Sometimes you just need to see some putts go in. This played into McClure Meissner’s Southern Amateur victory on Saturday in a few ways.
Meissner, who is about to enter his senior season at SMU, was six shots back starting the day at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas. He birdied his first two holes to start cutting the deficit. At the first hole, it was a dead-center putt off a 9-iron approach to 18 feet. At No. 2, he hit a 3-hybrid into the back fringe from 275 yards out and two-putted.
The hot start showed Meissner there were birdies available at Maridoe, which is not always the case on this layout. The 21-year-old has played it a handful of times in competition recently and knows it’s tough to make up shots.
Scores: Southern Amateur
“I woke up today and I didn’t think that I really had a chance, honestly,” Meissner said. “The guys at the top were phenomenal players and I knew that I needed something extremely low to have a chance.”
Cole Hammer, the No. 9-ranked player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking was 7 under through 54 holes and at the top of the leaderboard. Meissner stood at 1 under and teed off four groups ahead on Saturday.
Meissner’s final day kept progressing, though, with two more birdies at Nos. 6 and 8. His lone bogey came at No. 10, but he followed it with three consecutive birdies from Nos. 12-14. He calls the best shot of the day the 7-iron approach he hit to inside 5 feet at No. 12
“To get the bogey back I made on 10 that quickly,” he said. “I think at that point I saw that I was maybe one back or two back.”
As Meissner was climbing the leaderboard, so was Illinois State’s David Perkins. Meissner shot a final-round 66 but Perkins closed with a 70. It left them both at 7 under, but Meissner won on the first extra hole.
As for Hammer, the Texas junior closed with a pair of double-bogeys for a final-round 79 that dropped him to a tie for 13th.
Despite more than four months having passed since he came in fourth at the Southern Highlands Intercollegiate, annually one of the best fields in college golf, it doesn’t seem like Meissner has lost much. The coronavirus pandemic ended all NCAA athletics prematurely on March 12. Meissner finished his classes online and took it easy on the golf.
The San Antonio native spent some time in Dallas with friends, hanging around the lake, not thinking about golf.
That kind of downtime doesn’t happen in a normal year. If you’re a top player, as Meissner is at No. 35 in the world, you go from one college season to the summer amateur circuit to the next season. Many play a handful of tournaments over the winter breaks. There is no off-season.
“As much as it stung for the year to end, I was able to get fresh and take a little time off and focus on other things,” he said.
By mid-May, he was ready to work hard on his golf again. He buckled down with instructor Bryan Gathright to work his swing into a place it felt comfortable.
And he holed a lot of putts. Meissner devoted time to his stroke and his setup, his lag putting and just logged repetition. Before, he’d felt like he was a streaky putter – he’d make everything one day and nothing the next.
“Seeing a lot of putts go in during the time off, it helped me a lot,” he said. Meissner also switched out his putter since he last played in the spring.
Courtesy of his Southern Am win, Meissner earns a spot in U.S. Amateur. Perkins also earns one as the runner-up. Both players were already in the field, however.
Almost exactly a year ago, Meissner finished third at the Maridoe-hosted Trans Miss Amateur, a tournament that was canceled this year because of the pandemic. All that experience carried forward this week.
“It’s a really visually intimidating course and to be able to play it a couple times, it just gives you a lot of confidence,” he said. “… The more I play it, the more I feel comfortable and the more I love it. It’s a great place and it tests every aspect of your game.”
He passed them all.