Player Profile: Nick McLaughlin’s big summer
Nick McLaughlin with some of the hardware he's won this summer
Nick McLaughlin with some of the hardware he's won this summer

University of Virginia senior Nick McLaughlin has always been the big man on campus. At 6’6”, it’s impossible for him to be anything else.

“I played basketball through 8th grade, but there was far too much running around for me. Golf is a lot more relaxing,” McLaughlin said with a laugh.

The 2014 season didn’t finish the way McLaughlin would have wanted. After a back injury affected his summer and continued through the fall season playing golf for the Cavaliers, he decided to take the spring season off to concentrate on his rehabilitation.

“I just couldn’t play. I struggled through it during the fall,” McLaughlin told us about his injury. “I had some good rounds but just couldn’t quite do what I physically needed to do.”

Taking the time off for rehab and not playing golf was a bit frustrating for him.

“You try to stay positive through it the best you can. Fortunately at Virginia, athletes are surrounded by a top-notch medical staff and physical therapy people who gave me the right stuff to work on. I had a lot of confidence in them and knew if I followed the program I would be back in shape.”

After a lot of PT, he felt good about his game all spring. But it wasn't until the end of May before he felt he was back to 100% for the first time in a year.

His return to the game was triumphant. It started with a win at the 51st Hornblower Memorial in Plymouth, MA. He finished the tournament at 1- under and the only player to be under par.

“Playing without any worries (about his back) was a nice change. Last year I finished second in the Hornblower, losing on a chip-in on the 18th hole. This time I birdied the 18th to win by a shot. It was a bit of a reversal – and nice to have it fall my way this time."

Two weeks later, McLaughlin played in the MGA Amateur Invitational at the New England Country Club in Bellingham, MA, where his only fear was coming out flat after getting the big win in his last competition.

“In the Amateur Invitational, I birdied the first five holes on the first day, so I knew I was back and in good shape.”

He posted a 66 on the day one, the low round of the tournament. But after a second-round 74, he found himself in a playoff with Alex Jeffers before he pulled out the victory for his second big win of the summer.

McLaughlin played in the Northeast Amateur Invitational the following weekend and made the cut, but was challenged by the Wannamoisett Country Club layout. Against a top-5 field, his final round 78 wasn’t his best golf, but experience has taught him to take the positives from the weekend and build from there.

“I knew exactly what I needed to improve on just a little bit to keep it going for the rest of the summer, “ he said.

Whatever he did, it worked, because he exploded through July like a firecracker. After winning medalist honors at the 107th Massachusetts Amateur, he blasted through the match play bracket without having to play the 18th hole. Although he was dragging through the last day after walking about 45 miles during the tournament, he found relief when his father carried his bag for the final round. It was just the boost he needed on his way to a 4 and 3 win over Patrick Frodigh.

There was little time to relax as McLaughlin entered the New England Amateur the next week.

“I didn’t have a lot of time between tournaments to sit down and catch my breath,” McLaughlin said. “Fortunately I was playing well and just kept it going.”

Which is exactly what he did. He went 7- under (281) and was the only golfer in the 152-player field to post four under-par rounds. One year after driving away from the tournament in so much pain that his future in golf was in doubt, he walked away with another major victory.

“I guess it came full circle,” McLaughlin told the MGA. “To be almost having to withdraw last year and then struggling the rest of the summer and then coming all the way back here and winning is great.”

Legendary Mass. Am Jim Salinetti (left)
has been a mentor for McLaughlin

That win put him in elite company as one of four golfers to hold both the New England Amateur and Massachusetts Amateur titles at the same time. The last person to do it, Jim Salinetti (1997 and 2000), is an old family friend.

“Jim has been a good friend for about 15 years. My dad used to play in a tournament that Jimmy always played and we got to know him. I’ve always kept in touch with him and he’s been kind of a mentor to me. In fact, we got together a couple days ago and took pictures together with both the trophies. It was a pretty cool moment – to replicate the stuff that he’s done is really cool.”

Next up on McLaughlin’s docket was the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links at Red Tail Golf Club in Devens, MA. He played great the first day, and finished on a high note with an eagle on 18, but the final round brought its own challenges.

“I struggled with my game a little bit yesterday,” McLaughlin said about his final round. “But I’ve played the course enough to know the proper spots to miss it in and I just managed my way around the course. I was putting great and got up and down for a lot for pars and was barely able to hang on.”

His final round 1-over par 73 was good enough to win by a stroke over Matt Cowgill, giving him his third consecutive win at a major and making him the only person in history to hold the hold that title along with the previous two.

That’s the kind of summer most guys only dream about, all coming after his back issues left him questioning his ability to come back.

“It’s great to see the consistency in my game that I’ve had all summer. I think that’s how most golfers judge their game – to see how consistent you can be, week in and week out. Playing a high level of golf all summer is really nice to see and it shows me that I’m doing the proper things with my game,” McLaughlin said.

He’ll take a breather the next couple of weeks to rest up for what he says will be a busy senior year. He’s loved being in Charlottesville for the past three years, both academically and athletically, and is looking forward to getting back to school.

“In some ways I’m kind of sad that I only have one more year to go at UVA,” he said. “It’s been such an awesome experience, but hopefully by the end of the year I’ll be ready to move onto bigger and better things. I guess I don’t really have a choice, because they’ll kick me out one way or the other,” he said with a chuckle.

Results: New England Amateur
1NHNick McLaughlinNew Castle, NH30070-71-70-70=281
2MABen BalterWellesley, MA20070-70-69-73=282
T3CTBrian CarlsonMadison, CT10074-65-73-71=283
T3NHJoe LeavittAtkinson, NH10070-67-71-75=283
T5MABilly WalthouseLongmeadow, MA10070-75-70-70=285

View full results for New England Amateur

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