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Headline: Billy Van Stratum Enjoys a Comfortable Day Near Home and Leads the Way Following Day One of the 2016 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship
For Immediate Release: September 20, 2016
Billy Van Stratum fired a day-low score of 4-under par 68 at TGC on Tuesday.
East Falmouth, MA — For Billy Van Stratum (Dennis Pines GC) the first day of the 2016 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship could not have gone much better.
After all, the South Dennis resident had to travel just 25 miles from his home to this week’s host site of TGC to card a day-low score of 4-under par 68.
Van Stratum currently leads a field of 120 competitors following the first of three rounds of competition.
He has a one-stroke lead over four competitors – Tim Johnson (Poquoy Brook GC), Michael Pyne (Foxborough CC), Brendan Hester (Pleasant Valley CC) and Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) – who are T2 with scores of 3-under par 69.
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“It was good and I am very pleased with my round,” said Van Stratum. “I have only played here two or three times, but I played a practice round maybe two weeks ago. I had a good feel for it and felt very comfortable out here.”
A resident of South Dennis since 2010, Van Stratum doesn’t have a chance to commute home often from MGA Championships given that events are hosted across the state. This week represented a unique opportunity for Stratum, and he took full advantage on day one by turning in a scorecard that featured five birdies and just one bogey.
“It is a nice feeling to go home to the wife and dog,” said Van Stratum. “It’s also nice to be able to sleep in your own bed and to get a good night’s sleep and a good dinner.”
His at-home preparation paid off early on Tuesday as he made birdie on three of his first four holes.
“I started out par and followed that up with three birdies in a row. That is a pretty healthy start,” said Van Stratum, who began his round on the TGC 10th hole. “I was rolling the ball pretty well and stuck one in there pretty tight on 11 and 13. Then I rolled in a good one on 12 from about 16 to 18 feet.”
Although Van Stratum made bogey on the 350-yard, par 4 13th hole, it would prove to be his final and only miscue of the day.
He made four straight pars to make the turn at 2-under par and then carded birdie on the 1st and 3rd holes. He played the TGC front nine at 2-under par.
“I drove the ball well and kept it in play,” said Van Stratum.
Quality golf typically leads to a good day for all involved which was evident by the play of Van Stratum and his playing partners for the first two rounds – Michael Willock (Cohasset GC) and D.J. Hynes (Framingham CC). The trio combined for day-one score of 5-under par.
“It was an easy day with a great group,” said Van Stratum. “It was easy going with good guys and a lot of fun.”
Being in contention for an MGA Championship Proper held near his home is nothing new for Van Stratum.
After all, it was only two years ago when Van Stratum was one stroke shy of capturing the 2014 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship, which was held that year at Cranberry Valley Golf Course.
On the final day two years ago, Van Stratum was in lock step with eventual champion Herbie Aikens before Aikens sent his 80-yard approach shot on the 36th hole to inches to set up a birdie and secure a one-stroke victory.
That experience two years ago as well as the many competitive rounds he has logged since will no doubt serve Van Stratum well through this event’s final 36 holes.
“Fairways and greens are obviously key, and if I can get three or four more putts to drop I should be right there hopefully come Thursday,” said Van Stratum. “I need to have a couple of good rounds and another under par round or even to stay somewhat close to the leaders.”
That, along with a home-cooked meal and a good night’s rest in his own bed, is hopefully going to be a winning recipe for Van Stratum.
Most competitors who arrived at the scoring tent on Tuesday probably didn’t realize the company that they were keeping.
The official in charge of scoring was Shayne Grier from Cummaquid.
While anyone who has competed in an MGA qualifier or championship on the Cape over the past two decades knows Grier as one of the most affable and knowledgeable rules officials around, there is so much more that they don’t know.
Before he arrived on the Cape in 1977, Grier spent eight years as a professional caddie for some of the top talent in the world including John Lister, Steve Melnyk and Hubert Green.
