Sunday, July 31, 2016
Holding court on the Hanover Country Club porch the way only he can, Shane MacDonald shared with anyone within earshot a request he made late in the championship match of the Tommy Keane Invitational Sunday after his usually reliable swing started to go south.
“I said, ‘Nick, get me off this course,’ ” MacDonald cracked.
Dutiful son and talented golfer that he is, Nick MacDonald did just that, rolling in his fifth birdie of the afternoon on the 15th hole to put the final nail in a 4&3 win over Nate Choukas and Ben Hayes for the Tommy Keane title.
“When Nick is playing the way he did there’s not a whole lot you can do except keep saying, ‘Nice shot,’ ” Hayes said after he and Choukas fell to the MacDonalds in the championship match for the second year in a row.
The final putt completed a three-peat for the MacDonalds, who two years ago defeated Jim and Andrew Jankowski for the Keane title. It’s the fourth championship overall for the pair, with Shane adding two others teaming with Andy Hydorn, and Nick one paired up with DJ Lantz.
Choukas and Hayes advanced to the championship match with a 2&1 win over Mike Hathorn and Mitch Cable in their morning round. The former Hanover High School teammates were medalists in Friday qualifying with a 64.
“They are very good players,” said Shane MacDonald. “I just think Nick is Nick and everybody knows the firepower he has. I think they know they can’t make mistakes.”
The first mistake of the match was actually by the MacDonalds, who made bogey on the opening hole while Choukas was getting up and down after his approach went long.
“We figured that was the only bogey they would make,” Choukas said. “I knew I had to make par there because if they were going to give us a hole we absolutely had to take it.”
Shane MacDonald squared the match with a birdie on three and Nick followed with a nice wedge and six-footer for a birdie on four to go one up.
“We were OK at that point,” said Choukas, “but we made a mistake with bogey on five to drop another one.”
The MacDonalds, who advanced with a 3&2 win over Jake Obar and Bill Vieuleux in their morning match, went up three when Nick made his second birdie on eight.
“My tee shots weren’t great but I hit a lot of good iron shots,” he said. “I had a lot of good chances at birdie and when that happens you are going to make a good amount of them.”
After a tap-in birdie on nine got them back within two at the turn, Choukas and Hayes seemed to be primed to draw even closer on 10. Instead, Nick MacDonald stepped up and rolled in a 25-foot birdie to resurrect the three-hole difference.
“That was a good one for us because Nate had about a six-footer on that hole,” Nick said. “It was good to make it before he had a chance to putt.”
The turnaround on the first hole of the back nine was cricital.
“That was a bit momentum shift,” said Hayes. “Nick made a huge putt there. We were kind of expecting to win that one but he dropped it in.”
Hayes and Choukas might have cut into the MacDonald’s lead on 13 when Shane hit his drive into the woods and Nick’s ball followed suit. But while the father’s ball was lost, the son’s ball caromed off a tree and back into the fairway. He then pitched to about 10 feet and made birdie.
“I caught a break there,” he said. “After that we were up four with five left, and that’s a pretty good spot to be in.”
A terrific tee shot by Choukas on 14 led to a birdie that kept the match going but Nick MacDonald slammed the door with his fourth birdie in seven holes on 15 to end the match.
Admittedly a little nervous on the first tee of the championship match against the MacDonalds a year ago, Choukas and Hayes agreed they were more comfortable this year, and it showed.
“I think we had a much better chance to win today and last year,” said Choukas. “Right when we finished up I said to Ben that we lost 3&1 last year and 4&3 this year, but I think we played them a lot better.
“Nick just played better than he did last year. We would have had to play outstanding to keep up with him. We played well, but now well enough.”
Hayes, who flew home specifically for the tournament from Washington State, where he studies physics at the University of Puget sound, intends to return again next July. He’ll do so with hopes of making it three finals in as many years against the MacDonalds.
“Absolutely,” he said. “They’ve gotten us two years in a row. We know we can beat them but we have to play well to do it because you know they are not going to give up any holes.”
The MacDonalds plan to be back as well.
“As long as Nick will have me as a partner,” cracked Shane. “I think it makes him work harder watching me play.”
Chris Keane and Dillon Sass won the first flight with Hanover Superintendent Mike Pollard and Mike Garvey winning the second and Dom Candid and Brian Tracy the third. . . . The anticipated rain held off for the most part with only the occasional light sprinkle during the afternoon match. . . . Choukas plays college golf at Trinity. . . . Nick MacDonald played on the powerhouse University of Hartford team, graduating in 2010.
Posted by BGA at 7:16 PM