After just about the three months of action the WPGA Match Play Championship would come to a close on Monday. Kicking off in early May with two days of play, the remaining foursome would return to close things out at the site where the journey began. Monday’s play would feature the semifinals in the morning and the final match around lunch time.
Playing host to the qualifying round and five of the six rounds of match play would be Washington County GC. The always fun and well-conditioned municipal course was hosting the championship for the fourth time in the past twenty-one years.
Navigating their way into the final four were the three top seeds and a lone dark-horse. The morning semifinals would feature Michael Crowley against Matt Kennedy and Mick Smith versus Ryan Helminen.
In semifinal number one the consistency of Crowley would turn out to be too much, as he’d go even-par thru the first fourteen holes in damp and windy conditions. It’d produce a 5&4 victory for the 2020 Wisconsin State Senior Open champion.
On the other side of the draw two heavyweights would duke it out until the very end. Smith and Helminen would combine for nine birdies over the course of their 18-hole battle. It would take a birdie-birdie finish by Smith to produce a 1up win over Helminen, the 2007 champion.
The stage was now set for the top two seeds to put on a show and see who could outduel the other.
Out of the gates Smith would grab control of the match by going 1-under-par on the first four holes. The steady play would give him a 2up lead.
Crowley would however bounce back as a nice 12-foot birdie putt would fall on the short par-4 5th.
“I didn’t get off to a great start but once I made that putt on no. 5 I felt like I was in control of my game,” Crowley wrote via text.
It would kick off a four-hole stretch where the duo would throw birdies at each other and see if their opponent could match.
Next up was Smith, as he would regain his 2up advantage on the very next hole. He would knock a downwind 8-iron from 195 yards to inside five feet.
The 2up lead was short lived through as the 52-year-old Crowley would hit some nice approach shots on both no. 7 and 8. His rock-solid birdie putts from seven and fifteen feet would drop. All of sudden the match was even once again.
The seesaw affair would then swing back in Smith’s favor as he’d clip a nice wedge on the par-4 10th. It’d produce a short-range birdie and with it he’d take back the lead.
Crowley would rebound though on the difficult 450-yard par-4 12th, he’d hit a great approach to ten feet and knock in another birdie. Once again it was all-square, with six holes to go.
Over the course of the next three holes some great birdie chances would not fall, which would result in matching pars.
The holes were dwindling and the pressure was on. Both players would then hit great shots into the 218-yard par-3 16th. For Smith though his five-iron would track the flag the entire way. Landing just to the right of the cup the soft conditions would help him stop it within six feet.
With twenty feet to go Crowley would give his birdie putt a great run but it would come up just short of the cup. Smith would calmly roll in his six-footer to go 1up.
Over the course of the final two holes Smith’s steady ball striking would turn out to be too much to overcome. His birdie-par finish would secure the 1up win.
“Mick wasn’t fazed by anything I threw at him,” Crowley wrote via text. “He played extremely well all day. It was a great match to be a part of.”
For Smith a recent decision would help play a huge role in his success on Monday.
“Early last week I switched back to my irons that I used the last three years,” Smith said. “It helped me find a good swing thought and with it I gained some confidence.”
That confidence and great ball-striking has now delivered Smith this year’s WPGA Match Play Championship and the previous two WPGA Professional Stroke Play Championships. He’ll look to go for three-in-a-row in September at The Legend at Bergamont.
“To hold both trophies at once is great,” Smith said. “I’m very proud of what I’ve done.”
The WPGA would like to thank our event partners, Nexbelt, Good Vibe CBD, and the PGA Tour, for helping make the event possible with their generous support.
A big thank you also goes out to Washington County GC and their staff. The club did a great job of hosting the first major on the 2022 WPGA tournament schedule.