Grier grew up in Worcester and played golf at courses such as Worcester Country Club, Green Hill Municipal Golf Course and Juniper Hill Golf Course. He went on to attend Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He graduated in just three and a half years.
In December of 1969 and with no appealing job prospects in front of him, Grier decided to take a different route.
“There was nothing out there that I wanted to do when I got out of college, so I bought a van and found myself in Palm Desert,” said Grier. “The Tour came to town, and I walked up to this young guy and asked, ‘how do I caddie on the Tour?. He just said, ‘You just go do it’.”
Despite his young age at the time, it wasn’t the first time that Grier had played that role.
In fact, he already had an impressive resume when he arrived on the West Coast. He served as caddie for Jack Nicklaus at the 1965 Carling World Open held at Pleasant Valley Country Club and then for Arnold Palmer when he won the 1968 Kemper Open.
“Those are the first with their names on the bag that I caddied for,” said Grier.
Grier became part of a group of seven that was affectionately known as “The Hippies” because they all sported long hair and traveled together in Grier’s van.
While he traveled the world and back (he also spent time as a caddie on the European Tour), Grier is perhaps proudest of his time with Green, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2007. Their 52-month tenure together resulted in 10 victories, including the 1977 U.S. Open Championship that was played “under the threat of death”.
What Grier is referring to is an incident that occurred at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As the competitors walked to the 15th green of the final round, Green was notified of a death threat on his life that was anonymously phoned in to the tournament.
Green was approached by the local police on the course and was given options. He opted to continue playing and went on to win the championship by one stroke over Lou Graham in what Grier calls one of the “most courageous” rounds of golf he has ever witnessed.
Grier and Green would go on – just one month later – to finish third behind Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at the 1977 British Open at Turnberry.
“In ’77 we were on both sides of the greatest dual in golf,” said Grier, who spent more than 30 years working for the Streamship Authority upon his retirement from the caddie profession. “We were behind it the third round and then paired with Palmer in the group in front of it on the last round. I got to sit on the 18th green and watch Watson tap in his three footer while everyone was cheering. It was great stuff.”
The amazing and whirlwind stories that Grier could tell are countless and could – and should – be one day preserved for future generations. However, on this day, the now 68 year old seemed surprisingly content sitting under an MGA scoring tent at TGC.
“At this stage of my life I enjoy this more than playing,” said Grier. “Seeing it done right and seeing it done proper is big. It is big, and these guys appreciate it.”
And anyone who spends a minute with Grier would appreciate him and his incredible history with golf.
Competitors in this year’s field enjoyed a special treat. Although the TGC facility does not feature a driving range, The Cape Club located across the street opened its doors to allow all of the players to utilize its driving range through all three days.
Those who don’t visit the Cape often were most likely surprised when they drove into what used to be Ballymeade Country Club, a private facility located five miles from the Bourne Bridge.
In its place now stands The Cape Club, which is essentially a brand new golf course built over the old facility. The new course is the culmination of a two-year project by Troon Golf, which took over management of the facility. The club’s web site gives insight into the major changes that were officially unveiled in July when the club enjoyed its re-opening.
"New tee boxes were added, fairways were widened and reshaped, putting greens and new green complexes were constructed, and each hole was enhanced with silica "Augusta-white" sand bunkers."
Attention to detail was a priority as even the cart paths were created with white crushed stone to match the look of the bunkers. Yet while the plans and look give it a private-only feel, The Cape Club is all about inclusiveness and public play.
The new facility is 100 percent public and its mission is centered on a "member for a day" foundation. In other words, the club and its staff encourages residents and visitors from far and wide to experience amenities that are often reserved for the most exclusive facilities.
This week, the entire Massachusetts Mid-Amateur field enjoyed that experience. Shuttles transported competitors from the TGC clubhouse to the full-length driving range that is located just behind the club house and pro shop.
"We are grateful to The Cape Club for providing this service and opportunity for the competitors," said Kevin Eldridge, the MGA's director of rules & competitions. "Having two such exceptional courses so close to each other and willing to support each other is yet another example of how unique and special golf is here on the Cape and throughout our state."
