NEWBURY, N.H. — One year ago, Nick McLaughlin (Far Corner GC – MA) drove home from the New England Amateur Championship in pain and wondered what his playing future would hold.
On Thursday, he was enjoying a moment that he never thought would become a reality. The 21 year old captured the Harry B. McCracken, Jr. Trophy at Baker Hill Golf Club by finishing with a winning score of 7-under par 281.
“I guess it came full circle,” said McLaughlin, who will be a senior at the University of Virginia in the fall. “To be almost having to withdraw last year and then struggling the rest of the summer and then coming all the way back here and winning is great.”
As a result of his victory, McLaughlin becomes only the fourth golfer in Massachusetts history to win both the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and the New England Amateur Championship in the same year.
He joins the distinguished company of Massachusetts Golf Hall of Famer Ted Bishop (1946), Jim Hallet (1982) and Jim Salinetti (1997, 2000).
History making was not top of mind with McLaughlin over the past 12 months, however, as he has been soley focused on rehabilitation and even sat out his spring collegiate season.
Since returning to tournament play this spring, he has now won three major tournaments – the Hornblower Memorial (May), Massachusetts Amateur Championship (July) and now the New England Amateur Championship.
“It changed my perspective on playing,” said McLaughlin. “When you can’t play you appreciate playing a little bit more even if you aren’t playing well. So maybe in five or ten years I will look back on it and it will be a good thing.”
He delivered more than just a good thing this week in Newbury where he was the only golfer in the field of 152 competitors who posted four under-par rounds. He entered the final day of play – which featured 36 holes – four strokes back of the lead.
The four-stroke deficit and the thought of another 36 holes on a hilly layout that was playing more than 7,000 yards all week long was daunting. After all, McLaughlin played 134 holes from Monday through Friday at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship the week prior.
“I didn’t know what I would have this week,” said McLaughlin. “I played so much last week. I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t touch a club on Saturday or Sunday, so I just wasn’t sure what I would get out of myself this week.”
Consistent play was the key this week for McLaughlin, especially on the final day. After the first 18 holes on Thursday, McLaughlin was still chasing the leaders including home-town favorite and second-round leader Joe Leavitt (Atkinson CC – NH) and Ben Balter (Weston GC – MA).
The turning point came on the 185-yard, par 3 17th hole. Both Balter and Leavitt suffered double bogies during the final round on that hole, while McLaughlin enjoyed his moment by draining a 45-foot birdie putt.
“Fortunately I played four really consistent rounds and finally got a putt to go on back nine on 17 when it really mattered,” said McLaughlin. “I guess when things are falling your way they keep falling your way.”
View results for New England Amateur Golf Championship