Press release from Massachusetts Golf Association communications director Becky Blaeser:
HAVERHILL, Mass. -- Over a three-day period, Nick McLaughlin (Far Corner GC) played through sun, rain, wind and drizzle but it never seemed to rattle him as he carded a three-round score of 2-over par 218 to capture his second career Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship on Wednesday.
McLaughlin drained a two-foot par putt on the 18th hole at Renaissance Golf Club to seal his second title (his first came in 2009).
He finished with a final-round score of 2-over par 74 which was just enough to stave off charges by second-place finishers Ben Balter (Willowbend) and Connor Murphy (Hyannis GC), who made a strong come-from-behind bid by carding a day-low score of 2-under par 70.
McLaughlin's latest victory is sweet, especially after he finished T17 one year ago at this event. He returned a year older and wiser and played with veteran poise from start to finish.
"When I won the first one I was younger, and I was playing in an earlier group so I had to wait around for two hours before I knew that I had won," said McLaughlin, who won his first title when he was just 15 years old. "Today I knew what I had to do because I was in the last group. After how much I struggled last year and especially at this tournament it was nice to rebound in a good way."
Following a day-one score of even par 72, he found himself trailing by four strokes. Facing windy conditions on Tuesday, he carded another even par 72 and was the leader by two strokes. The constant movement around the leaderboard was a sign of what was to come during the final round.
With competitors making runs throughout the day on Wednesday, McLaughlin hovered around even par through most of the day. He began his round by making birdie on the 1st and 3rd holes but gave it back with a double bogey on the 175-yard, par 3 4th hole - his first double bogey of the tournament.
From that point on, he seemed to find a way to make birdie for every bogey... that is until the 15th hole when he suffered his second double bogey of the day when he sent his drive into the hazard. That miscue opened the door for Balter who had just made birdie on two of his last four holes to pull even with McLaughlin.
"I was all over the place today," said McLaughlin. "I made those two doubles, so I had some ground to make up which made me nervous because I knew how good it feels to win this. So I just kept grinding ahead which is not easy to do out here."
McLaughlin went on to make birdie on the 16th hole, a bogey on the 17th hole and then a two-putt par on the 18th hole. Balter had a chance to tie on the 18th hole, but he found a fairway bunker with his tee shot and was unable rebound and make birdie. He carded a final round score of 1-over par 73.
"I still had Ben by a stroke on 18 and I knew that a 5 would be good enough to win," said McLaughlin. " Playing with him all day was great because I knew what I had to do and that helped me plan forward."
Also pressuring McLaughlin was Murphy, who caught fire on Tuesday afternoon and was just one stroke back of the leader through eight holes on Wednesday. In fact, Murphy played 6-under par golf over an 18-hole stretch beginning with Tuesday's back nine. On this day, he made birdie on the 2nd, 3rd and 7th holes to make the turn at 3-under par 33.
Although he finished with a day-low score of 2-under par 70, Murphy had to settle for a share of second place overall.