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Headline: Four Teams Fend Off Mother Nature to Post Scores of 5-under 66 and Lead Following Day One of 2016 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship
For Immediate Release: May 2, 2016
A few of the leaders following Round 1 at the 2016 MGA Four-Ball (from top to bottom): Shawn Scott, Phil Smith, Matt Parziale & Herbie Aikens
Hopkinton, MA — Sometimes you curse the conditions while other times they seem to work in your favor.
That was the case for the team of Phil Smith (Vesper CC) and Shawn Scott (Long Meadow GC), who currently hold a share of the lead following the first round of play at the 2016 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship.
Day 1 MGA Four-Ball Quick Links
Smith and Scott matched the score of Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC) & Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC), Jeremy Meade (Nashawtuc CC) & Dan Cappucci (Boston GC) and David Pierce (CC of Halifax) & David Pierce, Jr. (CC of Halifax).
All three teams competed at Hopkinton Country Club and finished with scores of 5-under par 66 through the first 18 holes of this 36-hole competition, which is being held at Framingham Country Club and Hopkinton Country Club.
Posting a leading score was an especially remarkable feat on Monday given the challenging conditions which brought periods of heavy rain and cool temperatures throughout the day. Both groups were part of a morning wave of teams that were caught on the course during the heaviest bands of weather.
“It was tough out there,” said Scott, who is playing in this event for the fourth time with Smith. “It was not just the rain but it was cold more than anything. We played well. I made four birdies and he made three birdies, and we didn’t birdie the same hole. We just kept grinding out there.”
The heaviest rains of the day came when Smith and Scott were 4-under par with two holes to go. Hoping to make two pars and call it a day, they were given a gift by Mother Nature.
After Smith found the green on the 509-yard, par 5 7th hole with his second shot to set up a two-putt birdie, Scott polished off his third birdie of the day by hitting it close on the 158-yard, par 3 8th hole.
Scott’s drive on his final hole found a divot which led to his approach shot landing short and right of the green. He chipped onto the green and was six feet from the hole and inside Smith’s putting line.
Smith putted first and nearly made his birdie attempt. However, the damp conditions preserved the path of Smith’s ball and served as a landing pattern for Scott who stepped up and drained his putt for birdie.
“It was definitely coming down as hard as it had been all day,” said Scott. “We have had some good rounds together in the past, but today we just worked together well. We were able to talk over shots but still play our own games and ground out some pars. We also took our shots where we could and were able to make a few of them.”
Before the deluge which caused a brief suspension of play at both courses just before 1:00 p.m., Smith and Scott made the turn at 2-under par following a strong start on the Hopkinton back nine.
“We were definitely very happy and made a couple good par saves and a couple of birdies today,” said Smith. “It’s early in the year, but it worked out well today so hopefully we can have another good day tomorrow.”
For Scott, the four-ball format was also a welcome asset on such a cool May day.
“It is a great event for this time of the year when you are coming off the winter break,” said Scott. “It’s nice because you have a partner, so if you have a bad shot you don’t have to worry as much about the next. It’s fun to play with another guy and be able to root for each other.”
For a third straight season, Aikens and Parziale joined forces and are in contention heading into the final round of the MGA Four-Ball Championship. The duo made the turn – after starting the round on the Hopkinton back nine – at 1-under par 34 before saving their strongest play for the home stretch.
“We were on the 6th hole [when play was suspended] and had hit our approaches,” said Aikens, who said that they were able to view the leaderboard during the weather delay. “It was nice to know that five was in the lead. When were out there we didn’t know where everyone stood. All we knew was that it was playing hard it was so cold and raining hard.”
Showing true champion form (the pair have combined for three individual MGA titles) following the delay, Parziale first drained an eight-foot curling birdie putt on the 8th hole. Aikens then followed up with a 12-foot birdie putt on the pair’s final hole of the day.
“We kept trying to plug along,” said Parziale. “We never say numbers but looking back we played a solid round today so no complaints.”
Parziale - the 2014 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year and the 2015 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Champion - is off to another strong start to the season. He joined forces with Ray Richard (Willowbend) last month to win the Seagulls Four-Ball title at Hyannisport Club.
Although just 35 years old, Meade and Cappucci have a veteran-like comfort level with each other on the course. That chemistry was on full display when the longtime friends who first met at Nashawtuc Country Club nearly 10 years ago carded a 5-under par 66 to grab a share of the overall lead. Making birdie on four of their last five holes helped their cause.
