No matter how crammed the Maryland Amateur Stroke Play leader board is after the first and second rounds, the players seem to sort themselves out with play that is usually good, bad or indifferent.
Such was the case as the 45th edition concluded on a stifling hot July 8 at Mount Pleasant Golf Course with Serge Hogg winning for the third time with a final-round 72 and a 54-hole total of 3-under-par 210. There were five players under par after the first round, four after the second, but only two after the final round. In fact, as best can be determined, only the 2005 event had as many as four players ever finish under par.
Certainly the scoreboard was crowded with elite players, as four with a combined total of eight titles seemed poised for a stirring final round over the 6,756-yard course that is not quite so tree-lined as in the past, thanks to last week's violent wind storm that uprooted huge oaks and snapped off tree tops like matchsticks. Course superintendent Bob Boyer and his crew produced a great effort to have the course ready for tournament play.
That stirring final? It never happened.
While second-round co-leader (with Williams) Hogg solidified his lead with three front-nine birdies, only Wingerd challenged him with three front-nine birds of his own. Williams went out with bogeys at 9-10-11, and Baloga was gone after a 4-over first-nine 40. Hogg slipped with bogeys at Nos. 14-15 (and 18), but Wingerd could not take advantage of this break, as he stumbled with three bogeys in the last four holes.
"This was the most rewarding of my titles, because it showed I still have the game to run with these kids." Hogg, 37, said later. His previous titles were in 1995 and 1997 when he was one of those "kids." He grew up playing at Mount Pleasant so he could say, "Standing on a teebox, knowing you have hit it a whole bunch of times, you kinda rely on that experience. Your course management is better."
Hogg, who has worked as a caddy at several clubs for years, is about to put that experience to work in a different way. He is starting a new company which will serve as an on-line caddy service. There are some details to be worked out, but he is hopeful of getting it up and running later this summer.
"It's happened before," Wingerd said of his stumble. "I just don't seem able to close the deal." Williams pointed to playing the two par 5's in four over par for the tournament, including both of them in the last round, as his chief downfall, while Baloga bogeyed the second hole to end a bogey-free string of 30 holes, and even though he got back on track on the back nine, a 1-under 34 was too little and way too late.
Another indicator of tougher scoring as the weekend wore on was the low score for each day. Williams shot 66 on Friday, and Hogg, 68, on Saturday, while Michael Mulieri led the final round with a 69. Those were the tournament's only rounds in the 60's.
Dave Schaller won the First Flight with 78-77-83--238, and the Senior titles went to Steve Walczak in the Championship group with 73-78-73--224, while Tom Kersch took the crown in the First Flight with 83-81-88--252