LYNN — Don’t let anyone tell you that your local club championship can’t be just as exciting as a Sunday at any major professional golf championship. This past Sunday at Gannon Golf Club, Jon Gagnon and Ben Friedman went toe-to-toe all day until the men’s club championship was decided in a two-hole playoff when Gagnon sank a 12-foot birdie putt to win the title.
But the story of how the two golfers even got to that point is a wild one.
“What a day it was,” said Gagnon, who has won three club championships at The Meadow at Peabody. “I had a seven-shot lead and somehow blew that, then still had a lead down the stretch and blew that, then finally won in a playoff. It was really a surreal experience, especially on Sunday with all the people here. I’ve never been a part of something like that, it was more people than I’ve ever played golf in front of.”
Gagnon got off to a blitzing start over the first two days of the championship, a 72-hole stroke play event that was played over four days and two weekends. Gagnon came out of the gate with a 71 on the first day and followed it up with a 68 in the second round, amassing an impressive seven-shot lead over Friedman, who was in second place despite shooting a consistent 72 and 74 in the first two rounds.
“The thing about stroke play, it’s a marathon,” said Friedman, who has won two club championships at Gannon. “I played really well over the first two days, and I was shocked when I looked and saw I was seven shots behind. But I’m proud of myself for the way I stuck in there and kept playing no matter what, and in the end I had a chance to win. But going up against a great player like Jon in front of the great crowds that were out there, it really was a great experience.”
But over the final two rounds, things flipped. Gagnon shot a 77 in the third round while Friedman shot a 71, cutting the deficit down to just one shot. In the final round the two went back and forth all day, with Friedman actually taking the lead for a spell on the eighth hole. The two battled until the 18th hole, and when it was all said and done the match would have to be decided in a playoff.
After tying on the first playoff hole, both players sent solid shots into the green on the second hole to set up birdie putts. Gagnon went first, and he drilled his 12-foot putt to grab the advantage. Friedman needed his 10-foot putt to drop to continue the playoff, but he barely missed and Gagnon took home the title.
“It was honestly kind of sad that someone had to win it,” said Gagnon. “We went back and forth the whole day and we both had chances at the end, and in the end my putt went in and his didn’t.”
“It was almost like we were in a playoff for half the day, because it really was a two-horse race on the back nine,” said Friedman. “In the end, it came down to a putt. There’s really no better way for it to go, win or lose.”
After winning the championship, Gagnon capped off the day by getting proposing to his girlfriend.
“It really was an exclamation point on the day for sure,” said Gagnon. “It’s funny, since I actually had such a big lead after the first two days I actually started thinking about doing it if I won. Then I went through all that stuff in the final two rounds with blowing the lead and going to the playoff, but in the end I was able to win it and propose to her afterward.”
Thankfully, he was able to work it out for the perfect ending.
In other news around Gannon, Mary Hunt took home the Gannon ladies club championship for the seventh time over the weekend. Hunt shot a total score of 334 over the four-day tournament. Gina Manning, Tara Friedman, Jane Fiste and Hunt’s sister, Ann Dawson, also competed in the championship.
“It was a lot of fun, and a great competition like always,” said Hunt. “I always look forward to tee it up against my fellow competitors every year, and I was fortunate enough to play well and win another one.”
In addition to winning the ladies championship, Hunt also took home the title in the Gannon ladies senior championship a few weeks ago.
“It feels pretty nice to win two times in the same year, even though I didn’t play very well in the senior championship,” said Hunt. “I knew I had to come back and play some better golf if I wanted to have a chance in the ladies championship.”