BLOOMINGTON — Even though he grew up in El Paso, Michael Mounce knew all about the Bloomington-Normal City Match Play Championship. 

"My dad (Jim) always golfs with Tom (Kearfott) and Cush (Mike Cushing) and those guys, and when I was younger I always watched them play and win it and I always wanted to," said Mounce.

When El Paso Country Club members became eligible in 2016, Mounce finally had his chance. After losing in the quarterfinals the last two years, the 21-year-old showed in qualifying he was the guy to beat in the 100th anniversary of the tourney.

Mounce, who fired a record 8-under-par 63 in qualifying eight days ago at Weibring Golf Club, was in control the whole way during Sunday's 36-hole championship flight final against Joe Bierbaum at Bloomington Country Club. Mounce took a 5-up lead after the morning round and cruised to a 7 and 6 victory in the first final at BCC since 1963.

"After 18 holes I felt really comfortable," said Mounce, whose twin brother, Branden, lost in last year's final to Cushing. "I didn't see myself dropping backwards that much. I could just see Joe didn't have his best game. If I kept doing what I had all week I would be fine."

Bierbaum shocked the tourney when he upset Cushing during Friday's quarterfinals. He edged Jeff Wells in Saturday's semifinals, but dug himself a big hole Sunday when he lost the first three holes. 

Although Bierbaum won the next two holes, he never could get the match back to all square. When Bierbaum missed a short birdie putt on No. 18 to stay 5-down heading into the second round, he pretty much knew his fate.

"If you watched me enough this week, I made everything I looked at, and today I didn't make anything," said Bierbaum, 37, who was playing in his first final. "I had to putt well to have a chance, and I didn't."

Bierbaum was 2-down in the morning heading to the par-5 ninth and appeared ready to cut the deficit. However, Mounce sank a 10-foot birdie putt and Bierbaum missed from 6 feet to fall 3-down.

"I feel a lot more comfortable 3-up than 2-up," said Mounce.

Mounce got up and down for par on No. 13 to go 4-up when Bierbaum bogeyed. Then Bierbaum 3-putted the par-3 16th for a double bogey, handing Mounce another hole and a 5-up advantage.

Even though Mounce shot 4-over-par 75 in the morning, he was confident. After a short break he bogeyed the first hole in the second round, but promptly stuffed his approach on No. 2 to regain the 5-up advantage.

Bierbaum bogeys at Nos. 5 and 7 gave Mounce a 7-up lead. Another Bierbaum bogey on the 10th put Mounce 8-up with eight left.

A putt finally fell for Bierbaum when he sank an 18-foot birdie at the 11th. That left Mounce a 15-footer to end the match.

"I was, like, 'Come on, Michael, please make this,' " said a smiling Bierbaum afterwards. "I was his biggest fan at that point."

Mounce missed. However, moments later Bierbaum struck his tee shot into the water on the par-3 12th, shook Mounce's hand and conceded.

"It was a lot of fun (during the week)," said Bierbaum, who was accompanied by his 12-year-old son, Brady, on Father's Day. "Obviously I played some good golf and made putts when I had to until today. He's better than me anyway, so I'm going to have to putt well to beat him. It didn't happen."

Mounce, who will be a senior on Bradley's golf team, could feel a target on his back after qualifying. He survived a 19-hole match against Tyler Weaver in the second round and did the same during Saturday's semifinals against Mike Henry after making a birdie on No. 18 to stay alive.

"There's a lot of competition in this area," said Mounce. "It's tough to win anything — Medal Play, Match Play, Two-Man (Best Position). There's a lot of great golfers around."

With one city title secured, Mounce would now like to join a select group that has won the Medal Play, Two-Man and Match Play in the same year. Cushing became the third member of that elite group last year, joining Kearfott (1994) and Kyle English (2009).

The Mounce brothers will partner for the first time in next month's Two-Man at Weibring Golf Club, instantly becoming the favorites. The Medal Play will be held at Ironwood Golf Course and Crestwicke Country Club on Aug. 4-5.

"I remember watching Cushing do it last year and I want to do the same thing," said Mounce, who will play in the CDGA Amateur beginning Monday at Briarwood Country Club in Deerfield. "Hopefully it all works out to where that happens."

Four-time champion Mike Milligan took the senior division title with a 1-up win over Greg Wohlford.

Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @Pg_Benson



Reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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