timmy Kaley, Wahconah, James Curtis, Oakmont, and Patrick LeBlanc, Leominster 84.
Wahconah (335) — Pat McLaughlin 75, Brady Breitmaier 81, Timmy Kaley 84, Sam McLaughlin 95; Carter Drake 99; Nick Salinetti 125.
Taconic (364) — Nate Murphy 76; Camdyn McKillop 82; Cam LaFerniere 96; Jackson Moellur 110; Dom Hall 117.