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Headline: The #RoadtoWorcester Set to Begin on June 13; Worcester Country Club to Host 107th Massachusetts Open Championship for a Record 7th Time
For Immediate Release: June 11, 2016
The 2015 MGA Open Champion Joe Harney and a field of 150 amateurs and professionals will compete at Worcester CC on June 13-15.
Worcester, MA —The #RoadtoWorcester began on February 4th when online registration officially opened for all MGA Championships.
Since that time, a record number of entries (573) were received and six qualifying rounds were held over 22 days.
The end result is a Championship Proper field of 150 of the best amateur and professional golfers from across the country who will compete for one of the most prestigious titles in all of golf – the Massachusetts Open.
This year's field features competitors from the United States and Canada. A total of 14 states are represented including golfers from Arizona, Alabama and Colorado.
107th MGA Open Quick Links
"The field is deep and the field is talented," said Kevin Eldridge, the MGA's director of rules & competition. "We are excited to welcome them to Worcester next week and take on a unique and historic challenge that the course will most certainly offer them all."
The MGA Open title is one that was first earned in 1905 by Donald Ross and since then 73 different competitors have had their name etched on the Clarence G. Cochrane Memorial Trophy.
This year’s 107th edition of the MGA Open Championship will be held at Worcester Country Club on June 13-15. Over that three-day period, three rounds of stroke play will be contested in Worcester.
Following the first two rounds of play, the field will be reduced to the low 50 scorers and ties or anyone within seven strokes of the leader.
“Our staff is incredibly excited to host this event,” said Adam Moore, who has served as Worcester’s director of golf course maintenance since March of 2015. “This is a really good opportunity for us to showcase our golf course as well as the hard work we put into preparing the course for this event.”
Although Worcester may be best known nationally as the site of the inaugural Ryder Cup in 1927, it holds a special spot in history locally.
After all, this year represents the seventh time in history that the club has hosted the MGA Open Championship. Only one other course – Oyster Harbors Club – has hosted that many such events.
The Massachusetts Open Championship is the only MGA Championship that is open to both amateur and professional golfers. It has been played annually since 1905 (except for war years) at a variety of courses around the state. It was considered a PGA Tour event from 1916 to 1937. Past winners include World Golf Hall of Fame players Donald Ross, Walter Hagen, Leo Diegel, Francis Ouimet, Gene Sarazen, Byron Nelson, Horton Smith, and Julius Boros. In 2015, the event became a "true open" by allowing amateurs from outside of the Bay State to compete.
Eligibility - Entries are open to professional golfers and amateur golfers with an up-to-date USGA GHIN Handicap Index not exceeding 2.4 (as determined by the April 15, 2016 Handicap Revision), or who have completed their handicap certification.
Prizes: The following trophies will be awarded following the conclusion of play – Clarence G. Cochrane Memorial Trophy (Champion) & The Commonwealth Cup (Low Amateur Champion). The total professional purse for the event is $75,000. The winner's check is $15,000.
A Look Back at 2015 - Joe Harney of Granite Links GC captured his first major professional title at Black Rock CC thanks to a strong finishing round which was highlighted by Harney making birdie on on four straight holes – 12 through 15. He posted a final round score of 4-under par 67 - the second best round recorded all week long - and finished with a three-round score of 6-under par 207. Ben Spitz was the event's low amateur.
Past Champions in the Field - The following competitors have been victorious at this event in the past and are a part of the 2016 Championship Proper field.
According to the club's history, the unique layout was constructed on purpose and with care by its architect who also happens to be a former MGA Open Champion - Donald Ross. In 1913, Ross was contracted to personally oversee the design and construction of the golf course.
"The golf course was and has always remained a source of joy for its members and their guests," said Steve Ayres, the club's historian and a longtime WCC member. "Its design and character create a route that is always a challenge and never the same. Boredom is not spoken here."
The Opening Dedication was held on September 29, 1914 and - according to Ayres - was a gala affair that few would forget. More than 2,500 people were in attendance as they enjoyed the company of William Howard Taft, the immediate past President of the United States. Taft, an avid golfer, had the honor of striking the first drive. The story is told that - like so many golfers after him - he succumbed to his golf nerves on that first tee.
"He was at that point the dean of law school at Yale," explained Ayres. "He hit a mean duck hook about 125 yards down the fairway, and then had to take two more mulligans before he was finally satisfied much to everyone's relief."
Ten years later, Worcester became the first course to hold a qualifying round for the U.S. Open. The response to the course was so enthusiastic that Worcester was offered and hosted the 1925 U.S. Open. This event was won by Willie MacFarlane (the holder of 21 PGA tournament victories) in a 36-hole playoff over Bobby Jones.
