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Dawson Jones (MGA photo)
Dawson Jones (MGA photo)

Dawson Jones of Eagle Oaks recorded his third consecutive sub-par round on Canoe Brook Country Club’s North Course, Wednesday afternoon, as he came from behind to claim the 64th Ike MGA Stroke Play Championship Presented by Callaway.

Jones’ rounds of 69-70-70 landed the 21-year-old a 7-under 209 tournament total and a one-shot victory over Thomas La Morte of Knickerbocker, who shot 4-over 76 in the final round. MGA eClub – Hudson Valley member Nathan Han, who also had three sub-par rounds with 71-71-69, finished solo third at 5-under 211.

“It’s really exciting. I didn’t really think I had much of a chance, especially seeing how well Tom was playing coming into the last 18,” said Jones, who along with Ethan Ng trailed La Morte by five shots entering the final round. “But I grinded it out, just enjoyed myself out there and came out on top.”

Jones, a recent graduate of University of Rhode Island, played steadily over the two days, giving himself a chance even with La Morte racing out to a 10-under total through 36 holes. Despite the deficit, Jones remained poised and felt nothing to lose as he entered the final 18 on Wednesday afternoon.

“You figure, make as many birdies as you can to try and put the pressure on him,” Jones noted.

Jones played his opening nine in 1-over, but made a momentum-saving par putt on the par-four 10th.

“It was probably a 30-footer, a little right-to left up the hill,” said Jones. “I didn’t realize how important it was at the time, but after I made it, I was like, okay, maybe we can make a few birdies coming in.”

Just prior, Jones had checked the leaderboard, seeing that he was only within a couple shots of La Morte. Even as he came within striking distance, Jones remained focused on playing his own game and didn’t force his opportunities. “I just kept playing the same way, a few putts rolled in and it ended up working in my favor.”

After birdies on Nos. 12 and 13, Jones rolled in a long one—which ended up being his field-leading 15th for the championship—on the par-four 15th. “It was probably six feet left-to-right, a 25-footer or so and it just dropped in,” he said.

Jones remained steady coming in, tallying three consecutive pars to close and post 7-under.

La Morte made one final charge with a birdie on the par-four 17th, but when his second shot on the par-five 18th went left, trees blocked his approach. He punched to the front of the green, with his ensuing pitch to force a playoff coming up short.

“I’ve played well in these events over the years, and been close a lot of times,” said Jones, a former Met Junior champion who is pleased to add another MGA title to his resume. “It’s nice to get a stroke play one too. Match play is one thing, but stroke play you really have to stay in it and you can’t make any mistakes.”

The win was also special for Jones as it came with his dad on the bag. “It’s been 13 years he’s been caddieing for me,” he said. “I love having him on the bag. He keeps me going, especially when I’m getting mad out there and whatnot.”

Behind La Morte and Han, Sam Goldenring of Brooklake registered his third consecutive top-five finish in the Ike, tying fourth alongside Ng of Knickerbocker and Michael Stamberger of Manasquan River at 3-under 213.

Adam Xiao of Old Westbury, Christian Cavaliere of Mahopac, Darin Goldstein of Deepdale and Gray Barnes of Centennial rounded out the top-10—which are exempt for the 65th Ike at Country Club of Darien in Darien, Conn.—with 1-under 215s.

For the second straight year, Ng helped Knickerbocker earn the Ike Team Championship, which is contested concurrently with the Ike Championship and goes to the two individuals from the same club with the lowest combined score for 54 holes. Ng and La Morte finished at 10-under combined.

Canoe Brook Country Club, no stranger to hosting MGA championships, became the 17th club to host all three of the MGA’s majors—the Ike, Met Amateur and Met Open—as it welcomed the Ike for the first time.

ABOUT THE The Ike

The Ike tournament was founded in 1953 by Daily News sportswriter Dana Mozley and nurtured through the years by Mozley and former MGA President George Sands. Although always immensely popular, the event suffered during the late 1970s and early ‘80s after The Daily News dropped its sponsorship. In 1986, the MGA (with the financial support of MetLife) purchased the rights to the Ike. With the MGA’s involvement, the event regained its stature and quickly became the area’s premier stroke-play amateur event. The Ike today attracts more entries than any other MGA championship for individuals. The Ike is Open to male golfers who are members of an MGA member club. 54-hole stroke play championship with a cut after the first round.

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