Some life experiences can be very fleeting for a teenager. But for Jacob Bergeron, the 2013 Metropolitan Amateur Championship of New Orleans, known as The Mackel, remains indelibly etched in his young golfing soul.
Tied for the lead after 36 holes of stroke play at Lakewood Golf Club, Bergeron, then 15, entered a sudden-death playoff with Buck Williams, Chris Donaldson and Paul Sterbcow. Though Bergeron reached the par-4, 415-yard 18th in two, Williams emerged victorious thanks to a dramatic 25-foot putt to save par.
Williams, 33, a former Wake Forest golfer, returns to defend his title when The 2014 Mackel tees off Saturday morning at Oak Harbor Golf Club in Slidell, the fifth and latest venue for the tournament which began in 1993 to showcase the area’s top amateurs.
Bergeron, too, will be in the field of 89. And while he eyes the prize, he understands the competition will be stiff this weekend when winds are expected to blow mightily over the 6,800-yard, par 72 layout just off I-10 near Lake Pontchartrain.
A high school sophomore who began home-schooling at an early age because of health issues, Bergeron lives in Slidell and makes Oak Harbor his home course.
“The course is hard enough, but when the wind blows 15-to-20 mph straight into your face, it seems on every hole, it’s definitely going to be a lot harder of a challenge,’’ said Bergeron, who owns a +3.8 handicap and finished tied for sixth in the AJGA Junior Championship at TPC Southwind in Memphis in late July.
Bergeron said his local knowledge of Oak Harbor can be both a blessing and a curse.
“I know the course so well, but that can backfire if I don’t have the right mental attitude going into the tournament,’’ he said. “It’s more of a psychological thing. Because I play here every day, then you think you have to birdie every hole and you put too much pressure on yourself.
“If I do that, then I won’t perform as well.’’
Beside Williams, Donaldson and Sterbcow, other top contenders include Blake Caldwell, Brandon Pierce and Jose Maruri, among others. Past women’s champion Angelica Harris (2012) and defending super men’s champion Jerry Newchurch also are in the field.
“There are a ton of good players playing this weekend,’’ Bergeron said. “It’s always fun to compete. It’s not like I have to win it, but if I play well enough to win, that would be great. It would be kind of a bonus.
“My short-term goal is to keep playing well and progressing in my golf game and increase my junior ranking. I can thank my mom (Rhonda) and my dad (Wendell) for helping me get this far. My long-term goal is to get a golf scholarship to a top-5 school. And my ultimate goal is to play on the PGA Tour and be successful for a while.’’
Meantime, The 2014 Mackel represents the next stop on a long and arduous road that promises nothing at the end of the line.