What Drought?: Clubs across the Cape have been hoping for rain all summer long. On Monday morning, they finally received relief as heavy rainstorms hit the area. A total of 2.25 inches of rain fell at TGC. That total compares to the 0.8 inches that the course received in all of August. While temporary relief from drought conditions was welcome, it placed an added burden on Golf Course Superintendent Stoyan Muhov and his staff. MGA and club officials met on Monday afternoon and decided to implement several measures to protect both the course and the integrity of the entire field. Golf carts were not allowed on the course on Tuesday, and players were instructed on a mark, lift, clean and replace procedure in any closely mowed areas of the golf course.
A Dedicated Core From Near and Far: While there were many familiar Cape faces monitoring play on Tuesday, there were also some unexpected rules officials on site. A trio of officials traveled from the North Shore to Cape Cod to assist with this week’s event. Despite a commute that was well over 90 minutes, two executive committee members and one former president made the trek and were on course all day long. Doug Mitchell from Ipswich CC and Jack Taymore from Kernwood CC – both current members of the MGA Executive Committee – were responsible for starting and scoring throughout the day. Paul Burke, Jr., a member at Vesper CC who served as MGA president from 2011 through 2013, also served as a starter before heading out to the course to manage and oversee play on TGC’s front and back nine. The MGA salutes these gentlemen - as well as the more than 100 volunteers who serve as officials each season – for their dedication and support of amateur golf.
Lucky Alternate No. 32: When the final qualifier was held on August 17, a list of alternates was created per the MGA’s Alternate Policy which represents a pool of players from each qualifying site with the next best score after the cutline. Justin Bearse of Hyannis GC was Alternate No. 32, the last one on the list. When the list was posted, he probably didn’t think that he had much hope of competing at a course located just 16 miles from his home. But as fate (and some luck) would happen, Bearse learned on Tuesday morning that a spot had opened up. Bearse, therefore, represented the 32nd alternate that was given an opportunity to compete at Championship Proper. Bearse accepted the opening and hit his first tee shot off the 1st tee at 12:30 p.m. along with Lester Devitt from Vesper CC and Bud Schultz of Black Rock CC. Earlier this year, amateur Matt Hutchins was 17th on the alternate list for the 2016 Massachusetts Open Championship. Hutchins was the final alternate to get into the field and finished T4 overall.
Where Are They?: While this year’s full field features some of the most talented players in the state, there were several “notable” names missing from the list of starting times. The 2014 champion of this event – Herbie Aikens – is traveling abroad with clients. Brian Higgins, winner of this event in 2008 and 2009, along with former Massachusetts Amateur Champions Ben Spitz and Ryan Riley were also unable to compete as a result of work obligations. Doug Clapp is another notable who withdrew due to injury.
The Hall Calls on Vana: Regardless of his finish this week, one competitor has already made history at this event and his nearly two decade of successes will be officially honored next month at the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame Gala. Frank Vana, Jr. of Marlborough CC and Andover CC has won a record nine Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship titles including a string of five straight from 1999 to 2003. His last such title came in 2013. This past July, Vana advanced to match play at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship for the 26th time in his career. It is a mark that is unmatched and includes a stretch of 23 straight appearances in match play at that event from 1991 through 2012. He has won a total of 14 MGA Championships and is a nine-time Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year. Vana – along with Bob Crowley, Bill Flynn, Joe Lazaro, Anne Marie Tobin and Herbert Warren Wind – will be inducted into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame on October 13th at Andover Country Club. To learn more about the #MassGolfHall, visit www.MassGolfHall.org.
Titleist Still Reigns: At every MGA Championship, a ball count is taken to see what competitors are playing these days. The exact results may vary for each event, but it’s clear that one brand of golf ball reigns supreme in the Bay State. An overwhelming majority of competitors play Titleist golf balls. At this year’s Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, a total of 98 competitors were playing Titleist golf balls. The nearest competitor came in at 10.
