St. John the Baptist's Mark Reilly shrugs off missed 3-footer to take state title

Mark Reilly of St. John the Baptist tees

Mark Reilly of St. John the Baptist tees off from the eighth hole of James Baird State Park Golf Course during the NYCHSAA varsity boys golf state finals. (June 1, 2012) (Credit: James Escher)

At the CHSAA Individual Tournament last month, Mark Reilly experienced a bit of deja vu as he found himself in a sudden-death playoff for the second straight year. The St. John the Baptist senior shot 1-over-par 73 on the Eisenhower Park Red course and had tied with Holy Trinity junior Chris Lambrou, forcing a playoff to decide the league champion.

But this year was a little different.

"Last year, I had to make a short putt to get into the playoff. This year was different because I missed a 3-footer," Reilly said. "If I had hit that shot, I would've won it outright, so I was a little frustrated with myself."

But instead of letting his frustration get the better of him, Reilly embraced the pressure and used it to drive him to another league title.

"The pressure only gave me extra confidence," he said. "I just knew I was gonna hit the ball down the fairway."

And he did just that, making par on the playoff hole to satisfy his intense desire for a second straight league championship.

"I had more pressure on me this year because it was my last event," he said. "I wanted to do well and finish my career off strong. It meant a lot to me; I really wanted to win back-to-back championships."

For St. John the Baptist coach John Reilly (unrelated to his player), there was no doubt that Mark would come out on top.

"I almost expected it, I would've been shocked if he lost," John Reilly said. "I absolutely knew he was gonna win."

Mark started playing golf at age 5 when his father, Mike, brought him to the driving range where he worked. Mark would hit balls for hours at a time, and even then, he had all the makings of a great golfer.

"He was a natural right away," Mike said. "He could hit it pretty far for a young kid. I knew he had the talent for it, but he didn't really show much interest in golf until he was about 8 or 9."

That was when Mike brought Mark to a PGA Tour event, the 2003 Buick Classic. Mark said that watching his dad compete at the professional level made him want to do the same one day.

And he's well on his way: Mark will continue to develop his skills while playing for the University of Richmond next season.

"He's one of the best golfers to come out of SJB, if not the best," John Reilly said. "I know he'll go far. It was a real pleasure to be around him."

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