ROCKVILLE, Md. (Oct. 7, 2018) – Michael Brennan seems to make birdies in bunches. He made two at the most critical point of the final round of the 112th Middle Atlantic Amateur championship at Lakewood Country Club on Sunday.
The 16-year-old from Leesburg, Va., started the last round of the 72-hole event with a three-stroke lead on Gordon Brixi and Billy Wingerd. At the turn he still was three ahead of Brixi while Wingerd had dropped back. A Brixi birdie and a Brennan double-bogey produced a three-shot swing at the 10th, and the two were tied.
Brennan promptly untied it with successive birdies and went on to shoot 72 for a 283 total, beating runner-up Brixi by four strokes. In the process, the winner became the first to win two straight titles (he set a record as the youngest champion, 15, last year) since Deane Beman won in 1962-63. For the tournament, there were five who did it in the first 56 years and none in the last 56 until this one.
At No. 10, Brixi made a 60-foot birdie putt ahead of Brennan three-putting for double-bogey when he had a 10-foot putt straight uphill, was off a couple of feet, and then missed again when his “horseshoe” spun around and came back at him.
Not to worry. He birdied the 11th from 12 feet, struck a 9-iron shot to three inches at the 12th. Brixi eased his path with three successive three-putts down the stretch.
“I’ve had a coach working with me with what he calls an “attitude rating” system, helping me to stay positive [in tough situations],” Brennan, a Tuscaurora High School junior, said later. “I’d had trouble before [getting upset] and this was a good time to show improvement. I had three 3-putts — 9, 10, and 13 — but overall my putting is much improved over the last couple of years. He [his coach] has me pointing my attitude forward.
He will play in the Virginia State High School championships on Oct. 8.
Wingerd, 35 and in the event for only the second time, played the last two rounds with the two contending teenagers, and said of Brennan, “He hits it long and straight, keeping it in play from tee to green, and he’s confident in what he’s doing.”
Jeff Long, from Ashburn, Va., the third-place finisher, partnered with Brennan in qualifying for the 2019 U.S. Four-Ball championship.
“He doesn’t get in much trouble and he makes a lot of birdies,” Long said. “He can get on those runs [like eight third-round birdies]. He shot 63 in the Virginia State Open two years ago. He’s got the shots and he can control them.”
Long, 31, who works at R.T. Jones Golf Club in Gainesville, Va., finished with 73. He was the second-low amateur in the Virginia State Open earlier this year but said he had only played in the Amateur once, maybe 10 years ago.
“It just worked out this time.”
Scott Shingler, from Haymarket, Va., who lost a playoff to Pat Tallent 20 years ago and another to Brennan last year, tied for fourth this time, closing with 76.
Of the record 14 juniors who made the cut, aside from the top two, the next two were Tommy Morrison, 14, a 6-foot-7 Pinehurst (N.C.) resident, in 11th and Josh Duangmance, 13, from Fairfax, Va., in 14th. He turns 14 on Oct. 10.
ABOUT THE Middle Atlantic Amateur
54-hole stroke play championship. The field is cut to
the low 60 scores and ties after round two. Open to
members of member clubs of the Middle Atlantic
Association, and by invitation.
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