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Headline: John Stoltz Fires TGC at Sacconnesset Course Record; Leads By Two Following Day 1 of Massachusetts Open Championship
For Immediate Release: June 12, 2017
The field of 150 competitors will be trimmed to the low 50 scorers and ties or anyone within 7 strokes of the leader following the second round of play on Tuesday at TGC at Sacconnesset.
Falmouth, MA — John Stoltz (Middletown, NY) was looking to get off to a fast start during the first round of the 108th Massachusetts Open Championship, but he didn’t expect to fire a course record at TGC at Sacconnesset.
On a hot day in Falmouth, Stoltz posted a 5-under par 67 and currently enjoys a two-shot lead over defending champion Jason Thresher (West Suffield, CT) and Chris Houston (Gilford, NH).
That score of 67 represents the lowest competitive round recorded at TGC at Sacconnesset which opened its doors in 2007. The previous record of 68 was posted by two competitors – Matt Parziale and Billy Van Stratum – during the 2016 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship.
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“It is great,” said Stoltz. “It is an honor to have a course record on such a great course. It sets up good to my eye and I like the course. I didn’t get a chance to play a practice round, but I did do a lot of online studying and looked into the design and how Rees Jones sets up the bunkers. Whether that helped me I don’t know but it was certainly a nice round.”
Stoltz began his round on the back nine and was even par through his first four holes and then made a key birdie on the 541-yard, par 5 18th hole to make the turn at 1-under par.
With the temperature index rising as the morning wore on, Stoltz’s game followed suite as he carded four straight birdies beginning on the 2nd hole. He capped off the round with four straight pars for a front-nine score of 4-under par 32.
“I was on the fairway on those holes so it felt pretty easy,” said Stoltz. “You have to keep it in the fairways to give yourself an opportunity to hit the greens and maybe hit it close…. If you get into the bunkers it is hard because with Rees Jones courses the bunkers are the defense of the course.”
Although the birdie stretch on the TGC at Sacconnesset front nine was eye catching, Stoltz recalled two other moments that proved to be key to his memorable round.
“I hit a shot on number 12 through the fairway and in the fescue,” said Stoltz. “I had about 150 but it was buried and not a good lie and I could barely make a swing. I hacked at it with my 9 iron and got lucky. It hooked 30 yards up there with the ball at eye level to five feet.”
Five holes later Stoltz found himself in a similar position. After nearly topping the ball off the tee, his approach found the bunker with the ball settling near the lip and well below his feet. He somehow managed to send his third shot to five feet… again.
“I didn’t make either putt,” said Stoltz with a laugh. “I was just happy to get out of there with par considering where my tee ball was.”
Stoltz is no stranger to winning. He was part of a Johnson & Wales (FL) golf team that won a NAIA National Championship in 2006. He captured the Metropolitan Open title in 2005 as an amateur and then claimed the 2008 Westchester Open Championship.
Stoltz is currently on a break from serving as an assistant golf professional at Osiris Country Club in Walden, New York and is focusing on playing as much competitive golf as he can this summer.
“I have been playing well as of late and when you are playing well your confidence is high,” said Stoltz. “I was 5 under and it didn’t feel like it was which let’s you know that you are playing well. You get into a zone and I am just hoping that it will carry over through tomorrow.”
For some, the annual Massachusetts Open Championship Proper is the epitome of one’s golf season, an opportunity to compete in one of the most talent-filled regional events of the season.
With a $75,000 purse, one of the largest purses in the New England nonetheless, the annual tournament and the only MGA event of the season with professional players brings competitors from 20 states together for what they hope will be 54-holes of stroke play.
For four professional players in the field, this week marks only a stepping stone for what they hope to accomplish later in this season – which starts as early as this upcoming weekend. Eric Barlow (Winchester CC), Shawn Warren (Falmouth CC), Matt Doyle (The Misquamicut Club) and Rich Berberian, Jr. (Vesper CC) are all competing in this week’s Massachusetts Open Championship.
Beginning this Sunday, June 18, they will be among the 15 New England PGA Golf Professionals playing in the 50th PGA Professional Championship at Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Oregon. They hope to be among the top-20 finishers in a field of 320 to qualify for the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, North Carolina in August.
In Monday’s opening round of the Massachusetts Open Championship, local product Berberian, Jr., who happens to be the defending PGA Professional Champion after he carded an 11-under score last year at New York’s Turning Stone Resort, shot a 3-over par 75 in what will be the final tune-up before he looks to defend his title.
On his approach for this year’s Open Championship before the cross-country trek, Berberian said, “I just want to try and have fun and get the juices flowing again.”
Prior to last year’s tournament, Berberian competed in the Vermont Open at Lake Morey Golf Course and finished second overall before driving to New York. He hopes a similar approach this year to playing in a state open prior to a PGA Professional Championship will pan similar results.
