The Quinntessential golfer

GLADSTONE – All eyes were on Joe Quinn and he was quite aware.

Quinn felt the pressure bearing down on him when he bogeyed the No. 6 hole, putting him at two over on the day, and he felt it on the last shot he made – a beautiful 15-foot putt for birdie on the first playoff hole.

Quinn recovered twice on a roller-coaster final round and topped it off by defeating Brian Smith of The Crossings in a playoff for the UPGA Championship title.

“It’s unbelivable,” the 44-year old Quinn exclaimed. “It’s going to be a long time before my chest comes back down.”

Quinn became the first male member of Gladstone Golf Club to win a UPGA title, and he did it on his home course, perhaps a more difficult task than some may realize.

“Being the first male member, that’s a lot of pressure,” Quinn said. “I had a lot of pressure from people at my own course and even the newspaper printing me as a favorite. It kind of added to it. I didn’t read anything, I didn’t let it get to me, but it was a lot of pressure.”

Quinn and Smith each began the day two strokes behind Jim Markell of Pine Grove. Quinn didn’t help his cause when he bogeyed the par-5 No. 6 as frustration began to creep in.

“I didn’t start out very good. I got a couple over and my brother (Pat) kept telling me, stay with it, stay with it,” Quinn said. “I birdied the next two holes and got right back in it. I made the turn, saw what was going on and said, you know what? I got a chance to win this thing.”

Quinn birdied the par-3 No. 7 and par-4 No. 8, two of the toughest holes on the course and made the turn carding an even 36 while Smith came in at 37.

“My brother really calmed me down more than anything,” Quinn said. “After I bogeyed No. 6, I was on the verge of falling apart, and I came back and birdied the next two holes.”

Quinn wasn’t out of the woods yet.

A double bogey on No. 10 put Quinn back in hot water. Smith bogeyed the hole to draw even, and took the lead on the par-5 No. 13, hitting for par, while Quinn bogeyed.

The home-course favorite made his move on the par-5 No. 16, pulling back even with a birdie and staying that way after 18 holes. Quinn and Smith completed their rounds, each shooting 73 for the day and 290 for the tournament.

The playoff hole, on No. 18 was fast and furious. Smith and Quinn each had good drives, but while Smith’s approach shot veered off the green to the right of the pin, Quinn’s was right on the money dropping within a reasonable length for a possible birdie. The gallery erupted in cheers at the advantageous position.

Smith admirably made the best of his situation, chipped in and two-putted for par. Quinn’s 15-foot putt however, was never really in doubt once in motion.

“It was a hard one because all I was looking at initially was, (Smith) was probably not going to make his putt,” Quinn said. “I was looking at where do I need to hit it to two-putt. After he made his, I switched it to what I wanted to do. I slipped that right edge, and I showed a little emotion I’m sure.”

Smith’s skill was also on display all day. He raised some eyebrows early on, when he birdied the par-4 No. 4, one-putting from off the green.

“It’s a long day, so it was too early at that point to even tell,” Smith said about his feelings for the round. But he summarized, “I’m tickled to death. I’ve only played this course four times. I just had a little shove on the approach shot on the playoff, but I’m so pleased to get second.

“Joe earned it. It feels a lot better losing to a birdie than par, for sure.”

It was a tight tournament to the finish. The top six players all finished within two strokes of each other.

Larry Bratonia of Irish Oaks, Jim Collard of Riverside and Markell each needed to birdie No. 18 to draw into a tie with the leaders. Bratonia came the closest, his birdie putt just going to the outside, initially looking like it had a chance.

Markell, who began the day as the leader, was derailed by a rough front nine, in which he shot a 4-over 40. Markell started out hot, birding the first hole and hitting the next two for par. His last three holes on the front nine were costly however, He bogeyed No. 7 and No. 8 and double-bogeyed No. 9 after missing 10-foot and 20-inch putts.

“You knew one hole could turn somebody’s momentum around,” said Markell, who started the tourney with expectations of shooting par golf (288). “It’s a tough course and I’m happy for the most part with the way I played.”

Markell collected just two birdies on Nos. 1 and 17 Sunday.

“That’s what happens when you’re not playing on your home course,” Markell said. “You’re not sure of the line on a lot of holes. You’re playing defensive golf.

“If you play this course a lot, like Joe Quinn, you’re able to make more aggressive putts. I left a lot of them short. I wasn’t sure which way they would break.”

Mark Clements of Wawonowin rounded out the top six with a four-day total of 292 (four over-par) and the victim of more than a few lip-outs during the weekend.

Brian Robinette of Irish Oaks placed seventh with 293, followed by Matt Argall of Terrace Bluff 294 and Dennis Hruska of Marquette Dustin Dishaw of Crystal Falls rounded out the top-10 with each shooting 296.