GREENWICH -- For someone who didn't begin playing golf until he was in his late 20s, Norwalk resident Michael Cochrane has become quite an amateur player.
As he showed at the 111th Met Amateur Championship at The Stanwich Club last week, the 43-year-old Cochrane usually holds his own in the tournaments he competes in. Cochrane advanced to the match play portion of the tournament for the first time last Thursday, making the cut by shooting a 147 over 36 holes of stroke play qualifying.
Last Friday, the eighth-seeded Cochrane gave ninth-seeded Pat Wilson of Panther Valley Country Club a tough duel in a 4 and 3 Round of 16 loss that was closer than the final score indicated. Wilson proceeded to defeat Sam Bernstein of Century Country Club, 4 and 3, in last Friday's quarterfinals. Bernstein, who will serve as the captain of the Yale University men's golf team as a senior in the fall, entered match play as the No. 1 seed after earning medalist honors last Thursday, shooting an impressive 5-under-par 139.
In the Cochrane/Wilson Round of 16 match last Friday morning, Wilson quickly went ahead 3-up with birdies on two of the first three holes. But Cochrane came back with birdies on the next two holes, then squared the match by winning the 10th and 11th holes. Wilson got the momentum back in his favor, taking the 12th hole, then practically sealed the match with an eagle on the par-5 14th hole.
"He won 14 with an eagle, there's nothing I could do about that," Cochrane said. "I was definitely the underdog being the oldest player in the match play bracket. Today, I just wasn't hitting those pure, solid shots like I was Thursday. But I'm happy for Pat, he's a great guy and I'm just happy to get here to match play."
Cochrane began playing golf later than most of the competitors in the MGA's oldest amateur championship.
"Football and baseball were the dominant sports in our family, I wish I stuck with golf a little bit earlier," said Cochrane, a Scarsdale, N.Y., native who played football at Cornell University. "I began playing golf in my late 20s, early 30s and really enjoyed the challenge."
Paddle tennis was the main sport Cochrane took up after college and he and his partner went on to become a national champions in 2007. After being inactive in the sport for a few years, he hopes to make a comeback this winter (the sport is played during the winter months).
"We're going to compete again and hopefully we can bring the magic we had back," said Cochrane, whose summer of golf isn't over yet.
He was slated to play in a qualifier for the Met Open at Round Hill Club on Monday. Bernstein advanced to the quarterfinals by posting a 3 and 2 victory over Matthew Lowe of Colonial Springs Golf Club in last Friday morning's Round of 16. Against Wilson, Bernstein bogeyed the 10th, 11th and 12th holes, while Wilson parred, to fall behind 3-down.
"This tournament is always really strong, so you know you are going to have to be on your game to make any sort of run," said Bernstein, who resides in Manhattan. "I was scoring nicely yesterday, but I just didn't have it today in the afternoon. I could feel my swing slipping away in the afternoon, I was taking tired swings. Those long shots were difficult for me today."
Bernstein has been one of Yale's standout golfers the past three years. He was selected to the 2013 Northeast All-Region team and was named Ivy League Player of the Year this past season after earning Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors as a freshman.
"The team looks good again," said Bernstein, who placed third in the MGA's Ike Championship last month. "We have three freshmen coming in and we lost only one senior. We are always one of the strongest teams in the northeast, so hopefully, we'll have another good year."
Up next for Bernstein is the U.S. Amateur, which will be held in Brookline, Mass., Aug. 12-18.
"I've never played in a USGA event, so I'm excited," Bernstein. "I'm looking forward to heading out there and hopefully, I'll play my best."
Wilson wins title
Wilson eventually came out on top on Sunday, winning the Met Amateur Championship.
Storming to a 7-up lead after the first eight holes of the 36-hole match play final, Wilson registered a convincing 8 and 7 victory over Trevor Randolph of Arcola Country Club for the 111th Met Amateur Championship title at The Stanwich Club.
"It feels awesome, I've been knocking on the door a couple of years now and this is exactly what I've been hoping for," Wilson said.
Wilson, who recently graduated from St. John's University, where he starred on the men's golf team, entered the Met Amateur eager to get his first victory.
"It feels like a big weight has been lifted off my shoulders," said Wilson, who placed second and third in the New Jersey Amateur in recent years and had two sixth-place finishes in the MGA's Ike Championship. "I feel like I deserved a win like this, but never got the results. Finally, I could say that I won something."