In 1960, the U.S. Women’s Championship came to Worcester and Betsy Rawls overcame Mickey Wright and a strong field to narrowly capture her fourth national Open title. To this day, however, Ayres admits that Worcester is best known as the site of the inaugural Ryder Cup, in 1927. In this contest the United States team, captained by Walter Hagen, defeated Ted Ray’s squad from Great Britain 9-1/2 to 2-1/2. As such, Worcester is the only golf club to host the premier men’s, the premier women’s and the premier international tournaments.
Here is a summary of the major events that have been hosted at Worcester Country Club dating back to 1921.
The competitive course record at Worcester is 64, which is a mark originally set by Ed Martin at the 1953 Massachusetts Open Championship. It was matched Fran Quinn, Sr. during the 1964 Invitational Tournament. Ayres noted that Frank Quinn, Jr. posted a 62 on the Worcester layout (during a friendly match with his uncle Bill Cosgrove) but it was not in a competitive round.
Members of the MGA championship department have worked closely with its team of rules officials and WCC staff to prepare and set up the golf course for championship play. Hole locations, tee placement and hazard lines will be expertly set up for all three rounds in order to maximize the challenge of the course.
"The course will play to a yardage around 6,700 yards and a par 70," said Eldridge. "It will include five par 3s ... I will not be surprised to see the eventual champion be the one who has the lowest combined score on those five par 3s throughout the event."
One unique feature of the course is indeed - as Eldridge noted - the five par 3s, which make the course play longer and tougher than the yardage indicates. When first opened in 1914, the course was originally a par 71 layout, but that was ultimately changed to a par 70 when the 17th hole was altered from a par 5 to a par 4.
"The finishing hole as well as the three final holes will present a tremendous challenge for the competitors," said Eldridge. "The 18th hole creates a natural amphitheater which will be a tremendous backdrop for crowning a new champion on Wednesday and presenting the $15,000 winner's check."
Moore stated that the golf course greens will be mowed to approximately 1/10th of an inch and rolled daily to maintain the preferred conditions from start to finish. The fairways and approaches will be tightly mowed.
"The entire course is managed in a manner to promote firm, fast and fair playing conditions," said Moore, a native of Barnstable who - previous to Worcester - had been an assistant at Old Sandwich GC and Oyster Harbors Club and worked on the construction of Pinehills Golf Club's two courses. "We want the competitors to have really tight lies and to have a multitude of golf shots. They are going to need that out here because it is a very challenging golf course."
The intermediate cut - which goes around all fairways, approaches and greens - will be mowed at an inch. The rough height will be approximately 2 1/2 to 3 inches and can - in the words of Moore - "get pretty nasty around here at times."
"The bunkers will be raked on a daily basis," said Moore. "Our bunker faces are now mowed at 1 1/2 inches and that is to promote the ball to fall into the bunkers. We don't want any balls to get hung up in our steep grass bunker faces. That is our goal with our bunker management."
On May 18, three competitors took part in MGA Open Media Day at Worcester and provided these thoughts on competing in the 2016 MGA Open Championship.
Allan Belden, head golf professional at Worcester CC, will be on site playing instead of working next week. Belden was granted an exemption into the Championship Proper field as host golf professional. Belden will be paired during the first two days with Bobby Gage (Blue Hill CC) and amateur Andy Drohen (The Ranch GC). He is most excited - he said - to be joined on the course by his 18-year-old daughter Madeline, who will serve as his caddie.
"It is a great honor to be hosting this event. There is a definite excitement around the club about hosting this event. The quality of the golf that you will see will be very high and great to watch. It will be great for the members to see how the best players in the area and some of those in the country play on their golf couse that they play every day."
"The par 3s have been mentioned, but they are extremely difficult. Length has been added over the past few years to all of the par 3s with the exception of number 4... it will be important for those holes to be played at par or better for anyone who expects to contend. The par 5s here which need to be played in a sub-par average."
Belden also noted that the 15th hole has recently had length added which will has made it more difficult for even the longer hitters to reach in two. However, the other two par 5s - holes 2 and 5 - should be reachable in two shots by the longer hitters in the field.
A critical hole will be the finishing 18th hole that will play to approximately 348 yards.
"It sounds like a short hole, but it is all about the green complex and where the hole location sits that last day. My guess is that it will be on the lower level [on Wednesday]. The ability to hit it on the right level whether it is up or down that day is paramount to making par for the leaders on that last day. Having run hundreds and maybe even thousands of events at the club we have seen so many events decided on that last hole where someone just needs a par to close the event isn't able to do it. It ultimately comes down to whether or not they can hit the green and the right level."
Adam Rainaud is a South Hadley native who currently serves as an assistant golf professional at Black Hall Country Club in Connecticut and his playing resume continues to grow with each passing season. This past spring, he captured his second straight PGA Match Play Championship and last week claimed his second Spring PGA Stroke Play Championship which earned an exemption into August's Travelers Championship.
