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Birdie binge lifts Joe Harney to victory at Massachusetts Open

Sizzling back nine earns him title

Joe Harney said the Massachusetts Open title was the biggest win of his career.
Joe Harney said the Massachusetts Open title was the biggest win of his career.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

HINGHAM — Patience — and four straight birdies on the back nine — helped Joe Harney turn a two-shot final-round deficit on the 10th hole into a one-shot victory at the 106th Massachusetts Open with a three-day score of 6-under-par 207 at Black Rock Country Club.

Harney, of Granite Links Golf Club, and Jeffrey Martin (Norton CC) entered play Wednesday tied for the tournament lead at 2 under. Paired together for the final round, they were neck-and-neck at the top of the leaderboard all day. But Martin bogeyed No. 16 to fall a shot back at 5-under.

Meanwhile, Harney closed with three straight pars to claim the title.

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"I knew I could stay with [Martin] and, if I started to chase, I knew it could've gotten to a bigger lead," Harney said. "So I stayed patient and kept hitting greens and getting good looks."

Harney, a 23-year-old West Roxbury native, went even par on the front nine. He bogeyed No. 2, as his par putt for par just missed the hole on the 166-yard par-3. He rebounded with a birdie on No. 4 to come back even with Martin at 2-under before hitting for par the rest of the front nine.

Martin, 41, first took his lead the 590-yard par-5 sixth to move to 3-under. The moved to 4-under with a birdie on the 382-yard par-4 10th.

Martin's two-stroke lead held up through No. 11, but Harney caught fire starting at No. 12. He birdied Nos. 12-15 to reach 6 under.

"I was just trying to keep up," Martin said. "When somebody does that, you just try to keep up with the Joneses I guess."

And Martin did his best, birdieing Nos. 14-15 to also get to 6 under. But he landed in a bunker on No. 16, leading to the costly bogey.

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But Harney's patience, coupled with a relaxed demeanor, helped him down the stretch. He ended things with a 4-under 31 on the back nine.

Harney had friend Michael Welch as his caddie Wednesday and he credited the 2012 Mass. Open winner with helping him to stay in the right state of mind as things came down to the wire.

"He was very helpful," Harney said. "He kept it a little loose out there for me, which I needed every once and a while to make me smile rather than just staying focused, focused, focused for five hours."

Harney's father, Jack, kept tabs on his son's progress from a distance. He arrived to Black Rock in time to see most of the back nine, but he said it's been a tradition since Harney was playing junior golf to stay out of view while he's playing.

"I always feel I don't want to add any more pressure to him, having his father watch over him," Jack said. "He doesn't need that."

With the victory sealed, Jack's elation was all over his face as he watched Joe hoist the Clarence G. Cochrane Memorial Trophy.

"It was nerve-wracking but, at the same time, I had a lot of confidence in him," Jack said. "Because he's been in enough tournaments now. And he gets determined."

For Harney, the win was important for multiple reasons.

"Definitely, definitely the biggest win of my career," said Harney, who turned pro two years ago and won the Boston Open last year.

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With the title, Harney netted $15,000, which he said he'll use to help pay for PGA Tour Qualifying School in the fall. He also said the win could have a snowball effect for his confidence. One of his upcoming events will be the Vermont Open June 15-17.

"I played against a great field here today," Harney said. "So I feel like, coming up against the . . . Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine Opens, I'll be playing against the same fields. So I feel like, if I play well, I should be able to win."


Wayne Epps Jr. can be reached at wayne.epps@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @wayneeppsjr.