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Playoff Birdie Clinches MGA Mid-Am Title for McCormack

Darren McCormack and Gene Westmoreland

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. (September 6, 2018) – Three players finished at 1-under 143 in the 12th MGA Mid-Amateur Championship, Thursday at The Maidstone Club, but a birdie by Darren McCormack on the first playoff hole earned the Irishman the title and the Westmoreland Cup.

Related: Results | Photos - Rd 1 | Photos - Final Rd | Recap Video

McCormack, 32, held off Ryan Hom of Nassau Players Club and 2017 champion Darin Goldstein of Noyac, as he safely found the fairway of the par-four 1st then knocked his approach to 15 feet. With Goldstein hitting his second shot over the green and out of bounds from a fairway bunker and Hom’s approach plugging in the face of a greenside bunker, McCormack only needed two putts to win, but he closed in style with birdie to create a memorable moment.

“I think that’s what I’m most proud of—that birdie on the playoff hole that really shut the door,” he said. “That’s probably my proudest moment in golf, I’d say.”

McCormack fired a tournament low 3-under 69 on Thursday, despite the challenge of Maidstone’s typical 10-15 mile-per-hour winds that weren’t present during Wednesday’s opening round.

“Today, I just fell back on my short game on the front nine,” said McCormack, a native of Swords, Ireland who has been in the States for seven years. “Then, I kind of changed my setup on my putting on the 9th hole and started to see a lot of putts roll in.”

The birdie putts fell on Nos. 10, 11, 13 and 16—in addition to the playoff winner—as he finished several groups in front of Hom and Goldstein, who shot rounds of 70 and 71, respectively, en route to their 143 totals.

McCormack entered the final round four shots off the pace after an opening round 74, a spot that left him feeling little pressure on Thursday and somewhat freed up his game.

“I could fire at pins and—I’m four back, the likelihood of me catching the guys was slim,” he said. “I got off to a slow start, but my caddie Harley kept me in it and kept me positive. I never gave up. I didn’t even know my score coming off the course today, that’s how into it I was. I just focused on one shot at a time and I think that really made a big benefit at the end of the round.”

For McCormick, the performance was a big turnaround from a recent low point in his game. “A week ago my game was in the worst shape it’s been in in four years. I came here with no expectations and no real goals set.  I just wanted to come play golf on a great golf course,” he said. “Once I birdied 10, that kind of ignited a bit of fire in me. I’m just proud of how my game held up.”

Maidstone’s links setting may have held a hand in helping McCormack’s game return to form, reminding him of his native Ireland. “Condition-wise it felt a little bit like home—fast, firm, a lot of wind,” he said. “Some of the holes, especially on the back nine, really look a lot like Ireland, so a few shots today I had to hit low and I fell back to shots I played when I was younger. As a whole, Maidstone is one of the best courses I’ve ever played in my life.”

The victory also provides McCormack with a prideful accomplishment before he heads back to Ireland. Upon accepting the Westmoreland Cup, named for long-time MGA Tournament Director Gene Westmoreland,  McCormack reported that it would be a great moment to share with his father, who is currently not doing well health wise back home.

Maidstone played to a par of 72 at 6,634 yards. The spectacular, classic layout proved to be a stern test for the Met Area’s top amateurs aged 30 and older, who earned invitations for the championship based on finishes in MGA and Met Area events.

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