Great Falls, VA – The MAPGA Professional Championship brings the best Middle Atlantic PGA Professionals together year after year. One hundred and nineteen players descended upon River Bend Club and Westwood Country Club in northern Virginia. Each player played one round at Westwood and one at River Bend before the cut (top 40% of the field). Forty-eight players made the cut for the final round at River Bend.
The only thing the courses had in common was par of 71. River Bend played soft but played to a 78 average the first two days while Westwood played to a 77.5 average and was hard and fast. The greens were rolling fast at each course and the wind gusted to 15 mph each day, adding some indecision for the players.
After the first round, only 3 players were under par. Sean English (Elkridge Club) got out to an early lead with an impressive 4-under 67 at River Bend. His six birdies and two bogies gave him the lead over Larkin Gross (Springfield Golf & Country Club) by one shot going in to the second round. Defending champion, Yong Joo (TopGolf – Loudon) also put himself in contention again by shooting a 70 at Westwood.
The tournament had two clear front runners after the second round. Larkin Gross and Josh Speight (The Club at Viniterra) were now the only players under par. Gross followed up his 68 with a 2-under 69 at Westwood to have the solo lead at 5 under par. The twenty-four-year-old enjoyed a 3-shot lead through eleven holes but Speight wasn’t going to let him run away with it. Speight was paired with Gross and birdied 17 and 18 to get within one shot of the lead at the end of the round. His 5-under par 66 is the tournament course record at Westwood Country Club (since its redesign in 2010).
The final round was a back-and-forth affair all day. Gross and Speight, fellow Methodist University alums, teed off in essentially a match play situation, five shots separating them and the field.
Gross got off to a good start with a birdie on the first hole while Speight made bogey. They were back to where they started after Speight birdied and Gross bogied the par-4 4th hole. A birdie on the par-5 9th hole by Speight tied them up at six-under as they made the turn. Speight hit his approach on eleven to 15 feet and made the putt for birdie, giving him his first lead of the tournament.
The par-4 12th hole was drivable, playing just 290 yards. Both players went for the green but didn’t get the result they were looking for. Speight was in the high grass on the right while Gross hit the cart path and was left with a treacherous downhill chip. They each had some trouble, Speight making a double bogey and Gross making a bogey. A short birdie on the Par-3 13th for Gross gave him a one-shot lead.
The 16th hole proved to be the biggest turning point. With Speight still within striking distance, Gross drove his ball right and was stymied behind a tree. He chipped out to the fairway, but Speight couldn’t take advantage and missed the green short with his approach. Gross hit his 3rd shot to within 5 feet and Speight’s chip scared the hole but rolled by 15 feet. Speight three-putted from there for double bogey, and Gross missed his putt to make bogey, giving him a 2-shot lead going to 17. A long birdie putt dropped for Gross on 17 and it was smooth sailing for him to victory from there.
Larkin is the first to win the MAPGA Assistant and Section Championship since Steve Delmar in 2019.
Ten players will join Larkin Gross and David Hutsell (exempt) at the 2022 PGA Professional Championship: Josh Speight, John O’Leary (Trump National-DC), Kyler Fuller (CC of Virginia), Ian McConnell (Springfield CC), Troy Thorne (Hobbs Hole GC), Bill Fedder (Glenmore CC), David Freiss (Musket Ridge GC), Geoff Montross (Farmington CC), Chad Moseley (Belle Haven CC), and Steve Delmar (Columbia CC). The 2022 National Championship will be held in Austin, TX in April 2022.