"It is a little strange to think that I have lived until I was 24 in South Hadley and this is the first time that I have played here."
"I haven't had a chance to play in the Mass Open in recent years because it's hard for me to get days off down in Connecticut, but I always look forward to playing in any MGA events because they are always well run, the courses are always in great shape and the fields are always strong."
Although he noted that he doesn't have the experience on this golf course and in competition as some of the veterans, Rainaud is hoping to tap into some of his recent success on the national stage.
"Anytime you play in a really big event it provides you with a different perspective. When you play in a PGA Championship it gives you confidence that if you can hit shots with 10,000 people watching then you can do it again. I like to think back on the good shots that I hit under the most pressure, and I think that will help me. If it comes down to the wire here, I know that I have a lot of great shots that I have hit in really big tournaments with a lot on the line and with many people watching. I like to relive those thoughts in my head and believe that I can do it again."
Fran Quinn has unique roots in Worcester. Quinn won this event in 1990 and placed second in 1991. He will be playing the tournament for the first time since a runner-up finish 20 years ago at Winchester CC.
"I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of my life right here in this area."
"To be able to come here and have an opportunity to play a Mass Open at Worcester Country Club is very special. I know its a big effort to put on an event like this. As players we are incredibly grateful to the membership for giving up their course for three days and also to the staff for putting in the time and effort to make it a successful event."
"The MGA does a job like no other. I have been fortunate to play on pretty much every Tour around the world and it's always special to come back and play an MGA event. They run the golf tournament like it's a U.S. Open. They make the participants feel like it is the biggest event of our lives."
Amateur Frank Vana, Jr. has never won this event but he has finished as low amateur two times - in 2002 and 2004. He is also a two-time Massachusetts Amateur Champion (2004 and 2005) who is also a nine-time MGA Player of the Year and the two-time MGA Player of the Decade for the 1900s and 2000s.
"I am excited because I spent most of my golf career in the Worcester County area and have been lucky enough to play Worcester Country Club a lot. I have also been lucky to compete in two or three state amateurs here as well. The course has gone through restoration over the past few years... it is completely different than the last time we had a championship here. It should be a challenge. The history that is here, the number of friends I have who are members here and the quality of the golf course makes this just a fabulous venue."
Here is what a few media outlets have said about this historic event coming to Worcester for the first time since 1976.
Massachusetts Open returns to Worcester Country Club - WCVB - Channel 5
Mass Open: A Homecoming for Quinn - Boston Herald
Need More Than Luck on Worcester's 13th Hole - Boston Herald
Fran Quinn Returns to Friendly Fairways - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Open Making Triumphant Return to Worcester Country Club - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
Here is a complete schedule of competiton from June 13-15 at Worcester CC.
Round 1 - June 13 (18 Holes)
Round 2 - June 14 (18 Holes)
The low 50 scorers and ties or anyone within 7 strokes of the leader after 36-holes will continue play on June 15
Round 3 - June 15 (18 Holes)
Championship Proper: Any tie for first place will be decided immediately by a three-hole aggregate play-off . In the event there is still a tie after three holes, a hole-by-hole play-off will determine the champion. There will be no play-off for low amateur honors.
Entries Received: 573 (a record!)
Exempt Competitors: 47
Average Age: 32.3
Most Common Name: John (8)
Youngest Competitor: Michael Thorbjornsen (14)
Oldest Competitor: Paul Parajeckas (66)
Competitors Under the Legal Drinking Age: 12
States Represented: 15
Number of MGA Member Clubs Represented: 95
Most Represented MGA Member Clubs: George Wright GC (4), Thorny Lea GC (4), Granite Links (3), GreatHorse (3), Pleasant Valley CC (3), Salem CC (3)
Amateurs in the Field – 47
Professionals in the Field – 102
Amateurs Awaiting Reinstatement-1
Allan Belden, 50, has served as Worcester CC's golf professional for 20 years and was the 2015 NEPGA Golf Professional of the Year. He is a Class A PGA Member and a graduate of Merrimack College.
Jeff Curl, 37, is from Birmingham, Alabama. He won the 42nd New England Open title at the Quechee Club (VT) on June 9. He has played in 20 Web.com Tour events this season, making eight cuts.
Frank Dully, 49, is the head golf professional at Kernwood CC who was medalist at U.S. Open local qualifying held at Essex County Club. Dully’s journey to U.S. Open sectional qualifying at Canoe Brook (NY) will be featured on Fox as part of special show called "Drive to the U.S. Open" which will air on Monday, June 13 at 3pm.
Kirk Hanefeld, 60, competed on the Champions Tour from 2003 through 2012. His best finish on the Champions Tour was T5th in 2008 at the Principal Charity Classic.
