By John Stewart, MSGA
Matt Bassler rolled home a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to clinch the 88th annual Maryland Open by one shot July 15 at Hillendale Country Club. Bassler, from Catonsville and Rolling Road Golf Club, started the round one stroke out of the lead and finished with a round of 71 for a 54-hole total of 70-69-71--210.
At the end, second-round leaders Brent Martin, from LaPlata and Breton Bay Country Club, shot 72-66-74--212, and Gary Mankulish, an assistant professional from Lakewood Country Club, ended with a 70-68-77--215.
Bassler, 23, who works with the First Tee Program of Baltimore, started birdie-birdie, gaining a tie for the lead in the process.
"I was a little nervous at the start, but that calmed me down," Bassler said.
Never behind after the first hole, Bassler padded his leading margin with birdie putts at the sixth and seventh from 30 feet and 8 feet, respectively. At the turn, he led Martin by three strokes and Mankulish by four.
On the back nine, Bassler missed two greens (Nos. 11 and 15, both par-3s), and Martin stayed in contention despite a double-bogey six at the 480-yard, par-4 13th. Martin gained ground with a par at 15, made two spectacular shots out of trouble at Nos. 16-17 to set up a par and a birdie, and he was only one behind going to the 18th tee.
"Standing on the 18th tee box, I thought I was tied," Bassler said. "But then I started adding it up going up the fairway and realized I was one ahead. At that point, my strategy was the same as all week -- don't take chances and hit the green. It was 2-iron, 7-iron, wedge."
Much of this strategy was formulated during a practice round with his father, Billy Bassler, Jr., head professional at Rolling Road.
"Once on the greens, the way I have been putting, I knew I'd be OK," said Matt Bassler, whose great-uncle, Charlie Bassler, won this championship a record six times in the 1950s and '60s.
Martin, 22, and a rising senior at Winthrop University, did all he could.
"I didn't hit it very well [for the round]," he said. "And at the end I knew I had to get inside of [Bassler] on the green."
He did that, but then the leader slammed shut that window of opportunity.
All but lost in the front-runners competition was a 68 by Jimmy Estes, and when all the firing had ceased, the teaching pro from Olney Golf Park stood alone as the low professional. Along the way, Estes had three birdies and chipped in for an eagle at the 561-yard 18th for 35-33 to go with earlier rounds of 73-72 for a 213 total, and jumped past nine players.
The 3-under-par 68 was good for a share of the day's low round with pros Craig Baisinger, John Scott Rattan and Dirk Schultz. Rattan, David Hutsell, Mankulish and amateur Mike Mulieri, were at 215, trailed by three-time Open winner Wayne DeFrancesco and amateurs Andrew Rice and Chris Baloga at 216.
The 2010 championship will be held at Manor Country Club in Rockville. The annual event, dating to 1921, is sponsored and conducted by the Maryland State Golf Association.
Posted July 16, 2009