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Headline: Two-Time MGA Individual Champion Herbie Aikens Looks Forward to the 2017 Season With Renewed Joy and Expections
For Immediate Release: March 6, 2017
|Herbie Aikens last won an individual MGA title in 2014 and his sights are set on more in 2017.|
Norton, MA — The competitive golf season in Massachusetts may not officially begin until May, but preparation for some of the state’s top talent is well underway.
Herbie Aikens - a two-time MGA champion – recently traveled to Tampa, Florida to compete in the 2017 Gasparilla Invitational, an event played nearly every year since 1956 which features some of the nation’s top mid-amateur and senior talent.
Despite being one of the few who hailed from the bitter Northeast, Aikens represented the Bay State well. Aikens – the 2014 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur and Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Champion – finished T12 overall.
“It's really become a big help,” said Aikens about his off-season work. “I think if you can get away a few times during the winter to swing, it really saves you some time in April in May.”
One of the season’s biggest challenges – U.S. Open Local Qualifying – represents the first major event of the season. This year’s local qualifiers will be held on May 11 (@ Pinehills GC) and May 16 (@ Crumpin-Fox Club).
“Early season golf can be very hard and US Open Qualifying is very hard because it's such a goal, and so important but you just aren't sharp enough to compete with the great players you have to face,” said Aikens. “And with such a talented field and one that has a lot of them spending the winter in Florida or some place warm makes getting through so difficult.”
With two months left to prepare, the 35-year-old Aikens is already seeing his game respond.
The Gasparilla Invitational represented his third tournament of the off-season.
He partnered with Kevin Carey – the reigning George M. Cohen MGA Senior Player of the Year – at the 2017 National Senior-Junior in Pinehurst, North Carolina and with Doug Clapp at the Annual International 4-Ball held in February at The Fox Club in Palm City, Florida
In addition to national competitions, Aikens also plans to take time to work with instructor Andrew Park of Andrew Park Golf, who is based out of Florida.
“This year I am going down to see my instructor Andrew Park for a long weekend in March and another in April,” said Aikens, who is principal and president of Lighthouse Electrical Contracting, Inc., a company he founded when he was just 20 years old. “I am so lucky to have him as my coach. He is so talented and smart. I started seeing him in 2006 and he changed golf for me. Going down and spending time with him is a lot of hard work, but I feel I improve each year because of him.”
A perennial top talent, Aikens finally captured his first individual MGA Championship title in 2014 when he won the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship. He followed that up with his second MGA title less than one month later at the 2014 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship.
Everything seemed to be lining up perfectly for Aikens when tragedy struck.
On January 10, 2015, Lauren Aikens – the younger sister of Herbie Aikens – took her own life.
Her passing came just days after Aikens – with members of his family, including Lauren, by his side – had been honored for his 2014 accomplishments at the MGA’s Salute to Champions Dinner.
“Losing Lauren really broke my heart and sprit,” said Aikens.
Throughout most of the 2015 and 2016 season, Herbie Aikens suffered quietly and stoically.
Those outside of his inner circle of family and friends did not know of Lauren’s long and courageous fight with the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by sexual abuse.
This past October, however, the Aikens family came together to host the Lauren E. Aikens Memorial Golf Tournament at Wollaston Golf Club to shed light on her struggles and raise awareness for those who battle with similar disorders.
“The last two years have been more about going through the motions,” said Aikens. “It's amazing how it sucked the joy out of things and made me very depressed and confused. I love golf, but over the last couple years it didn't bring me much joy.”
Aikens continues to raise money in his sister’s honor and his family once again plans to host a second golf tournament later this year. Over the past two years, Aikens has also spent countless hours working with and talking to veterans and others who suffer from PTSD.
In November 2015, Aikens accepted a position on the MGA’s Executive Committee and has been an active member of The First Tee of Massachusetts committee, which aims to bring golf and its inherent values to disadvantaged youth across the state.
“For the first time since we lost [Lauren] I am actually excited for the golf season,” said Aikens. “I want to play well and more importantly I am going to have fun playing. I think that is going to help get me get back to smiling on the inside. Golf has given me so much, and I really want to start to give back.”
And although not to his particularly high standards, Aikens did enjoy success in 2016. He captured the 2016 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship - his fourth such title and first with partner Matt Parziale - and represented Massachusetts at the 2016 USGA Men's State Team Championship.
With a renewed focus and spirit this season, Aikens took his first major step with a strong performance at the Gasparilla Invitational, where he registered 10 birides over three rounds and was just seven strokes back of the leader. He was also the only competitor from a non “in season” state to finish in the top 12.
He returned home after that week and registered for five MGA Championships. He is scheduled to compete in the MGA’s Four-Ball, Open, Amateur, Amateur Public Links and Mid-Amateur Championships.
“My goal this year is to get back to where I was a couple years ago,” said Aikens. “We have so many great players in Massachusetts so if you can just get into position to win you hope to close things out strong. Last season I missed the cut in the Open, Amateur, Northeast Amateur and the New England Amateur and didn't play in the Mid-Amateur. It was very disappointing season, but I feel this year will be much different.”