BREWSTER, Mass. (Sept. 25, 2012) -- Sometimes the ability to make pars under even the worst of conditions wins championships.
That was certainly the case for Joe Walker (Dennis Pines GC), who gutted out a hard-fought victory at the 2012 Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship, which was held this week at Cape Cod National Golf Club.
Facing wind gusts of nearly 30 miles per hour on Tuesday, Walker found a way to stay out of trouble and card a winning score of even par 144.
He finished three and four strokes ahead of his playing partners today, Kevin Carey (Dennis Pines GC) and Joe Keller (Oyster Harbors), respectively.
"This ranks pretty high, but unfortunately I am still grappling with the fact that I am a senior," said Walker of his first MGA Championship victory. "But honestly any victory is a rare event and you better cherish it and I do."
A self-professed "par maker", Walker stayed close to the leaders all day long.
"I have to admit that I enjoyed seeing wind because par was going to be a very good score," said Walker. "I am not going to be able to shoot birdies the way some of these guys can make six or seven birdies on a good day on a calm golf course so I liked the fact that par was going to be a good number. And I happened to make a couple of putts myself which I don't normally do."
With three bogies and two birdies on his scorecard through 10 holes, Walker was trailing Keller heading to the 11th tee. It was there where the complexion of the entire championship changed.
With the wind gusting in their faces, Walker somehow managed to make par while his playing partners suffered a much different fate.
"It was hard to figure the wind and Joe actually backed off of his shot two or three times," said Walker. "I finally just grabbed a club and I said that I might as well commit to a club because I wasn't sure about the wind. I made a committed swing - probably one of my better swings of the day - right at the hole and made a solid par."
Keller made a double bogey and Carey carded a triple bogey to give Walker his first lead of the event. It was a lead that he would not relinquish.
"That was Joe's only bad swing of the day and Kevin was in trouble off the tee," said Walker. "We got up to that next hole which was very difficult and we all striped it right down the middle again. It sent a message that you better keep hitting good golf shots."
Walker clearly paid attention to that message.
From that point he was unstoppable and unflappable. He made three straight pars and then put an exclamation point on his victory by making back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th holes. He first drained a 20 footer on the 527-yard, par 5 15th hole and then stuck his approach on the 151-yard, par 3 16th hole to eight feet.
"It definitely was a struggle at times, but we were all playing very good golf," said Walker. "We were hitting a lot of good shots and there were very few strays. When you see nothing but good golf shots, it gets you in the mind set to hit good golf shots."
And hit good golf shots is what he did to earn himself his first MGA Championship victory.
The 2012 Super Senior
For the second straight year, Dave Houghton (Captains GC) can call himself the Super Senior Division champion.
Houghton, who last year won the divisional title by an eight-stroke margin, continued his dominance this week by posting a final score of 9-over par 153. He finished seven strokes ahead of Jim D'Ambrose (Thorny Lea GC), who carded a 16-over par 160.
"I just wanted to hit it solid and make some shots," said Houghton, who is 68 years old. "I know that there is a lot of great competition out there and I was hoping that maybe I could do better, but I am happy with where I am given my old age."
What makes Houghton's latest victory so impressive is the fact that he has not played the game since late June. For the past nine weeks, Houghton and his wife have been living on their boat. It was only last week when he took part in a practice round to prepare for this week's Championship.
"Since I haven't played a lot this year it was interesting trying to get back into the frame of mind to stay in the current place," said Houghton. "I hit some funky shots and got some up and downs in which normally isn't a strong part of my game. I am usually a fairways and greens guy, so it was fun."
Although he did not finish with a birdie on Tuesday, Houghton's play was steady and even earned him a T7 finish overall.
"I am a late bloomer that's what it is," said Houghton with a laugh about his Super Senior success. "I love the golf course and it is in great condition. The greens were a real challenge, so I was just trying to keep it front of me and try to remember how to play."
View results for Massachusetts Senior Amateur Golf Championship