By Dalton Balthaser
PAWTUCKET – Mark Wilson played the waiting game. He signed up for the 24th John P. Burke Memorial but was too late and was put on the waitlist.
Once he got an email stating he was in the tournament, he was ecstatic.
But what he didn’t know was that fate was on his side.
Wilson, aided by a red-hot putter and calm nerves, claimed the #BurkeMemorial after a final round of 67 Tuesday at Pawtucket Country Club (par 69, 6,420 yards).
“I was on the waitlist for the longest time,” said Wilson. “I didn’t think I was even going to get into the tournament. I guess it was worth the wait.”
He shot an even-par-72 at Newport Country Club on Monday. His two-day total of 139 was good for a three-shot victory over Round One co-leader Nick Hedden, of Connecticut National Golf Club.
“It’s the biggest tournament I have won to date,” said Wilson, 20, of Needham, Mass. “The U.S. Challenge Cup has done a great job preparing me to play in events like this. It is a good start to what I hope will be a great summer.”
Wilson started the day two shots behind Hedden and Joel Harvey of Agawam Hunt, who was the co-leader with Hedden.
But after he made the turn, he had a three-shot lead.
“I knew I had to make up some ground,” said Wilson. “I figured if I went out and shot a number at Pawtucket, I would see where I would stand at the end. I didn’t think it would result in me holding the trophy.”
Wilson’s round was jumpstarted with a trio of birdies on Nos. 8 (par 5, 542 yards), 9 (par 4, 449 yards) and 10 (par 4, 435 yards).
The birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 came because of his 53-degree wedge and his putter. He hit his 53-degree from 122 yards to three feet on No. 9 and from 140 yards to 20 feet on No. 10.
His birdie on No. 10 after finding some tree trouble on the left side. But a holed putt from the fringe left him speechless as he walked off the green with birdie.
On his way to the top, he passed the likes of Bobby Leopold, a four-time #BurkeMemorial champion and Brad Valois, a two-time champion. Two of the RIGA’s best players in the last 20 years.
“I wasn’t aware of the leaderboard all day,” said Wilson. “I just wanted to keep my head down and play my game. I felt some nerves coming down the stretch but all I was wanted to do was hit the center of each green and make par. I knew the leaderboard was stacked. To pass some of the best players that have played in RIGA events is crazy to me.”
After a 25-footer for birdie on No. 16 (par 4, 432 yards), Wilson had one hand on the trophy. Barring a disaster, he would hold the hardware.
Wilson had the support of his groupmates Jason Kalin of Agawam Hunt, Kevin Blaser of Button Hole Golf Club and Tim Picard of the host club. They were visibly rooting him on after each shot and offering fist bumps and words of encouragement. Blaser was the defending champion.
“It meant a lot to have those guys offering their support to me when they were trying to play their best,” said Wilson. It’s great to have the support of others as a relative newcomer. Especially with not knowing where I was and being in an unfamiliar position.”
Wilson, who graduated from St. Sebastian’s School in Needham in 2021, took a gap year to give himself time before college. While he is still undecided on his future, he has a good alternative right now in golf. One that gives him a lot to look forward to this summer.
“This is the round of my life,” said Wilson, of Wannamoisett Country Club. “To be able to do what I did today and come from behind is a great feeling. This gives me all the confidence in the world in myself and my game.”
Paul Quigley isn’t one to sit and talk about all he’s accomplished in the Rhode Island Golf Scene.
He keeps looking to challenge and better himself any way he can.
Quigley, 77, turned back the clock once again to claim the Senior Division of the #BurkeMemorial at Pawtucket (par 69, 6,195 yards).
His two-day total of 142 was good enough for a three-shot victory over Darren Corrente, the 2021 Senior Player of the Year from Wannamoisett.
He bettered his age by six shots at Newport with a 71 on Monday and matched the feat on Tuesday.
“It did feel pretty good to beat my age by six at Newport yesterday,” said Quigley, of Warren. “I don’t think about shooting my age until it’s over. I am so old that you don’t have to get any better to shoot your age, just older. Who doesn’t love Newport?”
Quigley’s round through 12 holes was the status quo. Two birdies and two bogeys. Steady as a surgeon. But a double bogey on No. 13 (par 3, 176 yards) could have rattled his cage.
“That double bogey on No. 13 was stupid,” said Quigley, of Green Valley Country Club. “I didn’t let that get to me. I stayed in it and parred the last five holes.”
Quigley hasn’t been in the winner’s circle in a bit. The closest he’s been since 2019 was when he lost in a playoff to Bruce Heterick in the Senior Amateur at Montaup Country Club that same year. But that burning desire to compete keeps him going. He said he is feeling as good as he has in a bit health-wise and is ready to give it another run.
“The last couple of years haven’t been my best,” said Quigley. “But getting the first trophy of the season will go a long way to getting me back in the hunt for Senior Player of the Year and the Tri-State team.”