Grant Sturgeon Wins Met Open

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (August 21, 2014) –  Winged Foot assistant professional Grant Sturgeon claimed his first MGA title today at Trump National Golf Club – Bedminster’s Old Course, winning the 99th Met Open by three strokes with a 54-hole total of 7-under par 209. Sturgeon played consistent golf during the championship and stayed under par with rounds of 70-68-71. Sturgeon went into the 54th hole with a two stroke lead, and as he was walking down the fairway on his final hole, Mr. Donald Trump kept a close eye on him and described him in one word, unflappable.

“I don’t think golfers are ever unflappable,” the former Oakmont assistant pro said. “We’re nervous most of the time when we play competitive golf, I wouldn’t say you ever get used to it but you actually enjoy it. It’s why we play and practice, to feel that way.”

While Sturgeon may not have realized how steady he seemed, Mr. Trump and the rest of the large gallery on hand could see it from a mile away. Sturgeon double bogeyed his second hole of the day, but that didn’t stop him from fighting back, staying relaxed and putting himself on an elite list of past Met Open Champions.

“I don’t play golf at a level where I don’t make double bogeys,” the 35-year-old said. “That was one of many I have made this year, I just tried to remind myself let’s not lose the tournament on this hole.”

Sturgeon settled down after that hole and carded a 1-over 37 on his front nine. After another bogey on the 11th, everything changed on the par 3 14th. He nearly dunked it in the hole and cleaned it up for birdie. It was on the 15th hole that he caught up to Mike Ballo Jr. of Woodway, after Sturgeon made a birdie to get him to 6-under. Sturgeon took the lead on the par 3 16th after he made his third straight birdie to put him at 7-under. 

“You don’t really know when you’re in the zone and when you’re not, but both of those shots [on 14 and 16] came off absolutely perfect,” he said. “Those were sorely needed at that point and I was fortunate to come through.”

All he would have to do after that was make two straight pars, even though amateur Cameron Young of Sleepy Hollow and co-leader after the second round Ballo were still right on his heels.

“[On 17] I was still trying to make birdie,” he said. “On 18 I was just trying to make par, I figured if Cameron made an eagle to tie then hats off to him.”

Ballo, a two-time Ike champion, struggled on 17 with a double bogey. He made a par on 18 and finished his round with a 3-over 75, putting him at 3-under for the tournament and finished tied for fourth.

Sturgeon is fairly new to the Met Area, he has been at Winged Foot for just two years and is a native of Kentucky. He flew under the radar in the first round, and his 4-under 68 in the second round got some to take notice, but the strong finish today cements his name as one of the most recognizable in MGA history for years to come.

“It means the world to me,” Sturgeon said. “Just looking at the trophy real quick there were three names that worked at Winged Foot and have won, Craig Wood, Mike Gilmore, and Claude Harmon. To be able to work there and win that trophy in the Met Section, it means a lot to me. It’s special, today’s been a pretty fun day.” Sturgeon even had a member’s young son caddie for him this week.

The newly crowned champ joins the likes of Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, and more recently Johnson Wagner and Andrew Svoboda. He also gets to take home a pretty large check worth $27,500.

“I’m still an assistant pro so it means a lot,” he joked. “I’m excited and fortunate and I’m sure I’ll be able to find something to do with that.”

Sturgeon’s victory was no easy task despite winning by three strokes, and there were some great players right behind who had strong finishes today. 2007 Met Open Champion Frank Bensel of Century shot a 3-under 69 today for a total of 4-under for the championship, which tied him for runner-up with Timothy Puetz of Huntington. Puetz, the 2014 Long Island PGA champion, also carded a 3-under 69 today to finish at 4-under.

One shot behind them was the low amateur Harrison Shih of Alpine, who fired rounds of 69, 74 and 70 for a 3-under total of 213.

“I’m really happy with the way I played overall,” Shih said. The soon-be-junior at Columbia University has an awesome future ahead of him, and feels like his game is only getting better.

“I’ve been telling my family that I feel really close to playing well and I knew that it was coming,” he said. “I was finally able to put three good rounds together.”

Another amateur who had an amazing showing this week was Cameron Young of Scarborough, N.Y., who is just back from the U.S. Amateur at the Atlanta Athletic Club where he finished as a quarterfinalist. After firing an even 72 during the first round, he was on fire in his second round, carding a 5-under 67. Today he had another great round going, he birdied 14 and 15 to get to 5-under and right near the lead. He birdied 17, but found trouble on 18. After searching for his ball near the water hazard, he accidently played the wrong ball that had the same marking as his, incurring a two stroke penalty. After finding his actual ball, which was in the hazard, he took an additional one stroke penalty, and finished the round at 3-over 75, putting him at tied for seventh in the final standings. This was the second time in three years that he played in the final grouping at the Met Open, and at 17, he has plenty more chances for the title ahead of him.

Newly turned professional Cameron Wilson of Shorehaven had rounds of 69-72-72 to finish at 3-under for the championship and tied for fourth with Ballo and Shih. The NCAA individual champion adds another strong Met Open showing to his records, he finished as runner-up last year at Old Westbury.

Rounding out the top ten finishers at 2-under for the championship and tied for seventh with Young were: Chris Scialo of Paramount, 2004 MGA/MetLife Boys champion Sunny Kim of Bethpage and 2013 Met PGA Player of the Year Rob Labritz of GlenArbor.

The top 25 finishers are exempt into next year’s Met Open. MGA Player of the Year Max Buckley made his professional debut this week, finishing at 3-over and tied for 23rd, which puts him in the field for next year’s championship. Ike and Met Amateur champion David Pastore finished at 1-over, and is also exempt for the 100th Met Open next August at Sturgeon’s home course, Winged Foot Golf Club.

It was an excellent week at Trump - Bedminster and Mr. Trump was thrilled for the course to host its first MGA championship. The Old Course has some major events coming its way, including the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and 2022 PGA Championship.

“It’s great event, a very very important event,” Trump said. “Even though we have the PGA Coming and the U.S. Women’s Open very soon, this one is something very special that I have watched all my life and to have it at Trump – National, it means a lot and we are very honored. Having the Met Open was something very important to me.”

Players complimented the challenging yet fair conditions throughout the three day event. The long layout  played to 7,147 yards in the final round, testing the players talents as well as stamina. “It was perfect,” the champion said of the Old Course. “Tee to green we could not ask for anything more, it’s a beautiful piece of property.”

The Met Open Championship is one of the nation’s oldest and more prestigious regional Open championships. Next year the MGA will celebrate the 100th playing of the championship at Winged Foot Golf Club.

For complete coverage of the Met Open, including recaps, results, photos and videos, please visit www.mgagolf.org.

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