WEST CHESTER, Pa. — Michael R. Brown, Jr. turned a potentially disastrous round into a triumphant one Friday. After staring at 4 over through five holes, the Maple Shade, N.J. resident played his next 13 in 5 under. The transformation meant a 1-under-par 70 on the scorecard and a victory in the 59th Tournament of Champions at Concord Country Club (par 71, 6,624 yards).
Old York Country Club at Chesterfield’s Ryan Siegler placed second at 71.
“It’ll be nice to go into the winter with a good round under my belt,” Brown, who won the Tournament of Champions in 2013 at Philmont Country Club, said. “It’s nice to have hung in there and finished strong down the stretch.”
A strong finish indeed. Brown, 43, bagged a birdie on the unsettling par 5, 565-yard 14th hole, knocking a wedge 73 yards to six feet. A sharp wedge from 101 yards on No. 16 (par 4, 440 yards), followed by 10-foot putt, yielded an identical result. Brown burrowed into red with an eagle on the uphill, 318-yard 17th hole. Deeming it reachable with a powerful drive, he pulverized one 10 yards shy of the putting surface. Brown then executed a low bump chip that darted 25 yards into the jar.
“It was the shot I was hoping to hit. It didn’t waver and it had good speed,” he said.
Brown’s back nine contrasted his front. A three-putt on No. 1 (par 4, 391 yards) and a skulled wedge on No. 2 (par 4, 325 yards) spurned bogeys. He flung a 3-wood into the water hazard on No. 5 (par 4, 370 yards), the catalyst to a disheartening 6. Brown started to plug the leaks by firing a birdie on No. 7 (par 4, 426 yards), where he hit a 6-iron 160 yards to five feet. The conversion triggered a sampling of encouragement.
“I thought with a couple of reachable par 5s on the back nine, it was possible to get it back down around par or maybe under par,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t say that got me jumpstarted, but I knew I wasn’t completely out of it at that point.”
Brown previously experienced Concord firsthand “five or seven years ago.” He relished a return.
“It was a treat,” Brown, the Association’s 2009 Middle-Amateur Champion, said. “It’s a lot different than what I remember. They did some really good work here. It’s a lot more traditional than it was before. The bunkers are placed properly. The conditions were immaculate.”
Upon the completion of his round, Brown raced to Jeffersonville Golf Club for the Philadelphia Publinks Golf Association’s Fall Classic. Save for Friday’s feverish festivities, his packed tournament schedule is drawing to a close. The 2016 campaign saw Brown fall in a four-hole aggregate playoff for the Middle-Amateur Championship presented by Callaway Golf. He will rank 10th in the William Hyndman, III Player of the Year standings thanks to Friday’s win.
“I had some good moments in GAP and in the Pennsylvania Golf Association. I was really disappointed with my results in USGA qualifying events,” Brown said of the 2016 tournament season. “Overall, I kind of have a bad taste in my mouth because those are the most important tournaments to me. The (GAP) Middle-Amateur was a good experience and a good memory because they’re two of my friends [Matthew Mattare and Matthew Finger]. It was a good year overall. I don’t want to put a bad spin on it.”
SENIOR AND SUPER SENIOR DIVISION
He’s the Don, Don.
White Manor Country Club’s Don Donatoni continued his fall tear Friday. The four-time reigning Super-Super Player of the Year drained a 15-foot downhiller for birdie on No. 1 (par 4, 369 yards) to defeat Fox Hill Country Club’s Robert Gill in a sudden-death playoff for the Senior (par 71, 6,262 yards) trophy.
Both players carded even-par 71s in regulation.
“It has been a heck of year, and a tremendous last month or two,” Donatoni, 68, of Malvern, Pa., said. “My bunker play was a little shaky early in the year. I worked on it hard and it paid off in critical situations. I was able to put it together at the right times.”
In the span of two months, Donatoni’s acquired the Super-Senior titles in the Senior Men’s North & South Amateur Championship, GAP Senior Amateur Championship, Sunnehanna Senior and Art Wall, Jr. Memorial.
On No. 1, Donatoni accounted for a lesson learned in regulation. He knocked a wedge from a similar distance (116 yards), only to see it peel off the green. In the playoff, he choked down on a 9-iron and carried it 126 yards. Donatoni poured the left-to-right slider in the center.
At White Manor, Donatoni holds 31 club championships (19 Men’s, 12 Senior). He won the Tournament of Champions (Senior Division) in 2010, but declined to participate since, citing end-of-season fatigue. Wins of late sparked a newfound energy and enthusiasm to return.
“I really wanted to play this year because I still know I can compete with the guys at the Senior level,” Donatoni said. “I didn’t expect to win, but that was the icing on the cake. To shoot even par and birdie the first [playoff] hole made it extra special.”
Spring Ford Country Club’s Steve Tagert will celebrate his 67th birthday tomorrow. He unwrapped an early present Friday, carding a 3-over-par 74 to earn the event’s Super-Senior (par 71, 5,811 yards) title.
“I struck the ball well. I think I missed two greens all day,” Tagert, of Collegeville, Pa., said. “I felt really good about my play.”
Tagert sketched a 1-under-par 35 on his inward tour. On the uphill par 3, 124-yard 11th hole, he stopped a 9-iron at four feet for a 2. He also birdied the 13th hole (par 4, 362 yards), sending a wedge 85 yards to six feet. Not too shabby, considering Friday marked Tagert’s second tournament of the season. He plans to increase the competitive workload in 2017, however. Tagert, president of Aqua America – Pennsylvania, will retire after 46 years of service.
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