Often times the longest roads walked, lead to the greatest of journeys. This couldn’t be truer for Bryan Jackson, PGA, who won the 2018 MAPGA Professional Championship, September 26 at the Baltimore Country Club in Timonium, Maryland.
Jackson birdied three of his last four holes to spark a stirring comeback and final round 65 to win his first MAPGA Section Championship.
As Jackson pushed his body and mind through three treacherous days of rocky paths and rolling hills, he reached what some might call the pinnacle of success within the Middle Atlantic Section—a Professional Championship victory.
Over the span of the first two days, Jackson waded through rainy, humid, foggy and wet course conditions before the sun reared itself on the final day, showing him the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
Upon conclusion the opening round, Jackson sat five strokes behind 2017 Defending Champion Josh Speight (Indian Creek Yacht & CC) who opened with a sparkling 4-under-par, 66. The second day showed promise as the gaps between the leaders grew smaller. Speight fell back to 1-under-par and Scott Shapin (Old South CC) took the lead heading into the third and final round at, 2-under-par.
Jackson, still a ways behind at 4-over-par heading into the final round, began to gradually climb up the leaderboard. On the front nine, Jackson shot 1-under-par, moving into the Top 5 overall. However, this was not the end of Jackson’s journey as he still had the back nine to make a final push towards the top of the leaderboard.
Unbeknownst to Jackson, as Speight and Shapin began to fall further down the leaderboard, he began to steadily climb to the top. Jackson made four birdies on the back nine to finish the tournament at 1-under par.
This placed him in a tie for first with three-time champion David Hutsell (Pine Ridge GC). Hutsell had hovered around even-par for the first two-days, just behind the first and second round leaders.
Hutsell opened his final round opening with five birdies against two bogies to go 3-under-par. He continued to play aggressively trying to distance himself from the pack. However, he struggled to make birdies on the inward nine. He missed a crucial par putt on Hole No. 15 and two 6-to-8 foot birdie putts on his final three holes to guarantee him his fourth championship victory.
The playoff between Jackson and Hutsell lasted two holes with each competitor fighting the tension that was in the air.
On the first playoff hole (BCC No. 2), Hutsell was at the center of the fairway and Jackson ended up in the left rough, narrowly missing going out of bounds. Hutsell, who was actively conversing with his caddie, Brian Meyer (Mount Pleasant GC) to capitalize on his advantage into the green hit his ball long of the green and wound up in a green-side bunker.
Jackson, pinned against a tree line and hitting out of thick rough, contemplated his shot on his own. As tension arose whether he would make it out of such conditions he hit a screaming shot to the middle of the green where he was 25-30 feet from the pin. This was what some would have said was the shot of the day.
Hutsell proceeded to hit out of the bunker just barely skirting passed the right side of the hole to get up-and-down with a 3-foot putt for par. Jackson putt the ball just short of the hole, then made a testy downhill two-footer for his par to push the playoff to the second hole (BCC No.1).
With Jackson wavering in energy, four-time MAPGA Champion, Rick Schuller (Stonehenge G&CC) offered Jackson a helping hand as a caddie. Sometimes along the journey you just need a friend to keep you company along the way.
As both players teed off the first hole, they both ended up within feet of one another on the fairway. Then from their second shot, both Professionals once again ended up slightly above pin high on opposite sides of the hole.
Hutsell and Meyer actively navigated the break for their first putt to put pressure on Jackson. As Hutsell firmly struck the ball towards the hole, he began to watch eagerly as the ball rolled towards the edge of the hole. The ball agonizingly caught the edge and lipped out and Hutsell cleaned up for par.
Once again the pressure was on Jackson. With some helpful advice from his caddie Schuller, they began to read the breaks in the green. Schuller told Jackson he had been in this position before and he had narrowly missed the left-to-right break the last time.
Jackson walked up to the ball one final time and struck it. As everyone around the green watched the ball roll, Jackson could not calm his feet. He began to move towards the hole as the ball rolled towards the center of the cup. His fist began to tighten and before he had time to process it, the ball dropped into the center of the cup. Jackson thrust his fist in the air as he became the 2018 Professional Champion.
As he did everything to maintain his composure, he covered his face with the brim of his hat to keep the tears from streaming down his face. Jackson was overjoyed and emotional as to what he had accomplished.
This year had been tough for Jackson after the passing of his mother not too long before the tournament and some personal health and work issues, but with the win he was able to honor his mother’s memory and bring home two championship trophies, $10,000 in winnings and good news for his daughter’s birthday which was during the final round of the tournament.
Jackson trying to fight back the tears during the awards ceremony tried his hardest to explain such an incomparable accomplishment.
“People have those rounds where they have this confidence over the ball and to do it for five and half hours [round plus playoff] and keep that concentration is hard,” he said. “This was the best round of my life considering the circumstances and I probably won’t realize what I’ve done for about a week.”
He applauded Baltimore Country Club on the management of the course due to the wet course conditions and all the walking he had to do. But at the end of the day, the journey was worth it. “I might walk all of my rounds now,” Jackson said before thanking everyone who supported him throughout his round.
As they say it’s not about how you got there, but the journey you had along the way.
Thank you to Director of Golf Greg Jones and the BCC staff, in particular, their golf maintenance staff, for helping us host a fantastic event.