Craig Hocknull Wins Second Consecutive Spring Masters Championship
MARICOPA, Ariz. – by Chase Carlson – The inaugural Spring Masters Championship in 2020 was delayed from May to September due to the pandemic. Craig Hocknull took home last year’s trophy with a 2-shot victory. Eight months later he did it again. Hocknull captured his second consecutive Spring Masters Championship after carding an even-par 72 in the final round, good for a one-shot advantage over Jesse Mueller at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club.
“There were challenging conditions, the way the course played, which was firm and fast,” said Hocknull following the final round. “I just hung in there as best I could, and that 30-footer I made on 18 was everything.”
Hocknull, 46, PGA Director of Instruction at Saber Golf, earned the win in fashion. He went out in 37 on his opening nine holes with eight pars and a bogey on the par-3 sixth.
“Nothing was really going for me on the front nine,” Hocknull said. “My first really good opportunity for birdie came on the first par-5 on the back nine (No. 13). It setup really well to my eye, and I was able to get there in two and two-putt for birdie – my first of the day.”
His back nine began with a bogey on No. 10 before Hocknull made birdies on Nos. 13 and 14. He finished with four consecutive pars – none bigger than the one he made on the finishing hole with a 30-foot putt for par to win the tournament by one stroke.
“Trying to get up and down out of that bunker at 18 with the water in the back and the green sloping away is incredibly difficult,” said Hocknull about his final hole. “I knew where Jesse stood and I knew at worst I would make bogey and get in a playoff, but the putt dropped right in the side of the cup. I was super happy for the win and avoiding the playoff.”
Hocknull began the final round as the co-leader after his 1-under-par 71 in the opening round. Combined with his final round 72, he finished with a 36-hole total of 143 (-1). He is the only Southwest PGA Professional who has won each of the four Southwest PGA major titles.
“Drawing on that experience from winning in the past really helped,” Hocknull noted when talking about his mindset throughout the tournament. “I kept telling myself to ‘be patient’, ‘be patient’, ‘it’ll come’ and in the end, it all worked out.”
Mueller, 38, PGA Director of Golf at Grand Canyon University Golf Club, made a serious run at Hocknull after finishing the final round with a 4-under-par 68, the low round of the Championship. After his opening round 76, Muller’s final round included six birdies and two bogeys, including the back-to-back birdies on the final two holes – Nos. 17 and 18.
“Coming into the final round I needed to commit and trust my shots better – and I did that,” said Mueller. “It was very tough out there today as Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club is one of the best and challenging golf courses in the valley.”
Dennis Downs, 38, PGA Director of Instruction at Eagles Nest Golf Club, finished in third place with a total of 145. Rounding out the top five are Marty Jertson, Blake Isakson and Michael Frye, who all finished tied for fourth at 146.
Opening round co-leader, Kurt Brown, 32, PGA Director of Instruction at Reid West Golf Academy, carded a 79 in the final round and finished tied for 14th.
Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club played similar to the 2020 Spring Masters Championship as the opening round average was 0.67 of a stroke higher this year (2021: 76.86 / 2020: 76.29). The final round difference was slightly lower this year – 76.77 in 2021 vs. 76.93 last year.
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