Brendan McGovern may have claimed his best finish on the European Senior Tour on Sunday with his runner up spot at the Travis Perkins Senior Masters at Woburn, but just two weeks ago he thought his season was over.
Above – Brendan McGovern – Image by Golffile.ie.
In his own words Brendan McGovern is “living the dream”, but that dream nearly turned into a nightmare while he was doing some club repairs for Rory McNamara in Headfort.
“I badly cut my thumb with a Stanley blade,” recalled Brendan “I have been doing repairs on clubs for over 30 years and never cut myself but this time I took my eye off the ball and gave myself a very nasty gash.”
He received several stitches to his thumb just two days before he was scheduled to travel & tee it up in the Willow Senior Golf Classic at Hanbury Manor on the last weekend in August.
“I only travelled over to Hanbury Manor as I had flights and hotel all booked and paid for. I only hit one shot to test the thumb on the Tuesday and had to walk in. I pulled out of the pro-am the next day and only played three holes on the Thursday before teeing it up in the first round. I was just happy the wound never ruptured before the opening round. To be honest the mind-set was just tee it up and I expected to finish stone last in 54th spot.”
He carded an opening round 73 which had him close to the foot of the leaderboard but the Headfort man burst into life in round two, firing six birdies for a 67. He would finish the week in a tie for 23rd.
“To finish the week playing well and knowing the stitches were healing was a huge bonus and I finished 20 spots further up the leaderboard than I thought I was going to.”
McGovern took that momentum into last weekend’s Travis Perkins Masters at Woburn and never looked back. “The Dukes Course at Woburn is a fantastic golf course, it’s a players course that favours ball striking and accuracy so I was looking forward to it.”
“Before Woburn I felt I had been playing well all year and not getting much out of it.”
All that was about to change. McGovern carded two opening rounds of 70 to sit on -4 and entering the final round he was three back of overnight leader, American Clark Dennis.
“Looking back at the final day I was very comfortable where I was at, playing in the last group on Sunday. I felt I was matching Clark early on but not matching his score, he holed everything for the first five holes. It’s very easy to say you want to win the tournament but it was tough starting three shots back and watching the leader birdie everything in sight for the first few holes and pull six clear.”
“It was like playing a tournament within a tournament as I knew I needed a big cheque to secure my order of merit position and winning was looking unlikely. I had spoken to Des Smyth about this on the Saturday night and I was experienced enough to know what I needed to do. If a chance to win presented itself with two or three holes to go I was ready but if that never happened I had to make sure I had a good finish to try secure my card for next year.”
From six back after five holes, things started to change at the top, and fast. By the time the final group reached the 14th tee box Dennis had unravelled. A birdie three from McGovern on thirteen and a double from Dennis left the Headfort man just one back with four to play.
“I knew it was game on at that stage and I was right in the mix. I left myself about twenty five feet away for birdie on fifteen and hit a great putt, it was tracking and hit the back middle of the hole and stayed out, I was sick. I was walking off the green thinking it opened a door for Clarke and he managed to knock in his 10 footer. It was a real match play moment. I thought he would kick on and had the winning of the tournament from there as he was two clear with three to play and Philip Golding was tied with me playing in the group in front.”
Disaster struck again for Clark on the sixteenth as the American carded another double bogey, but McGovern dropped a shot on seventeen, missing a five-foot par putt, which left Golding leading and in the clubhouse on –5. McGovern now two back in third.
McGovern dug deep to hit a bullet three wood down the last, followed by a wedge to just off the back fringe about 25 feet from the hole. “The lie was a bit scruffy on the fringe and I wanted to get the ball rolling at the hole so I figured a bad putt would be better than a bad chip under the circumstances so I used the putter. I knew that if this putt dropped it was going to make a huge difference to my season and luckily it did – thank you very much” he said with a cheeky tone. “It was a massive putt and great way to finish with a birdie on the last.”
Philip Golding claimed the title, his five under total proving one too good for Dennis and McGovern, the pair tied in second place on four under par.
“Looking back on the week I am very happy the way I performed especially in the pressure of the final round. The experience of getting through Tour school earlier in the year really stood to me. I am still learning and this is a huge step up from what I have been doing for the last 25 years and feel I am progressing along nicely year on year. I am very comfortable out here on the Senior Tour now.”
“At the end of the day I am a competitor. That’s the natural instinct I have always had whether it’s an Irish PGA Pro Am or a big Senior Tour event, I just want to compete. I am learning from playing with different players out here every week and even though I am almost 52 years old I am constantly looking to improve. I am doing things now that I probably should have done 25 years ago but you live and learn I suppose. Anybody that loves what they do generally do it well and I am loving every week of this.”
His Woburn finish earned McGovern a cheque for €33,300 taking his yearly earnings to €63,228 jumping him up to 18th in the order of merit with only four events plus the end of season MCB Tour Championship left to play this season.
As for the injury, it’s about 80-90% healed as he heads to Italy for the Italian Senior Open on Thursday morning.