Mark Turner returns from long layoff to lead Mass. Amateur qualifiers

Former St. John's Prep standout Mark Turner fired a 1-under par 69 at Tedesco on Monday to qualify for this year's Massachusetts Amateur Championship.  RYAN MCBRIDE/Staff photo 7/27/19 [[MER1907271536292395]]

Plagued with tendinitis in his right wrist that wiped out his 2020 tournament season, former St. John's Prep standout Mark Turner made his first competitive round in 15 months an impressive effort. 

Competing in a Massachusetts Amateur qualifying round at Tedesco Country Club on Monday, Turner carded a one-under par 69 to capture medalist honors atop the leaderboard. 

“It’s been so long since I played competitively and I’d never competed with this brace on my wrist, so I wondered if I still had some good golf in me,” Turner, 21, confessed. Wearing a bulky brace on his right wrist, Turner, a junior at Dartmouth playing out of Bass Rocks, topped the 91-player field as well as the 12 other players who advanced to the main event at Brae Burn CC this July 12-16.

He was also hindered last year by a torn bicep muscle, another good reason to call the 2020 campaign a complete washout. Combined with the Ivy League cancelling all athletic activity for the 2020-2021 school year, Turner, a former U.S. Junior Amateur competitor, was anxious to see how his wrist would hold up.

The same held true for older brother James, also a student and golf team member at Dartmouth who missed the entire 2020 tournament season after undergoing surgery for a torn labrum. James, a former New England Amateur champion, shot 80 at Tedesco.

The way Mark expressed anxiety before teeing off at Tedesco, one might not have been surprised if he scored 80 as well, but it didn’t happen.

“It was good to be back out there competing,” Mark admitted, “but I worried before most every swing about aggravating the wrist. Thankfully it never happened. I tried hitting my iron shots cleanly if the lie allowed. I didn’t want to dig my irons into the turf if I didn’t have to. My driver worked nicely, no problem there, and I had only one three-putt (and four birdies). I was able to stay in control of my game.”

The wrist brace has proven an effective support for Turner. The day after shooting 69 at Tedesco he shot 70 at Haverhill Country Club to easily qualify for the New England Amateur, set for July 20-22 at Great River in Milford, Conn. Mark joked that he did not get an exemption because his brother won the title with a record 273 score (7-under par) a few years ago.

“I know I have to be careful how much I play,” Mark said, “but I had no choice dealing with these back-to-back days. The best of it is the wrist got through the two days pretty well.”

For those golfers who have encountered wrist injuries/ailments, what Turner has accomplished this week is nothing short of extraordinary. But the combination of the brace and ongoing treatment/therapy he has received from Chelmsford-based doctors Scott Sigman and Steve Alter have shown to be the ideal combination enabling Turner’s recovery and comeback to be of the dramatic variety based on these first two tournament scores.

Joe Rocha, Turner’s coach at St. John’s Prep, is not surprised in the least with his former player’s comeback.

“Mark obviously has good people treating him; people who would not rush him back into competition,” Rocha says. “But beyond that, Mark was the best player, among many fine players I coached during my five years at the Prep. Chris Francoeur, I will note, has been the better player since leaving the Prep, but give Mark more time and watch him succeed as he gets healthier and healthier with that wrist.”

His 69 at Tedesco featured birdies on Nos. 5 (wedge to one foot), 6 (6 feet), 13 (15 feet after acing the par-3 in his practice round the week before, his career third) and 18 (wedge to 12 feet).

“I’m thrilled to have played this well, with a controlled game, these two days,” Turner said. “Qualifiers can be tricky. We’ve all had our disappointments and I had no idea how I would play, though I was optimistic.”

Justifiably so.

“The brace? I wear it all the time,” he said. “It helps me mentally and I’ve been able to adapt, especially with the way the brace locks the thumb in place. It doesn’t affect my back swing because I bring the club back short anyway; hasn’t affected my putting either.”

These two solid rounds make up, at least in part, for the fact his wrist was not ready for a qualifying bid for the Massachusetts Open set for Oak Hill next week. “I’m glad I could compete this week,” Turner said. “I’d been day-to-day pretty much leading up to Tedesco.”

Turner was one of six local players who made the grade at 74 or better for Brae Burn. Joe Cunningham of Essex was runner-up with 70, followed by three Tedesco members — Brad Tufts at 73 and Hunter Stone and George Zolotas at 74, along with The Meadow’s Chuck Waesche. Tufts’s younger brother, Roger, just missed at 75, the same score returned by Salem’s Ryan Connelly. In addition, reigning Salem News Golfer of the Year Ethan Doyle carded a 77 while former Marblehead standout Brendan Locke managed a 78. 

Gary Larrabee can be reached at gary@garylarrabee.com

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