Craig Wins Berkshire Individual Championship in Playoff
STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. -- With the Berkshire County Classic Individual Championship hanging in the balance, Hoosac Valley junior Corben Craig did not exactly rush the decisive shot on Sunday at Stockbridge Golf Club.
But he didn’t linger over it either.
“Right before I made my first putt, I looked back,” Craig said.
What he saw was a sizable gallery amassing on the 16th fairway watching him and Wahconah eighth-grader Pat McLaughlin play off for the title.
After leaving his 20-foot birdie putt a little short and watching McLaughlin miss a par try from the fringe, Craig wasted no time dropping in the tournament winner from a foot away.
Craig said that having 50-odd pair of eyes staring him down only added to a nerve-wracking scenario.
“That’s why I just got up and hit,” he said.
Craig and McLaughlin hit better than anyone else on a day when the best high school golfers in the county took on the challenging Stockbridge layout.
Through 18 holes, they stood tied with one another and one stroke ahead of the field at 81.
McLaughlin said the key was keeping his head in the game.
“Just keeping the ball in front of me and playing smart and not trying to overdo everything,” he said of his success. “Just play it smart and try to keep it straight.”
McLaughlin, who started his day on No. 17, registered two birdies: the 169-yard, par-3 second and the 376-yard, par-4 10th.
“I was probably 15 feet away [on No. 2], and kind of lined up my putt and it was downhill,” he said. “I aimed and just putted what speed I thought could get there.
“After my seventh hole [No. 5], I was two-over, and I just said if I keep playing this way, maybe I have a chance at this.”
Craig said he struggled chipping all day, but it was his short game that enabled him to get into the playoff.
“I thought I was going to be in trouble on the last hole I played, which was 15,” he said. “I hit my first shot onto the driving range, but I ended up getting a par on that one.”
That made him the leader in the clubhouse, and for a while it looked like his 81 would hold up. But McLaughlin came home in one of the last groups of the afternoon to set up the playoff.
Neither player was happy with his tee shot. Craig sliced his to the right of the fairway. McLaughlin, a southpaw, went left.
But Craig took control with his second shot, dropping it onto the green. McLaughlin’s approach went to the right and forced him to try to chip in; that shot landed on the fringe, opening a door for Craig.
Craig’s birdie try was short of the cup, and McLaughlin’s try for a long par putt ended in about the same spot, just a little past Craig. Craig could have waited for McLaughlin to take his fifth shot but opted to jump in and finish the hole first.
Sunday marked a return for the tournament to its traditional home after weather last fall forced a move up the road to the Country Club of Pittsfield.
Several of Sunday’s competitors -- including Wahconah’s McLaughlin and Hoosac’s Craig -- will be in Pittsfield in a couple of weeks to compete in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 Championships.
If Sunday’s scores were any indication, Hoosac Valley will be a strong contender to defend its 2018 sectional crown.
Finishing two shots behind Craig and tied for fifth in the 24-player field were his Hurricane teammates Henry Sniezek and Luc Trombley.
That was good news for Hoosac coach Jay Sniezek.
“I was kind of nervous the last week and a half, our scores were a little high in some of our matches,” Sniezek said. “This, 18-hole event on a nice course, a tough course, makes us feel pretty good confidence wise.”
Scores Sunday at the Berkshire County Classic at Stockbridge Golf Club (par 71):
Corben Craig, HV*; Pat McLaughlin, Wah. (*won a playoff hole on No. 16)
Liam Fitzgibbons, PHS; Brendan Hayden,Len.
Max Digrigolli, Len; Henry Sniezek, HV; Luc Trombley, HV.
Cooper Rothvoss, ME; Seamus Hayes, Tac.
Brayden Smith, MG: Camden Redstone, Lee.
Ben Shultis, MM; Dan Wilson, Wah.
Max Shepardson, Len.
Dylan Ely, Lee.
Spencer Broderick, ME; Xander Axt, MG.
Nate Murphy, Tac.
Dylan Boomsma, Lee.
Brady Whalen, MM.
Kristina Cusson, Wah.
Curt Wilton, MM.
Owen Petropulos, MG.
Jack Seward-Daley, ME.