A year ago, Patrick McCarthy needed all 54 holes to claim the Greater Albuquerque Men’s City Amateur Golf Championship.
His 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole proved the difference as he etched his name in the history books for the first time.
The second time around was a lot easier as McCarthy led wire-to-wire in the 77th annual event this year, finishing Sunday 15 strokes under par with a 201, five shots better than runner-ups James Gehrke and Chandler Smith-Stetson.
McCarthy, 20, a St. Pius graduate and incoming junior for Division II Missouri Western State in St. Joseph, Mo., carded a bogey-free, 2-under 70 in the final round of the championship flight at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course to become the first repeat winner since Patrick Beyhan defended his title in 2013. McCarthy became the 10th back-to-back champion of the City.
It was just fundamental, steady, error-free golf that brought McCarthy the victory.
“I just had to play consistent (Sunday),” said McCarthy, who grew up playing at Los Altos, where he now works. “I knew if I just eliminated bogeys, which I did, I only had one all tournament, I knew that would be huge for me. Just being able to play consistent; hit fairways, greens, two putts. I didn’t get much to drop (Sunday), but I knew I didn’t need something super low. I just needed to stay consistent and I was able to do that.”
Smith-Stetson, an Albuquerque Academy alumnus who played all three rounds alongside McCarthy, entered the final day five strokes back, while Gehrke was six back.
Gehrke made a quick run early, collecting three birdies on the first seven holes, but there just were no openings.
“He never gave us any chances,” said Gehrke, a University of New Mexico alumnus. “I made a little run at him early, but when somebody is playing like that, you have to go low.”
Smith-Stetson said he never really was able to close the gap, either.
“I knew (Saturday) he wasn’t making any bogeys, he wasn’t going to back up,” he said. “I knew I had to go low. I shot even on the front and I knew that was the writing on the wall. I was just too far behind the eight ball at that point to truly make a run. I did my best. I made an eagle on the back, but I didn’t get enough to fall.”
Having Smith-Stetson as partner helped push him, McCarthy said.
“It was important,” he said. “He was right there on my tail the entire tournament. He’s a great player. His putting, when he gets on he’s almost automatic. I felt it was very important to have him on my heels. It reminded me real quick if I drop a couple here, he’s right there.”
Getting off to a strong start on the first two days also was an important key to success, McCarthy said after shooting an opening-round, 6-under 66 at Ladera and following that up with a 7-under 65 at Los Altos.
“In this type of tournament, you really have to take advantage of the first couple of days, and I was really trying to post two low numbers,” he said. “It seems like in the college tournaments I play in, you’re just trying to hang on the entire time. The courses are tough. But don’t get me wrong, Arroyo, Ladera and Los Altos are still tough courses, but I had a good week ball-striking-wise and I was able to take advantage of it.”
Both Smith-Stetson and Gehrke were fairly satisfied themselves with three strong rounds and sharing second.
“It was definitely solid play,” Smith-Stetson said. “I’ve been playing well this summer. Always in the top 3 so far. I just want to keep the momentum going. I have some big tournaments coming up so I’m excited for those.”
As for Gehrke, he said: “I usually shoot myself out of it in one of the rounds so I’m pretty happy with three good rounds.”