McGowan follows family footsteps of golf success at Signal Mountain Invitational

McGowan follows family footsteps of golf success at Signal Mountain Invitational

May 19th, 2014 by David Uchiyama in Sportsgolf

Michael McGowan putts during the Signal Mountain Invitational on Sunday. McGowan won the tourney.

Photo by Erin O. Smith/Times Free Press.

Michael McGowan called his grandmother after winning the Signal Mountain Invitational with a sizzling 64 on Sunday at Signal Mountain Golf and Country Club.

She's 92-years-old and still teaching golf in North Carolina.

Peggy Kirk Bell is a pioneer in women's golf, a member of the 1950 Curtis Cup team and winner of the 1990 Bobby Jones Award which is the highest honor given by the USGA.

McGowan had a little help on the bag Sunday from his father, Pat McGowan, who won the 1978 PGA Tour rookie of the year award and spent 15 years on tour.

"I am blessed to be in this family," said McGowan, who concluded his playing career at North Carolina last spring. "Golf makes for a pretty small world."

He's born to play the game.

"I tried to qualify for the U.S. Open, but didn't get through," he said. "That would have been cool playing Pinehurst with grandma there in Pinehurst."

McGowan's summer season is off to a sizzling start after shooting 6-under 213. He shot 64 on Sunday, erased a five-stroke deficit to top Richard Spangler by one stroke, Steve Johnson by two and Brandon Cissom by five. Johnson shot a bogey-free 69 but couldn't get closer than two strokes on the back nine.

"I said, 'Let's have a walk in the park since we're five shots back, let's have some fun,'" Pat McGowan said. "Then he goes out and shoots 64, his lowest score in competition."

McGowan blistered the front nine with five birdies, but he still trailed Spangler by three, and then by four with a bogey on No. 10. They traded pars for two holes before a cheer echoed from the 13th green to Timberlinks Drive.

McGowan pitched-in for an eagle slicing Spangler's lead in half.

"I walked up to kind of see where I needed to land it because I'm so far below the green," McGowan said. "People were saying 'good shot' and kept talking, then when they erupted I knew it found the bottom of the cup.

"That gave me the momentum."

He followed with a birdie on No. 14 cutting his deficit to one. Both he and Spangler went over the green on No. 15. Spangler chipped to 18 inches. McGowan chipped in.

"I found the only person who chips better than me," Spangler said walking off the green tied with McGowan.

Spangler fell behind with a bogey on No. 16. They were tied again when McGowan bogeyed No. 17, leaving the last hole -- or perhaps a playoff -- to decide the champion.

"I was just trying to get out of their way on the back nine," said Andy White, who played in the last group and tied for eighth. "I got to see some great golf."

Spangler, who grew up playing at Signal Mountain, made two small mistakes all day. The last came from the 18th fairway when he tugged his approach left of the green. He hit the chip shot to about 20 feet.

With McGowan on the green in two, Spangler knew he needed to make the putt. It burned the edge, and McGowan two-putted for the win which excited his godmother, Sue Markley of Lookout Mountain.

"I had a buzz-saw kind of day," McGowan said.

The result, Spangler said, gives him a third runner-up finish in the Signal Mountain Invitational.

"A lot of people would have taken runner-up," Spangler said. "That's why they have it every year."

Contact David Uchiyama at duchiyama@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.