Final birdie lifts Hosking

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Mike Johnson
Monday, June 25, 2012
— One of the more peculiar factors for players in the Ray Fischer State Medal Play Championship is that it’s very difficult to know exactly where they stand on the leaderboard as they play the final holes.

Sure, they receive word-of-mouth updates, but given the nature of Riverside Golf Course—where abundant eagles and birdies can change the leaderboard more often than Cirque du Soleil performers change outfits—it sometimes feels like trying to win a 100-meter dash blindfolded.

It can be trying for competitors, to be certain. But less knowledge can also equal less pressure, and that was exactly the case on Sunday for Madison’s Max Hosking.

Hosking stood over a six-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole, with a make meaning a win and a miss meaning a sudden-death playoff.

Only Hosking was unaware of this.

At 15 under par, Hosking thought he had a one shot lead over both Mukwonago’s Mark Bemowski—a four-time Fischer champion—and Janesville’s Matt Behm, who also has a Fischer title to his credit.

Unbeknownst to Hosking, Middleton’s Mitch Johnson had just completed a spectacular eagle-birdie finish to get to 15 under. What Hosking thought was a two-putt win for par was, in fact, a one-putt birdie for victory.

Still, Hosking drained the six-footer, and his 72-hole total of 16-under 272 was good enough for a one-shot win over Johnson.

“When I saw my ball was six feet away, I thought two putts (to win),” admitted the 22-year-old Hosking. “Honestly, I

wasn’t even nervous over it, not at all. If (I knew) I’d have had to make it, then I probably would’ve been nervous.

“I think it was an easier putt thinking that I had to two-putt. It was dead-straight, six-footer, nothing to it really at all.”

And it capped a wild 36 holes of golf on Sunday in which numerous players, including Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, were in contention and it was almost impossible to tell who was winning at any given time.

“This is probably the fourth-biggest state tournament we’ve got behind the Open, Am (and) Match Play,” said Hosking, a Madison LaFollette graduate who plans on turning pro for this summer’s State Open. “It’s definitely one of my favorite tournaments to play every year, so I really wanted to go out with a win this year.”

Hosking began Sunday one shot off the 36-hole lead of Chilton’s Derrick Meier, and after Hosking’s morning 68 and Meier’s 69, the two were tied at 11 under going into the final 18.

But there were suddenly seven players within three shots of the lead by that point, creating an absolutely wide-open final round.

The tournament’s biggest celebrity made the first move, as Romo carded three straight birdies to open his final 18. But a double bogey from the middle of the fairway on the par-5 fourth and subsequent missed four-foot birdie putts on Nos. 5 and 6 slowed Romo’s momentum.

He stayed in the hunt much to the delight of a large following, but things became dire when Romo’s drive on the par-4 11th when out-of-bounds to the right and he made triple bogey. Romo finished the tournament tied for seventh at 10-under 278.

“I hit the ball really well all day,” he said. “I really didn’t get a lot out of it, because I missed some short putts.”

While Meier faded with a final-round 71 to place sixth, the biggest challenges to the lead were made by Bemowski, Behm, Johnson and Holmen’s Keegan Drugan.

Bemowski birdied four of his final six holes, including 17 and 18, but it wasn’t quite enough to keep pace with Hosking and Johnson.

Behm shot a front-nine 32 and nearly holed out for double eagle with a 6-iron on the par-5 10th, but he wound up missing his eagle putt from above the hole and settled for birdie. Behm too often found himself above the hole Sunday and couldn’t make enough putts.

“I just couldn’t be aggressive, because it wasn’t uphill,” he said. “That’s the difference sometimes.”

The best golf of the day was played by Drugan, who began Sunday 10 shots back at 2-over. But Drugan, who will graduate from Winona State (Minn.) in December, rocketed up the leaderboard with rounds of 65 and 64 Sunday, a whopping one-day total of 15 under.

Drugan’s unconscious golf just wasn’t enough, though, as he finished fifth at 13-under 275. When Bemowski and Behm entered the clubhouse at 14 under, that left matters between Hosking and the 18-year-old Johnson.

After leaving his tee shot just shy of the front bunker on the short par-4 17th, Johnson holed out his pitch shot with a 58-degree wedge for an eagle. He then stuffed his second on 18 within three feet for birdie, and suddenly the University of New Mexico freshman-to-be was the clubhouse leader.

Hosking was equal to the task, though, making birdie on five of his last seven holes. His lob wedge from 88 yards on the 17th left him a six-foot birdie, and his gap wedge from 135 on the 18th barely cleared the front bunker and kicked forward for another six-footer.

Before the final putt, knowing what Hosking didn’t—that he needed the birdie to avoid a playoff—Johnson walked over to his competitor and told him to knock it in.

“I don’t want him to miss,” Johnson said of his display of sportsmanship. “I want him to hit a good putt. If he misses, all right, we’ve got a playoff. But I’m not gonna say, ‘Miss it.’”

Other Janesville golfers to make the cut besides Behm were Sam Van Galder (tied for 28th, 286), Jordan Brovick, Ryan Coffey (both tied for 43rd, 291) and Jake Downing (72nd, 301).

Last updated: 8:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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