BALTIMORE, Md. — All the forces seemed to be aligned in favor of Dan Falls.
The Manor Country Club member reeled off a second successive 68 for a 36-hole total of 136, and won the 29th Maryland State Mid-Amateur Championship at the Elkridge Club in Baltimore, August 11.
Playing in the final group, Falls was bracketed by first-round leader Andrew Rice, of Baltimore CC (67), and two-time defending champion Jeff Castle, Eagle's Nest CC (69). It was still tight after 27 holes, as Rice and Falls were tied, two ahead of Castle. Two early back-nine bogeys dropped Rice back and although both birdied the 16th (Falls' second shot hit by the cup and spun back 20 feet, from where he holed the putt), he still trailed by one.
A 90-minute rain delay interrupted the chase and when they went back out, Falls made a great par save to keep from a possible three-way tie with early finisher Billy Wingerd (137) and Rice. At the 180-yard 17th, Falls put his tee shot into a green-side bunker with its wet sand and despite being short-sided, he came out to 15 feet and sank it.
At the par-5 18th, Falls two-putted for par and Rice, faced with a 12-footer to tie, left his putt just short. Castle had taken himself out of it earlier, as he trailed by two at the break and at 18, attempting to make it up -- yes, the long hitter was thinking about an eagle-3 at the 590-yard test -- but he blocked his tee shot, encountered trouble trying to hit a 3-wood shot through some trees and it led to a double-bogey, a last-round 71, a 36-hole total of 140, and a sixth-place tie with Ray Sheedy.
Falls, whose previous MSGA victory came in a Junior Boys event in the early 1990's, capped a rejuvenation process with this popular victory, but it was a work-in-progress. "I'd won a couple of college tournaments while at Furman, but nothing since, and I started back last year, putting more work into my game." Helping chip away the rust was teaching professional John Scott Rattan.
"He helped me tremendously with a swing change and my short game," Falls said, pointing to last October when he finished solo fifth in the Middle Atlantic Amateur, then played well for the Middle Atlantic side in the annual Mason-Dixon Matches.
Of his Mid-Am triumph, he said, "It had been awhile since I'd been in contention and I embraced the opportunity." Falls put some pressure on his playing companions with five front-nine birdies, but also had two bogeys (missed greens) before settling into a comfort zone that produces a birdie, a bogey, and seven pars on the closing nine. Rice made it a little easier for awhile with those two early last-nine bogeys, but then he matched Falls birdie at the 16th to get back in the hunt.
Rice and Wingerd were followed by early leader Larry Storck, from Hayfields CC, as he put up the tournament's low round, 66, a figure later matched by Wingerd. Brandon Cigna, from Manor CC, shot 70-68--138 to tie Storck for fourth. The round by Storck, 57, included seven birdies and marked the first time he had birdied all four par-3 holes in a tournament round. Wingerd, 31, also had seven birdies, but a missed birdie putt from just outside 15 feet turned out to be more critical and left him shaking his head.
Falls' winning total was one stroke off the tournament record, set by Chris Baloga (66-69) at Holly Hills CC in 2009. Other 136's were posted by three-time titlist Terry Burke, who did it twice, and Moose Brown, in 2003. Burke holds the single-round record of 64.
Next year's Mid-Am will be held at CC at Woodmore in Mitchellville.
View results for Maryland Mid-Amateur Golf Championship