HANOVER TWP. — The mighty blast shot off the driver of Art Brunn and soared through the deep gray skies, heading straight for the pin while raising a roar from the gallery on the 13th hole.
When the tee shot thumped to the ground a mere inches from the cup, shouts of admiration came out of the crowd over the near-miss ace.
It turned out, Brunn was just getting started.
Brunn and his partner Mike Lynch birdied their way back into contention at the very end of regulation, then won the 67th annual McCarthy Golf Classic 1-up in a two-hole playoff Sunday against heartbroken cousins Eric Plisko and Drew Mamary in a finish for the ages at Wyoming Valley Country Club.
“I said I kept thinking about what my dad always told me,” Brunn said of the late Art Brunn Sr. “It’s not over until you give up.”
He never did.
Down two holes with three to go in the match play tournament, Brunn rolled the a 15-foot putt across the side of a hill and into the hole on No. 16, then birdied the par 4 17th to even the score.
On the first playoff hole, Brunn came out of a sand trap at the bottom of 18 with an upward shot that set him up within two feet of the cup for par, forcing the teams to another playoff hole.
“I’ve watched him for a long, long time,” said Lynch, who has teamed with Brunn to win a couple handfuls of Northeastern Pennsylvania golf tournaments in the past but paired up with Brunn for the first time at the McCarthy. “We do a good job of helping each other. I’ve seen him do a lot of incredible things.”
When the championship moved to the No. 1 tee for a second playoff hole, Brunn brought another strong drive that led him to his third birdie in the last five holes to better Plisko’s par performance on the hole and secure the McCarthy title.
“I have a flair for the dramatics,” grinned Brunn, Holy Redeemer’s golf coach who led the Royals to the 2013 PIAA Class 2A championship a year after they lost the state title in a one-hole playoff. “I said I’m going to retire as soon as my high school players start beating me. I’m holding on by a thread.”
It was Brunn’s second McCarthy championship in three years, after winning his first one while partnering with Rick Berry in 2016.
And both times, Brunn left Plisko and Mamary frustrated in the finals.
“Artie’s tough to beat, man,” Mamary said. “You get a putter in his hands, you never know what the (heck) he’s going to do with it.
Mamary and Plisko spent more than half the day being a little fiendish themselves.
Plisko pounded home a handful of birdies and enjoyed a phenomenal putting day, while Mamary made the most of some impressive drives and dug out of the rough with a couple nifty approach shots.
“I just did the best I can and my partner played his heart out,” Mamary said. “My partner wanted to win it for me so bad. I don’t know how many years I have left to play with him.”
Together, they took control and had their eyes on their first McCarthy prize two-thirds of the way through the title match.
Brunn’s blast that came so close to a hole-in-one on 13 changed momentum, though, and helped cut the deficit to one.
“That was pretty nice, to hear the crowd yell like that,” Brunn said.
The teams played even on the 14th hole, then Pliskoplaced hit an approach shot six feet from the hole before dropping in a birdie to restore a two-hole lead on the 15th. It looked to put Mamary and Plisko on the brink of their first McCarthy title in 12 years of trying.
It could have spelled doom for Brunn and Lynch.
But Brunn’s circling birdie putt on the hilly 16th green gave his team a chance.
“That was a big putt for us,” Brunn said. “We needed that to get our momentum back. Eric made a great up-and-down (for par) on 14 and a nice birdie on 15.”
Plisko’s bid for a match-clinching birdie putt on 17 stopped mere inches from the hole, though, opening the door for a dramatic finish by Brunn and Lynch.
“I just didn’t hit the putt,” Plisko said. “We came in a little short on 17. We were two up with three to go. Very disappointing. The guys we lost to are tough players. Hats off to them. They played great.
“It’s disappointing to get this close and no hardware.”
Brunn and Lynch seemed to be in trouble at the start of the playoff, when both landed in sand traps on opposite sides of the green. But Brunn dug out from 15 yards away with an sweet 7-iron to set up par and keep the title fight going.
“I practice that shot a lot, ” Brunn said. “I was prepared to hit it. That didn’t go in, but fortunately I was able to make par and extend it another hole.”
That’s where Brunn found his second McCarthy crown and Lynch got his first.
“It feels great,” Lynch said. “John McCarthy is a friend of mine. To win the McCarthy is a privilege. The family is such a great family. To have my first win here in my first try is truly special.”
Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @ TLSports