Evan Harmeling, 27, is an Andover native and graduate of Princeton University. He made national headlines in 2013 when he won his first professional title – the 2013 MGA Open– and donated his entire $15,000 winner’s check to The One Fund.
Joe Harney, 24, won the 2015 MGA Open title at Black Rock CC which represented his first major professional victory. Harney is a foormer Catholic Memorial High School standout who spent two years at Johnson & Wales (FL) before turning pro.
James Hazen, 34, the 2010 champion of this event is coming off his second career Long Island Open title. He also won the Manchester Open in 2015.
Kevin Johnson, 49, is a Plymouth native who is competing in the MGA Open for a third straight year. Johnson won this event as an amateur in 1986.He went on to win the Massachusetts Amateur Championship in 1987 and 1988 and the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 1987 before turning pro in 1990. In 2009, he finished 13th on the Nationwide Tour money list to earn his 2010 PGA Tour card.
Jeffrey Martin, 42, finished as runner-up at the 2015 MGA Open and was assisted on the final day by his 13-year-old son Cameron who served as his caddie. Martin is the head golf professional at Norton CC, which hosted an MGA Amateur qualifier on June 2.
Fran Quinn, Jr., 51, won this event in 1990 and has been competing on the Champions Tour this season. Recently he has posted a T22 at the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid and a T11 at the Principal Charity Classic. His brother Kevin Quinn stands as the last amateur to have won the MGA Open title.
Adam Rainaud, 30, is the two-time and defending champion of the PGA Match Play Championship, Rainaud captured his second Spring PGA Stroke Play Championship last week and he earned an exemption into the Travelers Championship August 1-7, 2016.
Geoff Sisk, 50, holds the record for most MGA Open titles won with six. Over the course of his career, Sisk has earned status on the PGA and Web.com Tours and has qualified for the U.S. Open Championship seven times (1995, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2013).
Griffin Brown, 22, of Vesper CC finished third at the NCAA DII Golf Championships competing for his Limestone College team. The 2016 Conference Carolinas Golfer of the Year also finished 3rd overall with a 1-under 215 at the league championships before placing fifth overall at the NCAA Division II South/Southeast Regional Tournament
Nick McLaughlin, 22, will be making his professional debut in Massachusetts this week. The 2015 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year became only the fourth golfer in Bay State history to win both the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and the New England Amateur Championship in the same year.
Matt Parziale, 29, returns to the field after a one-year absence. In 2015, Parziale withdrew from the MGA Open after he secured a spot at 2015 U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying for the first time in his career. The 2014 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year has finished as low amateur at this event two times in his career.
Ben Spitz, 32 will look to capture his third career low amateur title next week in Worcester. He first earned The Commonwealth Cup in 2013 at Woodland GC and most recently in 2015 at Black Rock CC. Spitz won his 2006 MGA Amateur title at Worcester CC.
Michael Thorbjornsen, 14, became the youngest competitor in MGA Open history to capture medalist honors at qualifying. Thorbjornsen posted a 3-under par 69 at the Spring Valley CC qualifier held on May 25. He is the 2015 MGA Boys Amateur Championship and divisional winner at the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt National Finals.
Frank Vana, Jr., 53, is a nine-time MGA Player of the Year who will be inducted into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame on October 13 at Andover Country Club. Vana, who won the Massachusetts Amateur Championship in 2004 and 2005, will be inducted as part of a third class that includes Bob Crowley, Joe Lazaro, Bill Flynn, Anne Marie Tobin, and Herbert Warren Wind.
Bob Crowley, four-time Mass Open Champion and longtime Pine Brook CC head pro, was paired with Arnold Palmer at the 1956 Insurance City Open (now known as the Travelers Championship) in Hartford.
Five other MGA Open past champions have been (or will be) inducted into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame: Francis Ouimet, Donald Ross, Paul Harney, Bob Toski and Bill Flynn. Ouimet and Ross are also members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Only six players have won both the Mass Open and Mass Amateur: Francis Ouimet, Jesse Guilford, Kevin Johnson, Jim Hallet, Fran Quinn, Jr, and Charles Volpone.
In the history of the Mass Open, champions have won in consecutive years only six times: Alex Ross, Paul Harney, Charley Volpone, Dick Hanscom, Dana Quigley, and Geoff Sisk.
Paul Harney, one of the best professional golfers that Massachusetts has ever produced, won the Mass Open five times, including four in a row in the late 1960’s. He won every Mass Open he entered. He stopped playing full-time on the PGA Tour once his first child was born, which was a promise that he had made to his wife.
Frank Vana, Jr. twice won The Commonwealth Cup as the MGA Open's low amateur, in 2002 and 2004.
Fred Wright was the most decorated amateur golfer of his generation in MA, but was never able to win the Mass Open. He finished as a runner-up twice.