Calming music helps set a rhythm on the golf course. Now he’s a Tour winner

Mark Hubbard walked onto the first tee like he does at every other tournament round, with an earbud in one ear listening to whatever music is necessary for that round.

The Denver native said he aims to get a song stuck in his head that has a strong, consistent beat so he can keep that rhythm in his golf swing throughout the day.

While it varies based on his tee time — morning rounds require upbeat 90’s hip-hop to wake himself up — Sunday’s final round of the Tour’s inaugural LECOM Suncoast Classic at Lakewood National Golf Club produced some country music, though Hubbard wouldn’t reveal the song choice for when he walked onto the first tee.

“It was a little more slow-paced,” Hubbard said.

The song’s slow-paced nature quickly put him into the zone as five birdies on the front nine buoyed Hubbard toward a final-round 5-under-par 67 and a 26-under total for a two-shot victory over former Stanford star Maverick McNealy.

The 29-year-old Hubbard collected $99,000 for his first PGA Tour-sanctioned victory since a Canadian Tour win in 2013.

“I’m kind of speechless,” Hubbard said. “That’s why I was able to pull it off. I was really good about not thinking about the outcome and about winning, and just playing my game.”

All week, Lakewood National played more difficult on the front nine than the closing stretch.

On Sunday, Hubbard blitzed the opening nine holes with a 31, before parring his first six holes on the back side with McNealy making a charge.

The last nine turned into a duel on the Suncoast with McNealy making eagle on the 550-yard par-5 10th.

Mark Hubbard 003_021819.JPG
Denver native Mark Hubbard holds up the LECOM Suncoast Classic trophy after winning his first Tour event on Sunday at Lakewood National Golf Club. Hubbard shot 26-under-par 262 for the 72-hole tournament for a two-shot victory over former Stanford star Maverick McNealy. Jason Dill

“I had the lead through 36 holes, shot 8-under par on the weekend and ... didn’t win,” said McNealy, who hit a 382-yard drive to set up a pitching wedge approach for his eagle on the 10th hole.

“Welcome to the Tour. I’m thrilled with the way I played. ... I did my part. I played a great golf tournament. I thought I put the heat on Hubbs, and he’s playing a better golf tournament so props to him.”

However, Hubbard didn’t flinch, even after McNealy converted a huge birdie putt following an unforeseen run-out on his pitch shot to close the gap to one shot on No. 16.

“I was shocked, even (playing partner) J.T. (Griffin) said that he couldn’t believe the sound it made when it hit, it was like bouncing on a cart path,” McNealy said.

Playing in the final pairing of the day, Hubbard had his own chance to tame the par-5 16th and did so with a two-putt for birdie from the back of the green to stretch the lead back to two.

That increased to three when McNealy bogeyed, giving Hubbard some breathing room.

“I felt him nipping on my heels,” Hubbard said. “When I saw that he was at 24(-under) instead of 25(-under) ... that kind of gave me the ‘phew’ that I needed. But he played great.”

Shortly after signing the winning scorecard, Hubbard was greeted with a video call from some good friends and he accomplished the task of winning on the Tour in front of his younger brother and mother.

“That’s awesome to do it in front of them,” said Hubbard, who played the PGA Tour full-time from 2015-17. “I wish my wife was here, but I know she’ll be celebrating back home. I’m over the moon right now.”

The win nets Hubbard 500 points to push him to fourth place on the Tour’s standings. This is the first season the Tour is using points rather than official money earned to determine its top 25 that receive a PGA Tour card for the next season at the conclusion of this year.

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Sports reporter Jason has covered high school, college and pro sports since joining the Bradenton Herald in 2010. He’s won Florida Press Club awards for sports feature and column writing. He currently writes college and pro sports stories for the McClatchy East Region real-time team.