“We played the first three holes in the pouring rain before the delay,” said Cappucci. “We were able to hang in there and get through that in 1 under with a birdie on the third hole before we got called in. After that we missed more opportunities than anything else and then finished with a flurry.”
They made the turn at 2-under par 34 and were 1-over par through the next five holes. It was then when a decent round turned great.
Meade made back-to-back 15 foot putts for birdie – on the 14th and 15th holes – and then Cappucci made a 20-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole.
"The greens were in perfect shape," and Meade. "They are the fastest greens that we have seen all season. The greens have a lot of break, but they are putting really true."
Meade kept the momentum going by making a “10 plus foot” par putt on the 17th hole before Cappucci capped off the round by sinking a 25 footer on the 18th hole.
"We consider ourselves mudders," said Cappucci. "We are more comfortable grinding it out and trying to hit greens to make pars rather than trying to shoot 62... we tend to do better when the scoring is a little tougher."
The Pierce due was not going to let weather or even a pesky bogey get in the way of a good round. After all, the father and son team was 6-under par through 15 holes and had just made birdie on three of their last four holes. Things were looking good… very good.
It was at that moment when they were in sole possession of the lead when they suffered their first miscue of the day – a bogey on what was the shortest par-4 on the course - the 127-yard, par 3 16th hole.
With temperatures still hovering in the 40s and darkness threatening, the Pierce team could have easily let a few shots slip down the stretch but they managed to keep calm and carry on.
“We played really well,” said David, Jr. “The two of us together were probably even par on our own ball. We both hit a lot of fairways and greens. We didn’t play cautious at all. We just said, ‘Let’s go. Let’s stay aggressive and keep the pedal to the metal’. We didn’t want to take any holes off, and we wanted to make some birdies.”
David noted that when they arrived at the first tee they were told that play was going to be suspended.
“We got the luck of having to start after the delay,” said David. “Sometimes when you get off to a good start it helps, and we got off to a good start today.”
David led the charge early by making birdie on the 2nd and 3rd holes with iron approaches that fell within 12 feet. They were 3-under par at the turn.
“We got the two birdies early and then David took over,” said David. “We had two balls on the green all day long. We were watching other players have to get up and down and that takes a toll on you over the course of a round.”
David, Jr. is also quick to give his father much of the credit.
“My father is so steady which allows me to stay a lot more loose,” said David, Jr. “We make a good team and it’s fun to play together.”
Regardless of what happens tomorrow, both are enjoying the experience.
“I feel in the past he really knows how to play and has learned his lessons well,” said David. “He is really aggressive but now knows how to pull it back a little. He has become a really smart golfer, and it’s a real huge pleasure to play with him. It is just a lot of fun.”
A Lending Hand – Sometimes the journey to the course is the hardest part of the day. That was most certainly the case for Steve St. Amand, whose car broke down a half mile from Hopkinton Country Club. Concerned about missing his afternoon tee time, St. Amand was fortunate that a friendly club member was driving by and made sure that no tee time was missed on this day. Helping the cause further was R.J. Foley, who was coming off the course as St. Amand arrived at the club. Foley, who owns Foley Motorsports which is a luxury used car dealership located on Route 9 in Shrewsbury, offered to help and made arrangements for St. Amand’s car to be towed and fix. #TeamWork
Matching #MassAmateur Hardware – There is only one team in the field that can boast matching Massachusetts Amateur Championship titles. John Kelly (2011) and Ryan Riley (2014) both captured the prestigious MGA title and have been paired together in this event for the past two seasons. Interestingly, both competitors qualified for the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship but they did so with different partners.
Monahan Dynasty – Two members of the Monahan family represented well on day one. Justin and Brendan Monahan are part of the Monahan dynasty that has carved out a special place at Winchester Country Club. After all, the Monahan men have dominated the annual father-son tournament at Winchester Country Club. Last year, Brendan teamed up with his father Joseph Monahan, Jr. to secure their record setting 8th tournament title with an impressive round of 2-under par 69. The win tops the seven championships won by Joe's grandfather and father (Joe and Joe Jr.). Another Monahan son – Jay – earned national headlines earlier this year when he was promoted to deputy commissioner of the PGA Tour.
The Field – A total of 178 two-person teams made up this year’s field. In addition to holding a membership at an MGA member club, each team had to have an up-to-date combined MGA/USGA GHIN Handicap Index not exceeding 6.0. The range of ages was 50 years as the youngest competitor was 16 (Connor Piecuch) while five competitors were 66 years old at the start of this week. For the record, Peter Brumme is technically the oldest player in the field as he was born 28 days before Claude Hoopes. The average age of this year’s field was 40.92, which was one year older than the average age of last year’s field.
