Brian Craig from St.Louis and Norwood Hills CC came from three shots behind on Sunday to win the MGA Mid-Amateur championship at Dalhousie GC in Cape Girardeau by one shot over friend and fellow Norwood Hills member Phil Caravia.
There were two related questions yesterday in the final round at the Missouri Mid-Am. How would the players deal with the oppressive heat and humidity? Could anyone catch first round leader Steve Groom? The answers for Brian Craig were, “you have to be patient and keep your concentration–especially in the heat on a dangerous golf course like this,” and yes he could catch (and pass) Steve.
Actually, Groom proved Craig’s point by ending his opening stretch of seven straight pars in the final round with a disastrous quadruple bogey 7 on the par-three eighth. That result let all of Steve’s pursuers playing in the last four threesomes, particularly Craig, Phil Caravia, Joe Thomas, Brian Haskell, and Heath Peters, back into the game and opened the back nine for the shoot-out we witnessed. For his part, Groom rallied from a 7-5 finish on his front nine with birdies on the 10th and 11th before bogeys on 12 and 13 effectively ended his quest.
Craig started the day three shots back of Groom’s 70 and with six players ahead of him in the last three groups. He shot a steady one-under 35 on the front, had a “kick-in” birdie at 10 followed by bogeys at 11 and 12 as the sun beat down and nerves threatened to fray. But Brian kept his cool and his concentration as he rallied with three birdies on 13, 15, and 17 to post two-under 142 and let the guys in the last three groups try to match him.
“The 15-footer on 17 was key, but it was straight up the hill and really wasn’t that tough,” he said. Brian, a former professional with a lot of experience and “golf smarts,” knew that posting a number for those to catch was pretty important. “It was tough out there in the heat and I knew, for myself and the others, that one brief lapse in concentration could be disastrous. I just tried hard to play one shot at a time and keep my concentration down the stretch.”
Caravia and Hannibal’s Joe Thomas were with Groom in the final group and had a chance to tie or win down the stretch. Thomas had to be thinking birdie with a great tee shot and a sand wedge into 16. His shot went barely over the green and turned birdie into bogey that took him from one-under back to even par. Caravia made a great birdie from the rough on the same hole to get back to one-under, but he couldn’t birdie 17 or the par-five 18th and fell a shot shy of forcing a playoff.
This is Craig’s first MGA championship win and could be just the start for him. He has contended often, but always seemed to have a bad hole or two that would bring him up short. Sunday at Dalhousie he “kept calm and carried on” as others were wilting.