McDonagh Defeats Saladino to Win 56th Ike Championship at Somerset Hills
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Bernardsville, N.J. (June 28, 2011) – In what will go down as one of the most exciting final rounds in championship history, Tommy McDonagh of Shorehaven outlasted Joe Saladino of Huntington in a five-hole playoff to claim his third MGA major championship at the 56th Ike Championship presented by Canon Business Solutions. McDonagh, 22, rolled in a downhill birdie putt on the second sudden-death playoff hole, which followed a three-hole aggregate playoff that saw the players remain tied.
“It feels awesome,” said McDonagh. “I’m wiped out. It took pretty much all I had to finish that playoff, and I’m so happy I made that putt. To see that one roll in was just great.”
The Ike was contested over the outstanding 6,690-yard, par-70 layout at Somerset Hills Country Club in Bernardsville, N.J., as a field of 112 talented amateurs battled through two days of sticky conditions on one of the Met Area’s most historic courses.
Throughout the 36-hole final day, former MGA champions rose to the top of the leaderboard and challenged overnight first-round leader Pat Wilson, turning the championship into a close battle down the stretch. Saladino, 31, the reigning MGA Player of the Year, had his own 66 to jump into a tie for third place heading into the final round in the afternoon.
“I had the ball rolling well today,” said Saladino. “I was hoping to get something under par and creep back into it, and I did.”
After posting a two-under-par 68 in his morning round to take a one-stroke lead after the second round, McDonagh had a two-over 72 in the afternoon to keep a slew of accomplished players in the mix up until the very end. This list included 2009 Met Amateur champion Cameron Wilson of Shorehaven (213); 2003 Met Amateur winner Mike Stamberger of Spring Lake (213); 2008 Carter Cup champion Curtis Loop of Country Club of New Canaan (215); and two-time Met Junior champion and 2010 Carter Cup winner David Pastore (218). In total, six former MGA champions finished in the top nine.
Saladino, searching for that elusive MGA victory, was paired in the second-to-last group in front of McDonagh and Sam Bernstein of Century (216), and was one stroke behind McDonagh heading into the final hole. In hopes of forcing the championship to extra holes, Saladino missed his birdie putt and made a par. McDonagh, in need of a par on the 54th hole to win, found the green in two, but three-putted from 20 feet to fall into a tie with Saladino and force the playoff.
The three-hole aggregate playoff was held over the first, second, and ninth holes. On the par-four first, McDonagh carded a par while Saladino bogeyed. On the par-three second hole, Saladino found the green and two-putted for par while McDonagh made bogey from the rough. The two then headed to the ninth hole, a reachable par five, where both hit approaches in tight for birdie, meaning the playoff would continue as sudden-death.
Returning to the ninth, McDonagh hit a drive that will go down in Somerset lore as he flew his ball over fescue-covered mounds, bunkers, and the internal out of bounds between the first and ninth holes to safely find the fairway, an estimated at 340+ yards from the tee. Saladino found a fairway bunker off the tee and after missing the green with his third shot, eventually sank a clutch 15-footer for par to send the playoff to a second sudden-death hole. Heading back to the ninth, both players once again missed the green with their second shots, but McDonagh eased a chip from off the green to four feet and was able to sink the birdie putt for the win.
This was the second time that McDonagh got the best of Saladino, as the two faced off in the finals of the 2008 Met Amateur at Friar’s Head, with McDonagh winning 6 & 5. The Ike Team Championship went to McDonagh and Wilson of Shorehaven, as their combined total of 424 was 22 shots clear of the second place team from Westchester, Max Buckley and Max Christiana (446).
The top 10 finishers from the Ike Championship are exempt into the 109th Met Amateur, to be held August 4-7 at the Piping Rock Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. Next year’s Ike Championship will be played at Atlantic Golf Club in Bridgehampton, N.Y.