“I kind of did the same thing last year and I played the Vermont Open and then drove over to New York. That turned out to be pretty good so that is kind of the idea,” said Berberian. “This is an awesome event to really do that. This is the best amateurs and pros around, whether they are working or not. If I can compete with them, I feel like I am in good shape.”
Berberian and the three other professionals in the Massachusetts Open field who are traveling to Oregon will return on Tuesday to TGC at Sacconnessett before looking to advance to the final round on Wednesday, which will take the low 50 scores and ties and anyone within seven strokes of the lead.
The life of a professional golfer is never predictable and rarely easy, but Fran Quinn (Wachusett CC) always seems to make it work one way or another.
Quinn, the 1990 champion of this event and a four-time winner on the Web.com Tour, has been planning to compete in this week’s event since he finished T6 at Worcester Country Club one year ago.
As he always does, he was meticulous with his travel plans which would see him compete at the Champions Tour Principal Charity Classic in Des Moines, Iowa from June 9 to June 11 and then make a flight back to Massachusetts in time for his 1:54 p.m. tee time at TGC at Sacconnesset.
Everything was coming together nicely. Quinn arrived around 3:00 a.m. as scheduled, but the only problem was that the tools of his trade were missing. His golf bag was lost somewhere between Des Moines and Providence, which left Quinn waiting anxiously for the airline to find and deliver his bag to the clubhouse.
As it turned out, Quinn’s bags never arrived which meant that he had to withdraw. The silver lining was that the one alternate who was on site and eligible to take his place was his son Owen Quinn (Wachusett CC).
“You obviously wish that it was anyone else in the field so that we both could have played,” said Owen Quinn. “At the same time he said that if he had to withdraw he wouldn’t have wanted to give up his spot to anyone else.”
Quinn was Alternate No. 20 and three other players were listed above him heading into the first round of play. However, the Alternate policy states that “In the event of any no-shows or last minute withdrawals, alternates will be permitted to be on site during a championship proper to fill those spots… The highest ranked alternate ON-SITE will have priority.”
In this case, Owen Quinn was the highest-ranked alternate on site and – with his father’s blessing – stepped to the first tee for what was his second ever appearance in Championship Proper.
“He just said good luck and try to play better than what I would have done,” said Quinn referring to the two hours of sleep that his father was able to catch the night before. “I tried my best. I think that he would have whooped my butt today, but that is golf so what are you going to do?”
Fun golf stories seem to find the Quinn family.
Three years ago, the duo made national headlines when Fran fired a first-round score of 68 at the U.S. Open Championship held at Pinehurst No. 2 that year. On his bag that week was his son Owen which made for a memorable Father’s Day.
There is no question that this latest story will be told many times over in the Quinn family.
“My Grandma actually has a place 20 minutes from here,” said Owen. “It’s been perfect because I got to see my Grandma and hopefully I will shoot a low one tomorrow.”
One year ago, Michael Thorbjornsen (Nashawtuc CC) made Massachusetts Open history when he became the youngest competitor at the age of 14 to earn medalist honors at qualifying. He went on to finish T17 at Championship Proper.
Fast forward one year and Thorbjornsen - who turns 16 in September - is once again back at Championship Proper and sniffing the top of the leaderboard. He posted a 1-under par 71 on day one and entered this week as the youngest competitor in the 2017 field.
“Last year, I played with a couple good players the first two days,” said Thorbjornsen, who just completed his first year at the IMG Academy (FL). “It felt really intimidating playing in a pro-event. It was my first pro-event last year and coming in this year, I know what I am coming into. I played this course a couple of days ago and felt pretty confident. I was a little more at ease this time than I was last year.”
His level of comfort was at an all-time high during the early stages of his round on Monday where he made four birdies and zero bogies through his first 11 holes.
“I hit a lot of fairways when I was just playing simple golf hitting on the green,” said Thorbjornsen. “I made a couple putts here and there. I was really just taking advantage of the par fives by being able to reach them in two and getting around the greens.”
Thorbjornsen, the 2015 Massachusetts Boys Amateur Champion who won a divisional title at the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, was unable to keep up that momentum down the stretch.
“I was 3-under after nine and 4-under after 11,” said Thorbjornsen. “I just couldn’t hang in there for the last five holes. It was pretty tough with the wind picking up and it was swirling pretty bad.”
Despite the frustrating finish which saw Thorbjornsen make three bogies through his final seven holes.
“I was missing on the wrong sides and that put me in some bad positions,” said Thorbjornsen. “Maybe a couple different club selections off the tee as well might help. That will most likely help me for tomorrow.”
Complete coverage of the 2017 Massachusetts Open Championship will be available online (MGAlinks.org) and via social media.