|Max Buckley Photo courtesy MGA|
The Jerry Courville Sr. MGA Player of the Year Award is presented annually to the Met Area amateur who compiles the best record in select events during the course of the year, and is based on a system in which players earn points for their finishes in designated local, national and international championships.
Buckley’s triumph at the Nassau, the penultimate event on the Met Area competitive schedule, gave him a mere 40-point edge over Andover, N.J.’s Pat Wilson in the Polo Golf MGA Points Standings, making it one of the narrowest wins in the past 20 years.
“When I sat down with my coach [Gary Weir] at the beginning of the year, this was one of my main goals,” said Buckley, a 2013 graduate of Southern Methodist University. “Once I won a few tournaments and put myself in that position, I felt more and more comfortable in tight situations, and that’s something that really helped me.”
Right from the get-go, one had the feeling it was going to be a special season for Buckley, who developed a knack for coming up big down the stretch of tournaments. It began in April while he was competing overseas as a member of the MGA Carey Cup team against the Golfing Union of Ireland. Playing in the second to last singles match on the final day, Buckley overcame a three down deficit with four to play to win his match and secure the retention of the Cup.
In May, he edged Wilson in a sudden-death playoff to win the New York City Amateur, the first of four victories on the season. In June, he narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Open (T-6 at sectionals) and recorded his second consecutive runner-up finish at the Ike Championship. A few days later, he took home the Mittelmark Invitational at Fenway with a birdie on the first hole of a three-way sudden death playoff. He claimed sole possession atop the Player of the Year standings after he finished tied for third at the Westchester Open and won the Arcola Cup by three shots in late July.
However, being a factor in the Player of the Year race wasn’t unfamiliar territory for Buckley; he made the past three Player of the Year Honor Rolls (awarded to the top 10 players in the standings). He now joins an elite list of players who’ve claimed the Met Area’s most coveted amateur title.
“There are a lot of great names on that Player of the Year Award list, and to be among them is pretty special,” he said.
Standing in his way was Wilson, a 2013 graduate of St. John’s, who sat near the top of the standings for much of the season. The 23-year-old, who plays out of Panther Valley, took over the lead in early August after his impressive victory at the Met Amateur at Stanwich. Both players earned on-site cut points at the Met Open and after a third place finish at the Boff Invitational in September (Buckley finished 10th), Wilson’s lead extended to 60 points heading into the final week of the season.
Buckley saved his finest performance for last, qualifying for match play and winning all four matches en route to the Nassau crown and Player of the Year title.
“Max is a really good player,” Wilson said. “He did what he needed to do. It was a deserving win.”
“Pat and I had a good rivalry all summer,” Buckley said. “He played spectacular golf, especially at the Met Am. It was a tight race till the end.”
This is Wilson’s second consecutive Honor Roll finish. Joining him are other Met Area standouts including Sam Bernstein of Century who is making his third consecutive appearance, two-time MGA Player of the Year Joe Saladino of Huntington who finished fourth in the standings, and 2013 Met Am and MGA Mid-Am runner-up Trevor Randolph of Arcola who finished fifth. Rounding out the Honor Roll is last year’s POY runner-up and Met Am champ Ryan McCormick of Suburban, reigning Met Junior winner Cameron Young of Sleepy Hollow, Dylan Crowley of Glen Cove who finished 8th, former MGA/MetLife Boys winner Matt Lowe of Colonial Springs, and 2013 NJSGA Amateur champion Mike Stamberger of Spring Lake.