Nick Maccario was admittedly a bit shook as he walked off the final green at Andover Country Club Wednesday afternoon.
Little did he know there was no reason for him to be.
Competing in a local qualifier for next month's prestigious US Amateur, the former St. John's Prep standout appeared to be a virtual lock as he prepared to tee off for that 36th and final hole of the day. He had already fired a 4-under 68 in his morning round and sat comfortably at 2-under par in the second round prior to the final hole.
But then the worst scenario possible played out. Maccario carded a double-bogey to finish at even par for the day, and at the time it looked like the last econd mishap would cost him a trip to Pinehurst (the site of the 2019 US Amateur).
"The wheels came off. I pretty much knew that 6-under was getting in, so if I made par I was in," recalled Maccario. "For lack of a better term I choked it away. I walked off the green and said to myself, 'Wow, I just lost an opportunity for the US Am by one shot.
"But then things changed."
As Maccario hung his head in disbelief and replayed the final hole over and over in his head, he realized it actually wasn't over yet. Despite the uncharacteristic double-bogey, he found himself tied with one other player — California's Spencer Soosman — for the third and final qualifying spot. That paved the way for a sudden death playoff between the two, an opportunity Maccario welcomed as he tried to shake off the crunch time woes.
As he prepared for the one-and-done challenge Maccario got a call from his girlfriend, Elizabeth, and told her exactly what was going on. Her response was just what he needed to hear.
"You're good; it's destiny, you're going to make it," she told him.
Maccario hoped she was right.
Teeing off on the par 5 10th hole, Maccario blasted a drive and left himself with nothing more than a high-to-mid iron from the light rough. Soosman did the same, striking his ensuing approach shot to about 30 feet for a chance at eagle.
Maccario responded by sticking his second shot to about 5 feet, giving himself plenty of confidence as he reached for his putter. Soosman then missed his chance and Maccario found the bottom of the cup, officially etching his name alongside dozens of the country's top amateurs at next month's tourney.
"I had good vibes going into the hole after birdying it twice already," said Maccario. "I kind of knew what I was going to hit off the tee and what I would have to the green; it was just a matter of making a putt. I was super focused. So (Soosman) hit his shot out of the rough and it hits the top of the flag stick; I'm immediately in shock. But it rings off the stick and goes to about 30 feet, so he's got a difficult eagle putt.
"My second shot I had a pretty good lie in the rough and thought to myself, 'A nice solid 8-iron and it should be pretty close,'" Maccario continued. "The minute I hit it, I knew it was good. After (Soosman) missed his, it was just one putt to go to the US Am. A little left to right 5-footer and I was making those all day. This one was no different. It was an unreal feeling."
For Maccario, the breakthrough performance has been a long time coming. He had already captured a Massachusetts Four-Ball title back in May and on a whole it had been a promising start to the 2019 golf season for the 27-year-old.
"Last year I had a really bad year driving the ball and confidence-wise with my swing," admitted Maccario. "I just worked on a few things with Nick Antonelli (of North Andover) at Atkinson and Kevin Murphy (the head golf pro at Bradford CC). Both those guys gave me a few quick tips, and honestly I started off the year with a 68 and I said, 'Wow, this year feels different.'"
Maccario joins fellow Bay Staters Steven DiLisio of Swampscott — another former Prep standout and current player at Duke University — Christian Emmerich of Swampscott, Brett Krekorian of Andover and Matt Parziale of Brockton, among others as US Amateur qualifiers. Championship week begins Monday, August 12 and will conclude Sunday, August 18 at Pinehurst Golf Resort in North Carolina.