McConnell dominates on final day
Ironically, McConnell may not have won the Ray Fischer State Medal Play Championship at Riverside Golf Course in dominating 19-under-par fashion had he made just one bogey.
It was that second bogey that McConnell praised as his most important hole during the sizzling 8-under 64 final round on Sunday that delivered McConnell his first Fischer title in his second try.
After firing a 6-under 66 in Sunday’s morning round to get within two shots of 54-hole leader Max Hosking, McConnell hit a wayward drive on the first hole of the final round and faced a slippery 6-foot, left-to-right breaker just to save bogey.
McConnell nailed the putt, and from there he had the trophy on radar lock.
“The only bogey I made today, I think it was the most important shot I hit,” said the 44-year-old McConnell, who is from Middleton. “I birdied the next hole right after that, because I felt good. If I make double (bogey), who knows what happens.”
McConnell never had to find that out, as he followed up a front-nine 34 with a back-nine 30 that included two birdies and two eagles.
McConnell’s winning total of 269 was the third-lowest in Fischer history, behind only Garrett Jones’ 266 in 2007 and Charlie Delsman’s 267 in 2003.
“I’m a pretty conservative golfer, generally,” McConnell said. “Especially off the tee. I hit a lot of 3-woods and keep the ball in play.
“I didn’t go at a lot of pins. If it was an open pin, I’d go at it, but lots of times I just played to the heart of the green.”
What McConnell also did was blister Riverside’s short par 5s, playing them in a total of 13 under for the weekend.
“It’s really almost a par-68 (course) in your mind,” McConnell said of Riverside’s set-up.
McConnell’s two eagles on the back nine Sunday came when he hit a rescue club from a bad lie to within two feet on the 10th hole and a 4-iron to within 20 feet on the 14th, where he then converted a curling eagle putt.
McConnell said it was right before hitting his 4-iron on the 14th that a ranger informed him of the exploits of Menasha’s Bob Gregorski, the 1996 and ’98 Fischer champion who carded a front-nine 29 on his final round Sunday to create murmurs all over the course.
“I missed a putt on the first hole that I left short,” the 49-year-old Gregorski said of a front nine that included an eagle on the fourth, followed by four straight birdies. “Other than that, every makeable birdie putt I had, I made.”
But those putts started to go begging on the back nine, as Gregorski ultimately wound up with a final-round 66 to finish six shots back of McConnell in second place with a 13-under 275.
“He’s a great guy,” Gregorski said of McConnell. “He’s a great player. It was good to see him win.”
McConnell, who defeated Gregorski on the first playoff hole to capture the Badgerland Invitational in May, has followed a circuitous golfing career.
A native of Tampa, McConnell turned pro at 23 and played on the Canadian Tour and various mini-tours for 12 years. He moved to the Madison area in 2000—McConnell is the managing partner and part owner of the Cheeseburgers in Paradise restaurant in Middleton—but literally stopped playing golf until 2007 for a variety of reasons.
“I just didn’t play,” McConnell said. “I didn’t even have clubs for five years.”
Like McConnell, Janesville native Sam Van Galder was also seeking his first Fischer title and entered Sunday’s final round just two shots off Hosking’s lead after shooting a 3-under 69 in the morning round.
But he ended that round with a bogey and a double bogey, and Van Galder felt like that carried over to the final round, in which he shot himself out of contention with a front-nine 41. He finished tied for 10th at 7-under 281.
“I got myself in the final group of a pretty big tournament, so that’s a pretty big accomplishment,” Van Galder said. “I’ll take that and move on, I guess.”
Fellow Janesville native Ryan Coffey entered the final round three shots off the lead but fell way off the pace with a final-round 78 and finished tied for 20th at 4 under.
Other Janesville entrants to make the cut were Jordan Brovick, who tied for 51st at 4 over, and Michael Hesselman, who tied for 53rd at 5 over.
Chilton’s Derrick Meier shot 69-65 on Sunday to finish third at 12 under. Hosking couldn’t hold his third-round lead and tied for fourth at 11 under, along with fellow Madison native Cody Strang.
Keegan Drugan of Holmen entered Sunday with a four-shot lead but faded to a tie for seventh at 9 under.
