By Ken MacLeod
BARTLESVILLE – In 23 previous victories in Oklahoma Golf Association championships, Mike Hughett’s normal reaction was to offer an almost sheepish smile, shake hands and congratulate his opponent.
The 24th was dramatically different.
Rolling in a 12-foot birdie putt on the first hole of a three-man playoff in the OGA Mid-Amateur Championship at Hillcrest Country Club, Hughett launched into a Tigeresque fist pump, then shortly after burst into tears.
“This one was for Matt,” he said of his 36-year-old son Matt Hughett, who passed away May 21 after suffering two years with brain cancer. “I could feel him up there watching me and pulling for me. I had no doubt I was going to make that putt, none.”
The victory was especially meaningful not only because he had dedicated the tournament to his son, but to show the 63-year-old Hughett he could still compete against many of the top amateurs in the state – many decades younger – in an event he first won in 2000, also in a playoff with Rick Ruffin with a similar length birdie putt on the first playoff hole. He also won the Mid-Amateur for those 25 and older in 2007 and 2008.
Hughett nearly won the event in regulation but his birdie putt on the par-5 18th grazed the cup after he suffered his lone bogey on 17. His final-round of 4-under 68 moved him to 5-under and in a tie with Austin Schmidt of Tulsa, who shot the tournament’s low-round of 6-under 66 Tuesday, and Harley Abrams of Tulsa, who eagled the 18th to shoot 68 and also finish at 5-under overall.
First-round co-leaders Austin Hannah of Tulsa and defending champion Daniel Langley of Shawnee could have joined the playoff with birdies on the 18th. Hannah, who won this event in 2015 and 2016, tried to muscle a 3-wood from a downhill lie in the rough on his second shot and it went right, leaving a difficult pitch. Still he had a 20-foot birdie putt slide by. Langley ended up with a bogey to drop back to a tie for sixth.
Peter Vitali of Oklahoma City tied Hannah for fourth at 4-under. The strong field included nine past OGA champions (Hughett, Langley, Hannah, Brian Birchell, Kyle Hudelson, Joel Driver, Jamie Voegeli, DonCochran and Eric Gudgel.
In the playoff, Abrams missed a long birdie effort, then Schmidt missed from about 14 feet below the hole. Hughett, whose drive on the par-4 first had headed right only to hit a tree and bounce into the middle of the fairway, hit his second about 18 feet above the hole and spun it back for the 12-footer which went right in the heart of the cup.
“I heard it hit a tree so I thought I would just go see if I had a shot,” Hughett said. “And there it was in the middle of the fairway. When you see stuff like that happen, you get the feeling that this is your day. I wasn’t nervous at all over the birdie putt. I had great confidence it was going in.”
Hughett lost both his parents in 2020, the same year his son was diagnosed with brain cancer. It wasn’t Hughett’s first victory since the death, he recently won the Tulsa Golf Association City Championship Senior Division and also won his club championship at Owasso Golf & Athletic Club. But it was by far the most meaningful for Hughett, who is now believed to be the oldest winner of a non-senior OGA event in state history.
“I’ll be 64 in a couple of weeks. I knew I could hit it long enough to compete with the Mid-Ams, but it was a matter of whether I could concentrate and make the putts, which is where I usually struggle,” Hughett said. “It’s very gratifying that I can still do this.”
Hughett shot 3-under 33 on the front, then birdied holes 10 and 11 to start the back nine to reach 5-under on his round and 6-under for the tournament. He had several other birdie opportunities on the way in narrowly miss, then dumped his second shot on the par-4 17th in a front bunker and failed to get up-and-down, leading to the playoff.
Abrams hit a brilliant second shot on the 18 to about 4 feet for eagle to reach the playoff.
Oklahoma Golf Association
July 18-19, 2022
Hillcrest Country Club
Michael Hughett, Owasso – 71-68–139 (won playoff)
Harley Abrams, Tulsa – 71-68–139
Austin Schmidt, Tulsa – 73-66–139
Austin Hannah, Tulsa – 69-71–140
Peter Vitali, Oklahoma City – 71-69–140
Daniel Langley, Shawnee – 69-72–141
Conrad Walcher, Edmond – 71-70–141
Preston Wilkins, Tulsa – 73-68–141
William Brueckner, Tulsa – 70-72–142
Stephen Grimes , Edmond – 74-70–144
Jesse Pennington, Oklahoma City – 73-71–144
Brian Birchell, Oklahoma City – 75-71–146
Eric Gudgel, Stillwater – 76-70–146
Mike Hearne, Yukon – 71-76–147
JR Hurley, Norman – 73-74–147
Bryce Newton, Edmond – 73-74–147
Nathan Coats, Bartlesville – 74-74–148
Brett Green, Edmond – 80-68–148
Matt Ramage, Bixby – 72-76–148
Cole Stephenson, Tulsa – 75-73–148
Jamie Voegeli, Tulsa – 73-76–149
Joel Driver, Oklahoma City – 73-77–150
Sajan Patel, Tulsa – 73-78–151
Ryan Roberts, Edmond – 76-75–151
Phillip Bryan, Mustang – 74-78–152
TJ Eckert, Glenpool – 73-80–153
Kyle Hudelson, Edmond – 75-78–153
Layne Parham, Bartlesville – 80-73–153
Brent Taylor, Bartlesville – 74-80–154
Scott Athey, Enid – 78-77–155
Jim Curd, Bartlesville – 79-76–155
Matthew Ellis, Oklahoma City – 81-74–155
Eric Evans, Ponca City – 82-73–155
Kirk Fryer, Tulsa – 80-77–157
Jon Hagen, Claremore – 80-77–157
Shawn Barker, Bartlesville – 79-79–158
Jon Hoover, Tulsa – 83-75–158
Preston Bartley, Bartlesville – 84-75–159
Guy Child, Stillwater – 80-79–159
Ryan Harris, Oklahoma City – 83-76–159
Kolt Byerly, Yukon – 79-81–160
Zac Henderson, Bartlesville – 82-79–161
David Gilbert, Tulsa – 85-78–163
Larry Merrick, Edmond – 82-82–164
Riley Reed, Pryor – 86-80–166
Travis Summers, Oklahoma City – 83-83–166
Don Cochran, Norman – 81-86–167
Andy Proctor, Kiefer – 84-83–167
Joel Lake, Bixby – 87-84–171
Rowdy Anthony, Edmond – 93-88–181