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Headline: In a U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Qualifier That Featured Competitors From Around Country... It Was the Local Team That Snags the Top Spot at GreatHorse
For Immediate Release: August 25, 2016
|Billy Walthouse (left) and Matt Naumec were medalists at GreatHorse.|
Hampden, MA —On paper, Thursday’s field at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball sectional qualifier at GreatHorse looked more like that which will be featured in 2018, when the Massachusetts Open Championship will be held at the beautiful central Massachusetts course that overlooks the state’s mountain ranges to the west.
Why you may ask?
In addition to the 85 players with Bay State roots, another 79 players traveled from out of the state to compete at the course.
Much like the annual MGA Open Championship, which features both professional and amateur competitors from across the country, Thursday’s qualifier for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship had the same feel when it came to the event roster.
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Each of the six New England states were represented, while others from all parts of the nation too took in the same great views that the Massachusetts club has had to offer since it re-opened two years ago. California, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maryland were just some of the home states for the field of competitors at GreatHorse.
While some traveled great distances to get there, in the end it was a pair of local teams who took the top two spots and marked their calendars for Championship Proper which will be on May 27-31, 2017 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in the Village of Pinehurst, North Carolina
Leading the way on Thursday and finishing as medalists was the team of Matt Naumec (Wilbraham, Mass.) and Billy Walthouse (Longmeadow, Mass.), a pair of collegiate golfers from the western part of the state, who shot 6-under par 66 to top the leaderboard.
Naumec, a sophomore member of the Boston College men’s golf team, and Walthouse, a rising senior on the University of Rhode Island men’s golf team, opened up play on the back nine, arguably the more difficult half of GreatHorse’s 18-hole, par-72 course, by carding a 4-under mark at the turn.
“For a lot of holes, we were both in the hole,” said the elder Walthouse. “We were able to make par and have good looks for birdies. A lot of the holes, Matt was really helping me hit the green. He knows these greens very well.”
Knowledge of the greens was key for Naumec, who is a member at GreatHorse and who won the Club Championship there earlier this month.
Walthouse said, “Yesterday was my first time looking at the golf course. Matt knows this course probably better than anyone else at this place. Definitely an advantage, having him on the team with me.”
Unlike many in the field, there were no airplane rides or hotels rooms needed for the medalists. The two, who have had very successful seasons in various tournaments, both live within 10 minutes of the course.
The two live on either side of the Hampden course. Walthouse is from Longmeadow, while Naumec is a native of nearby Wilbraham.
While Walthouse tallied five birdies to Naumec’s two, both say that the team chemistry they have was key to their top finish.
The Boston College student Naumec said, “If we hit a bad shot, we are both going over and giving each other knuckles and high fives. There is never a negative vibe out there.”
Friends since they were young junior golfers, being able to advance to a USGA Championship Proper is something special for both competitors.
Naumec said, “Our friendship has grown through golf. It’s awesome to take our game to the next level and get to travel down to Pinehurst. It is pretty cool.”
Joining the two will be their direct competition from Thursday’s qualifier, Eric Dietrich (Cheshire, Conn.)and Jimmy Hervol (Hopkinton, Mass.), both golfers at the University of Connecticut. Like the aforementioned two, there is also a two-year gap between the two players. Dietrich is a senior for the Huskies, while Hervol will be entering his sophomore year.
Their team, who was paired with Naumec and Walthouse, finished at 5-under par 67 after they combined for eight birdies and three bogeys.
The third team to qualify for Pinehurst on Thursday was the team of Billy Van Stratum (S. Dennis, Mass.) and Michael Walker (Marston Mills, Mass.), who combined for six birdies en route to their third place finish at 4-under par 68.
The two alternate spots were decided in a playoff after four teams shot 3-under par 69 on the day and were forced into a sudden-death playoff.
The duo of A.J. Oleksak (Longmeadow, Mass.) and Pat Pio (Somers, Conn.) finished as first alternates, while the team of GreatHorse owner Guy Antonacci (Somers, Conn.) and Brent Diez (Enfield, Conn.) took home the second alternate spot.
The Antonacci/Dietz team’s eligibility in the playoff was due in part to a hole in one that Antonacci recorded on the course’s 15th hole, a par-3 that sits at 125 yards.
The three qualifying teams will take place from May 27-31, 2017 at Pinehurst Resort and Country Club in Pinehurst, N.C. Entries are open to sides of amateur golfers with an individual up-to-date Handicap Index® based on ratings for men not exceeding 5.4 under the USGA Handicap System.