McHugh Goes Hunting For Deer. But Discovered Birdies Will Do.

AURORA: Fox Den Golf Course’s Tyler McHugh has a passion for hunting. McHugh usually sets his sights on big deer – the 8-point variety – but he turned his attention to a much smaller, but more lucrative, target on Tuesday at Club Walden during the 36-hole NOPGA National Car Rental Assistants Championship.

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This time the target was birdies and McHugh had a bundle in rounds of 66-69-135 for 9-under 135 and a two-shot victory over Elyria Country Club’s Jake Scott (66-71-137) and Brandywine Country Club’s Michael Balcar (72-65-137).

McHugh, 26, earned the $1,400 winner’s check and will advance to the 44th Annual PGA Assistants Championship at the PGA Golf Club in Pam Beach Gardens, Fla., November 12-15.

“That’s right in the middle of the rut,” McHugh said, referring to the deer mating season of mid-October to early December when big bucks are most active and vulnerable. “I’ll have to bag a big one early.”

Scott, who shared the lead with McHugh after the first 18 holes, also will advance by virtue of his runner-up finish.

Balcar, whose second-round 65 was the lowest of the day in the entire field, chose not to play for a chance to advance. Hence, no playoff was required to determine the top two finishers.

Alternate spots went to Bowling Green State University Head Golf Coach John Powers (72-69-141), Westfield Country Club’s Daren de Lelys (74-70—144) and Collin Slattery, Assistant Golf Professional at The Country Club (71-74-145).

McHugh, who prepped at Walsh Jesuit, Wright State and Kent State, was the lone player in the 40-man field to break 70 in both rounds.

“That was a grind, especially in this heat.” said McHugh, the only player in the 40-man field to break 70 in both rounds. “I am beat, both physically and mentally.”

In his 36 holes, McHugh had one eagle, nine birdies, 25 pars, no bogeys and one double bogey. He played bogey-free in his first round but made his lone double-bogey on Walden’s 460-yard 10th hole, his opening hole in the second round, when he pumped his tee shot out of bounds. He went on to play his final 17 holes in 5-under.

After his opening 6-under 66 put him in a tie for the lead with Scott, both with a 5-shot margin over Slattery, McHugh brought a new ball into play to begin his second round on Walden’s 460-yard 10th hole.

He promptly lost the new ball when he piped his drive out of bounds, resulting in his lone double-bogey. The original ball was brought back into play and McHugh covered his final 17 holes in 5-under and played that original Titleist Pro V1 bogey-free and 11-under for 35 holes.

“Bogey-free the whole 36 and that one double,” he said. “I used the one ball the whole first round and I switched balls for the second round the first shot I hit with it –boom, out of bounds. I had the ball from the first round sitting there so I grabbed it and played the rest of the round with it. So, I was 11-under with that one ball and 2-over with the other one. I thought that was kind of funny.”

After absorbing more than four inches of rain on Monday, Walden played longer than its 7,202 yards. It also prompted many questions.

“I wasn’t sure how I would play because of all the rain we had on Monday,” said McHugh, who birdied four of his final eight holes. “I didn’t know how wet it was going to be and how the greens were going to be. But, I got off to a really hot start.”

He went par-par-eagle-par-birdie-birdie in his first six holes of the day and added another birdie on the 415-yard ninth to make the turn in 5-under 31.

“From that point on I knew there were some scores out there so I just had to keep going,” he said. “I knew it was going to take a low number today, especially with the quality of players in this field.”

And, he did, especially after making the turn in the second round with the very comfy front-nine in front of him. He birdied two of his first three holes on his final nine, making 8-foot and 5-foot putts. He added another birdie on the 520-yard sixth when his eagle chip from just off the green lipped out.

He closed with par-saves from about eight feet on his final two holes.

Tim is a Contributing Writer for the Northern Ohio PGA. Award-winning golf writer and sports reporter for the Plain Dealer, now retired. Contributor to the Akron Beacon Journal, Canton Repository, AP, other national publications.