RAY FISCHER STATE MEDAL PLAY
At Janesville Riverside
269—Miles McConnell (Middleton), 70-69-66-64
275—Robert Gregorski (Menasha), 68-69-72-66
276—Derrick Meier (La Crosse), 74-68-69-65
277—Cody Strang (Madison), 70-68-69-70; Max Hosking (Madison), 71-65-67-74
278—Paul Jacobson (Racine), 70-69-70-69
279—Austin Ehlenfeldt (Waupun), 72-66-69-72; Keegan Drugan (Holmen), 66-66-74-73
280—Tyler Leis (Eau Claire), 71-70-71-68.
281—Tom Halla (Colgate), 71-69-70-71; Sam Van Galder (Janesville), 67-69-69-76; Steve Sorenson (Hartland), 73-72-67-69.
282—Andrew Troyaek (Burlington), 70-72-70-70; Brent Wong (Franklin), 70-71-69-72; Derek Pirkl (Madison), 74-69-68-71; Zach Gaugert (Waunakee), 72-68-71-71; Loren Churness (Eau Galle), 72-67-74-69
283—Kyle Henning (Brookfield), 73-70-68-72; Joshua Udelhofen (Platteville), 71-70-71-71
284—Joe Blagoue (Fond du Lac), 72-71-72-69; Michael McDonald (Germantown), 72-71-67-74; Ryan Coffey (Janesville), 70-68-68-78.
285—Kenny Rucker (Madison), 72-70-73-70; Joe Weber (Holmen), 75-68-68-74; Todd Schaap (Kenosha), 68-69-72-76.
286—Brady Strangstalien (Westby), 71-71-72-72; Samuel Beck (Madison), 71-73-76-66; Jonathan Fall (Milwaukee), 71-67-76-72.
287—Brent Quade (Madison), 65-75-76-71; Jay Halverson (Viroqua), 74-70-75-68; Derek Himershausen (Wausau), 74-70-75-68.
288—Kevin Cahill (Waukesha), 74-68-74-72; Shawn Foley (Pewaukee), 69-74-70-75; Mitch Bowers (Mineral Point), 72-71-74-71; Tim O’Brien (Mequon), 72-70-72-74; Erik Mayer (Appleton), 70-72-72-74; Daniel Ozga (Edgerton), 67-72-75-74; Anthony Aicher (Wausau), 71-68-72-77.
289—Ed Dzirbik Jr. (Brookfield), 70-73-75-71; Jason Zahradka (New Richmond), 71-72-72-74.
290—Michael Masik Jr. (Racine), 70-73-76-71; Duaine Olson (Luck), 70-73-74-73; Richard Pfeil (Lake Geneva), 73-70-77-70; Jon Oaks (Waukesha), 74-70-72-74; Robert Jacobsen (Racine), 71-73-72-74; Aaron Gavin (South Milwaukee) 74-71-73-72.
291—Kevin Van Rossum (Hartland)70-69-76-76; Mike Hilton (Muskego), 72-72-72-75; Troy Bilderback (Waunakee), 72-73-72-74; Pat Boyle (South Milwaukee), 72-73-72-74.
292—Jordan Brovick (Janesville), 72-70-71-79; Ryan Pickette (Neenah), 68-76-70-78; Matt Gorman (Waunakee), 71-71-75-76; Jordan Wetsch (St. Charles), 69-72-75-77; Brian Krupp (Kenosha), 72-73-74-74; Mike Riek (Green Lake), 70-67-76-80; Michael Hesselman (Janesville), 73-72-71-77.
294—Sean Regan (Madison), 72-72-73-77; Nathan Kollath (Green Bay), 73-71-77-72; Keith Buntrock (Franklin), 74-71-72-77; Keegan English (Wauwatosa), 74-71-72-77.
295—Ben Brooks (Beaver Dam), 70-71-77-77; Jim Covelli (Racine), 72-72-74-77.
296—Ryan Schafer (Racine), 73-71-76-76; Jim Bachhuber (West Bend), 73-71-74-78.
297—Troy Jastal (Stevens Point), 73-72-73-79.
298—Steve Grusczyski (West Allis), 70-71-76-81.
299—Daniel Simonsen (Milwaukee), 70-73-78-78; Geoff Pirkl (Waukesha), 74-70-77-78.
301—Jake Wisniewski (Sussex), 74-70-75-82.
302—Jon Klemp (Thiensville), 74-68-78-82.