BAITING HOLLOW, N.Y. (Aug. 10, 2008)--The Met Amateur is one of the most difficult championships to win, as the champion must survive two rounds of stroke play qualifying and then win four matches. Tommy McDonagh, 19, of Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk, Conneceticut, has now won it twice, and his comfort with the format showed in a convincing 6 & 5 victory in the 36-hole final match of the 106th Met Amateur against Joe Saladino of Huntington Country Club.
McDonagh and Saladino were the only players to break par in the 36-hole stroke play portion of the championship on Thursday, and each won three matches to set up a highly anticipated final between two of the best amateurs in the Met Area.
Saladino, 28, has had an outstanding 2008 season, with wins in the Hochster and Havemeyer Memorials earlier in the year as well as a successful attempt to qualify for the U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst later this month.
McDonagh just completed his freshman year at Penn State, and is gearing up for having a major role on the golf team this coming year. This is now the second MGA major win in a row for a Penn State golfer, as Kevin Foley captured the Ike Championship in June at Mountain Ridge.
Sunday's final began at 7:30 this morning under crystal-clear skies, and the two players got off to strong starts. Saladino pulled ahead with a 1-up lead after McDonagh faltered with a bogey on the par-five seventh hole.
However, the youngster would bring the match back to all square with a pinpoint tee shot on the par-three 10th hole that led to a birdie putt that was conceded by Saladino.
McDonagh took control of the match on the last five holes of the morning round, winning the 14th, 15th and 17th to take a three-up lead at the break.
“I was relieved to have that lead,” said McDonagh. “I know how good a player Joe is and I figured I’d need it if I was going to go on and win.”
The crowd of spectators was impressed by a few of McDonagh’s aggressive plays.
“My caddie and I decided that I’m not that good at laying up and playing conservative," he said. "I kept hitting driver as many times as I could and just decided to keep my game plan the same.”
Saladino is the leader in the 2008 MGA Player of the Year points race, but today there would be no comeback on the second 18. McDonagh extended his lead to 4-up on the 25th hole after Saladino was just short of the par five in two and took three to get down after getting an unlucky break with his first putt. It climbed the steep hill toward the hole but made a horseshoe and went back down the ridge on the other side.
On the downhill, 390-yard four ninth hole (the 27th of the match), McDonagh blasted a drive that ended up nearly hole-high but on the adjacent first tee. Saladino, who was in perfect position in the middle of the fairway, hit his wedge shot first, but it spun back off the plateau where the hole was located and Saladino three-putted from the front of the green.
McDonagh, meanwhile, hit a pitch shot onto the green and two-putted to take a commanding five-up lead. Following another Saladino three-putt on the 28th hole, McDonagh held his game together and closed out the 6 & 5 win on the par-four 13th hole (the 31st of the match) when both players made par.
“This is exactly what I needed going into school,” said McDonagh. “That was the most important aspect of my summer, to get my swing grooved and get my putting stroke back to where it should be. And I’ve accomplished that. I’m very confident right now going forward.”
Saladino was gracious in defeat.
“Tommy played really well, and I just didn’t hit shots the way I had been," he said. "The putter let me down a few times, too. That’s just golf. Some days you have it and some days you don’t.”
Saladino will take the positives from this week into the 106th U.S. Amateur Championship, which begins on Monday, August 18 at Pinehurst Resort.
McDonagh’s win represents the seventh Met Amateur victory for a member of Shorehaven Golf Club, who have had three players win this championship: Jerry Courville Sr. (two wins), Jerry Courville Jr. (three wins), and now two wins by McDonagh.
McDonagh will be in the field when the 93rd Met Open Championship begins on Tuesday, August 19 at the Country Club of Fairfield in Connecticut.
View results for Metropolitan Golf Association Amateur Golf Championship