Four-Ball or Rain-Ball – One of the most best tweets leading up to the start of the event was one by competitor who suggested that the event be renamed the “MGA Rain-Ball”. The comment no doubt stems from the inclement weather that traditionally follows this early May tournament. This year was no different as temperatures settled in the 40s and light drizzle gave way to intermittent steady rain throughout the day. Chief Meteorologist for CBS Boston, Eric Fisher tweeted this out to competitors about the forecast - @mgalinks drizzle, showers, and 40s to near 50 all day. Unfortunately for all on site… that forecast by Fisher was right on target. #2016RainBall.
Play was suspended at both courses just before 1:00 p.m. after a band of heavy rain passed through the region. Following a delay of just over 30 minutes play resumed and the final scorecard was turned in at Framingham CC at 7:50 p.m.
Old (MGA) Home Week – The MGA staff ties run deep with several individuals playing this week. A handful of former MGA staff members have moved from the office to the course this week. Glendon Sutton and Harry Kirkpatrick were former MGA full-time staff members who worked in the handicapping and member services departments, respectively. Connor Hayes spent two years working at the MGA’s junior golf facility – MGA Links in Norton – alongside Joe McCabe who currently serves as the executive director of The First Tee of Massachusetts.
Winged Foot Bound – Ten competitors in this field will be taking their four-ball game to Winged Foot Golf Club (Mamaroneck, NY) on May 21-25 to take part in the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Those individuals earned a spot at Championship Proper last fall when sectional qualifying rounds were held in New England. Included in that list are the following players: Matt Parziale, Herbie Aikens, John Kelly, Ryan Riley, Michael Willock, Sean Fitzpatrick, Bobby Loguidice, David Smith, Adam Rubin and Jordan Burke.
Double the Points – The USGA Men’s State Team Championship will be held on September 28-30 at the Country Club of Birmingham (AL) which means that competitors here in the Bay State will be eyeing one of the coveted three spots open for Team Massachusetts. In 1995, the USGA sponsored its first USGA State Team Championship. Since that time, three representatives from each state compete against each other in this biennial event. The MGA has established a point system – based on its Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year point system – that determines its three representatives. Anyone enrolled in high school or college or holding residency outside of Massachusetts will not eligible to compete for Team Massachusetts, per USGA rules and regulations. The 2016 State Team points are calculated as follows: 2015 Player of the Year Points + [2 x (2016 Player of the Year Points)]
Go Isles! – Although there may be some Florida hockey fans in the field, the majority of folks are most likely silently rooting for the New York Islanders to pull out the Eastern Conference Second Round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning. After all, a familiar and popular competitor – Mike Dunham – is normally a fixture in the Four-Ball field with partner Cato Anderson but work duties called this week. Dunham is enjoyed his seventh season as the Islanders goaltending coach.
MLB & NHL Represented – This year’s field features two former NHL and MLB stars. Mike Trombley is a Springfield native who grew up in Wilbraham and played in the Majors from 1992 through 2002. Throughout his 14-year career, Trombley played with the Minnesota Twins (1992–1999, 2002), Baltimore Orioles (2000–2001) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (2001). Ryan Whitney is a former Boston University and NHL defenseman who played professional hockey from 2004 through 2015. Whitney played for four NHL teams - Pittsburgh Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers, and the Florida Panthers. Whitney also won a silver medal with the United States at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The upcoming issue of MassGolfer magazine – due out later this month – will feature former players from all four major sports – NHL, NBA, MLB and NFL – and highlight the role golf plays in raising money for charity. Featured former players include Dana Barros (Boston Celtics), Andre Tippett (New England Patriots), Andy Brickley (Boston Bruins) and Tim Wakefield (Boston Red Sox).
Four-Ball Play - Today's event represents a different type of golf tournament that may be foreign to the occasional golfer. In a four-ball event such as the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship, each team is comprised of two players who must have a combined USGA/GHIN Handicap index not exceeding the 6.0 limit stated on the application.
Throughout the 18-hole round, each competitor plays his/her own ball. At the end of each hole, the low score between the two partners is used as that team's score. The event earned its name because four-ball competition usually pits two two-person teams against each other which would result in four balls being played! Please refer to Rules 30 and 31 of the USGA Rules of Golf manual for more details.