A Deep Cape History: This year marks a return of the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship to the Cape. When the event was introduced in 1984, the Country Club of New Seabury served as host. It was a role that the club would play either alone or as a co-host with another facility for a period of 12 years. It was not until 1996 when the event began to move across the state. Since that time, the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship has indeed been a traveled event as it has been hosted at courses from the western most parts of the state to the North Shore. The last time that the event was hosted on the Cape was in 2011 when Pocasset Golf Club opened its doors to this Championship Proper. In 2017, the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship will be held on September 25-27 at Franklin Country Club.
History: In 1984, the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship made its debut at the Country Club of New Seabury. The record for most victories is nine, held by Frank Vana, Jr. (1999-2003, 2005-06, 2012-13). Two players - Jim Ruschioni and Joe Keller - have won the championship three times.
Schedule of Play: Round 1 - September 20 (18 Holes); Round 2 - September 21 (18 Holes); Round 3 - September 22 (18 Holes). The low 30 scorers and ties or anyone within 5 strokes of the leader after 36-holes will continue play on September 22. Any tie for first place will be decided immediately by a hole-by-hole play-off.
Field: The Championship Proper field is limited to 120 players. Qualifying was held from August 4 through August 17 at the following sites: Highfields G&CC, Beverly G&TC, Sharon CC, Segregansett CC, Tekoa CC and Cape Cod CC.
What the Winner Receives: The Ted Bishop Cup and a gold medal will be awarded to the Champion. Merchandise certificates will be awarded and are only redeemable at the host site.
Admission: Admission for the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship is free and the public is encouraged to attend.
2015 Champion: Matt Parziale claimed the Ted Bishop Cup by posting a final score of 9-under par 204 at Marlborough Country Club. His performance that week represented the largest margin of victory recorded in event history, Parziale finished 15 strokes ahead of second-place finishers Frank Vana, Jr. and John Hadges. The previous record was 12 strokes set by Brian Higgins in 2009 at Haverhill Country Club.
Architect: TGC is a Rees Jones design. He worked closely with the TGC team that included Chief Operating Offficer Charles T. Passios, CGCS.
Who Can Enter: Entries are open to amateur golfers who have reached their 25th birthday by September 20,2016, who hold membership at an MGA member club and have an up-to-date MGA/USGA GHIN Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4 (as determined by the July 1, 2016 Handicap Revision), or who have completed their handicap certification.
Par and Yardage: TGC will be set up at approximately 6,700 yards and will play to a par of 36-36–72.
Previous Hosted Championships: Here is a summary of just some of the MGA events that have been hosted at TGC - 2011 MGA Senior Four-Ball Championship; 2013 MGA Father & Daughter Championship; and 2014 U.S. Mid-Amateur Sectional Qualifier
Past Champions in the Field: A total of three past champions crowned over 16 years are featured in this year's field:
Average Age: 40.53
Most Common First Name: Mike (8)
Youngest Competitors: Kip Webber, Andrew Reed and Scott Dicicco (25)
Oldest Competitor: E. Thomas Porter (68)
Average Handicap Index: 1.28
Total Number of MGA Member Clubs Represented: 76
Most Represented MGA Member Clubs: Thorny Lea GC (6) and George Wright GC (4)
Most Towns Represented: 86
Most Common Towns: Boston (9)
Regional Breakdown: South Shore - 24; Greater Boston - 23; North Shore - 17; Greater Springfield - 16; Cape Cod - 11; and Non Real Estate - 3.
Here is a rundown on course statistics from Tuesday, September 20.
Average Score: 77.373
Low Score: 68
High Score: 90
Total # of Eagles: 0
Total # of Birdies: 236
Total # of Bogeys: 542
Total # of Pars: 1,203
Hardest Hole: #2 (average score was 4.085)
Easiest Hole: #17 (average score was 4.551)
For complete coverage of the event, make sure to check the MGA’s website, www.mgalinks.org and follow us on social media (@mgalinks) and #MassMidAm