Article available in the Winter issue of the GAP Magazine.
Charles McClaskey of Back Creek GC is an optimist.
It doesn’t matter whether he’s on the golf course or not. McClaskey’s daily mantra remains the same regardless of circumstance.
“The game of golf is positive, and if you keep a positive mind, you can generally overcome some of the bad things you’ve done that round,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do each round. I go into it saying, ‘well, just do the best you can with each shot.’ That goes with life. If you’re positive, you have a chance to have good things happen.”
Good things certainly happened to McClaskey in 2010. The Elkton, Md. resident captured the Brewer Cup, Senior Amateur Championship and Super-Senior Silver Cross Award to earn Super-Senior Player of the Year honors. He attained 630 points – 215 clear of good friend and defending honoree Jay Howson, Jr. of St. Davids GC.
“It certainly does mean a lot to me because we have so many good players here in Philadelphia,” McClaskey, who won the Senior Player of the Year in 2000, said. “To be the [Super-Senior] Player of the Year is special, no question about it. I’m very pleased.”
“Charlie is a fine man and a credit to the game of golf,” Howson added. “He is not only an outstanding player who knows the game and its rules, but possesses the highest level of sportsmanship, etiquette and integrity. He is a great competitor and I always enjoy the challenge of competition with him.”
Prior to the season, McClaskey set out to follow Howson’s 2009 blueprint. He wanted to capture each Super-Senior Major, the Super-Senior Silver Cross Award and ultimately the Super-Senior Player of the Year distinction. However, a windy and difficult Llanerch CC, site of this year’s Warner Cup (Gross), nearly foiled McClaskey’s plan. Although he placed tied for third in that tournament, McClaskey stood a significant eight strokes behind Warner Cup winner and longtime friend O. Gordon Brewer, Jr. of Pine Valley GC in the Super-Senior Silver Cross Award (given to the player with the lowest aggregate score in the Warner Cup, Chapman Cup and Senior Amateur Championship rounds) standings. In fact, Brewer was the only Super Senior player to post a sub-80 score that day.
“It was one of those days where you either have it or you don’t,” McClaskey, a former elevator constructor who retired in 1998, said. “I gave my good friend Gordon an eight-shot advantage. It’s very hard to beat that. I consider myself lucky to have done that.”
The Chapman Memorial (Gross) at Burlington CC ultimately became the catalyst to McClaskey’s Super-Senior Silver Cross quest. He overcame two double bogeys to post a 2-over-par 72 to gain three strokes in the race against Brewer.
“That was the key for me,” McClaskey, 71, said. “To come back from shooting 83 in the Warner Cup and put myself in a better position was a key.”
McClaskey further closed the gap with a strong performance in the Senior Amateur Championship at Sunnybrook GC. After opening his title bid in 2-under fashion, he approached the 18th green — his 36th and final hole of the tournament — needing a birdie to nip Brewer by a stroke in the Silver Cross Award standings. McClaskey, feeling a flare for the dramatics, drained a downhill 20 footer. The putt marked an appropriate way to cap off a sensational season.
“It was great,” McClaskey said. “I’ve seen other players do it. That’s exactly what you have to do to win. I had it in my mind that I wanted to make that putt. When we got to the green, I asked Marty [Emeno, GAP Director of Operations] where I stood in the Silver Cross. He told me, and I said, ‘I’m just going to have to make this.’ ”
That birdie officially gave McClaskey the Super-Senior Silver Cross Award as well as the Senior Amateur Championship title. But he quickly points out that the outcome may have been different if Lady Luck hadn’t intervened two holes earlier. On No. 16, a downhill par 5 measuring 504 yards, McClaskey steered his drive into the rough. With a hybrid 3-iron in hand, he hit a “low, dribbley” shot that somehow bounced over an intersecting water hazard and settled 80 yards from the flagstick. McClaskey then knocked a wedge to six feet and two-putted for par. His fortunate second shot on that hole still resonates.
“Without that luck, I would not have won,” McClaskey said. “We kind of overlook the shots we didn’t hit very good that came out good. No matter what you win, the person who wins has to have gotten a break on one hole or the other.”
McClaskey’s Brewer Cup victory beams brightly as his 2010 highlight. He earned the No. 1 seed thanks to a terrific 2-under-par performance at Sandy Run CC. McClaskey then ousted Thomas O’Rourke of Chester Valley GC, 4&3, and Frank Kunze of Spring Ford CC, 3&2, to gain a spot in the Final opposite Howson, the tournament’s defending champion. He made par on the final hole for a 1-up victory and perhaps the most meaningful piece of hardware in his career.
“Gordon is an outstanding player and a true gentleman, and to win an event with his name on it means a lot to me,” McClaskey said. “I know what he has done in golf. It’s nice to have your name on a trophy that represents a player like Gordon.” In 2008, McClaskey fell to Brewer, 3&2, in the inaugural Brewer Cup at Huntingdon Valley CC.
Being named the 2010 Super-Senior Player of the Year may serve as McClaskey’s “swan song,” so to speak. Catherine, his wife of 49 years, plans to retire in the near future, and when she does, the two intend on traveling together frequently. But regardless of what the future may present, McClaskey is proud of what he’s achieved throughout his 45-year career on the GAP circuit.
“I’ve had very good success in my life playing golf,” he said. “Not as successful as I wanted, but very good.”