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TYNGSBOROUGH, Massachusetts – With 36 holes down at the 110th Massachusetts Open Championship being contested at Vesper Country Club, several out of staters have taken over the top spots on the leaderboard – overcoming a mix of morning rain and afternoon winds in the second round of competition Tuesday to gain momentum going into the third and final round of the season’s only Mass Golf event with a professional purse Wednesday.
In total, 60 competitors finished below the 3-over cutline and will return tomorrow for the final round, including 32 competitors who list their residency in Massachusetts.
New Ipswich, New Hampshire’s Michael Martel, a former two-time New Hampshire State Amateur champion, shot a day-best 6-under 66 with six birdies and zero bogeys to better his round one 3-under 69 mark. As owner of Tuesday’s lowest score, Martel moved from T9 up to the top spot on the leaderboard and holds a one-stroke lead over Cromwell, Connecticut’s Zach Zaback, who has carded back-to-back 68’s in each of the first two rounds.
“Originally I thought I got the short end playing in the morning, but looking at the afternoon it worked out in my favor,” said Martel following his second round. “The fairways softened up a bit and gave you some more room off the tee. The greens were still slick though they didn’t slow down.”
As he aims for his first professional win, Martel got off to a hot start by birdying three of his five holes – the second, fourth and fifth holes, respectively – to make the turn at 3-under 33, before adding more birdies on the par-4 12th hole, the par-3 14th hole and the par-3 17th holes.”
Zaback, who was one stroke back following Monday’s first round, registered four more birdies in Tuesday’s second round to move from T2 to sole possession of second place at 8-under 136. Day one co-leader Bobby Gage, the Director of Instruction at Connecticut’s Willow Brook Golf Course, has a 36-hole total of 67-70-137, two strokes back for sole possession of third place.
Dartmouth’s Mark Purrington, who also had a share of the lead after Monday’s first round, and Needham’s Jake Shuman, are the top Massachusetts leaders after 36-holes, both sitting at 5-under 139, good enough for a T6 spot.
OUTPOURING OF VOLUNTEER & STAFF SUPPORT AT 110th MASSACHUSETTS OPEN
For an event as large in scale as the Mass Open, outside support is essential to running a smooth Championship. With volunteer numbers at 50-60 per day for the Open and volunteer signup sheets having filled up over a week and a half ago, Vesper Country Club received the support they required to put on the best possible Proper they could.
“Pretty much every position has been filled,” said Vesper CC General Manager Robert Pescatore. “It says a lot about the membership and the commitment to the club and making Vesper shine for such a great event.”
With a wide array of tasks, from shuttle drivers to forecaddies to scorers, the team of volunteers has played an important role in the success of the event, for both those on site as players, as well as the spectators who have come to enjoy the action this week in what has annually been one of the top competitive golf events in the state.
In addition to the many helping hands and the long hours put forth by the volunteers, one of the most noticeable areas where support has been noticeable is in the work of the grounds crew, under the direction of Superintendent Ryan Emerich, and the professional staff, under the director of Stephen Doyle, PGA.
“The Vesper grounds crew has also been essential in making sure the course conditions are up to par for the tournament,” said Pescatore. “Along with Vesper’s normal staff of 23, other clubs such as Sky Meadow Country Club in nearby Nashua, New Hampshire, Mount Pleasant Golf Club in Lowell and Nabnasset Lake Country Club in Westford have all assisted the Vesper staff in making the course as perfect as possible.”
Blaine Doherty, the superintendent at Wianno Club in Osterville, a former assistant at Vesper Country Club, also made the journey up to Tyngsborough with a small staff to assist in helping prepare the course.
Pescatore added, “They’ve been doing an outstanding job. They come in extremely early and stay extremely late for something like this.”
Likewise, the Professional golf staff has been terrific in the lead up and during the tournament, especially since they are shorthanded with Director of Instruction of Instruction Rich Berberian, Jr. competing in the field.
“They’ve done a lot of work to get everything organized,” said Pescatore. “Everything from carts to managing the range to controlling traffic to assisting with Member Services. A lot of time and effort is put into it. I think it’s just a privilege to host these events. It says a lot about the club and the course and the membership.”
VOLPONE RETURNS TO VESPER
It’s been 47 years since Charley Volpone won his second of back-to-back Massachusetts Open Championships, and on Tuesday, he returned to the same club where he won his first Championship in 1971. It was here in Tyngsborough that Volpone, the 1956 Massachusetts Amateur champion and a longtime golf professional at Nashawtuc Country Club in Concord, edged Joe Carr by one stroke to capture the win. At the time, it marked only his second career professional win after his inaugural win one year prior in the Vermont Open. In three rounds contested over two days, Volpone carded 71-72-76 and had an epic comeback after dropping the lead with three bogeys to start his final round.
“The Mass Open is our Masters,” said Volpone of winning in the state Open Championship that first year. A native of Newburyport, he spent four years as an assistant professional in New York and a year at Merrimack Valley Country Club in Methuen before the Nashawtuc gig. “That was much more prestigious. It was the biggest one in New England.”
He was 34 years old then, and nearly half a century later, he still recalls some of his shots he had to make, like when his ball on the 18th hole landed under fellow competitor Ted Bishop’s car in the second round that had been parked along the entrance way to the club. Volpone knocked his shot to three inches and putted for an even-par round.
While most if not all of the players from his days are no longer playing competitively in the Massachusetts Open, Volpone is still pulling for the folks with ties to his old course, like Liam Friedman, an assistant professional at Nashawtuc and a former NEPGA Sectional champion.
Volpone most recently competed in the 2005 Massachusetts Open Championship, the last state Open held at Vesper.
Kington’s Herbie Aikens entered the second round of play one stroke behind the round one low-amateur leader, Andrew O’Leary, after shooting a 3-under 69. Behind a 1-under 71 effort on Tuesday afternoon, Aikens jumped up another spot to take a share of the lead among the 62 amateurs in the field.
The 2018 Massachusetts Amateur Championship runner-up, a former state Mid-Amateur champion, tallied three birdies to two bogeys for his under par finish.
Meanwhile, Indian Ridge’s Colin Brennan, of Methuen, carded a 4-under 68, a tie for the lowest score amongst all amateurs Tuesday, to jump into the share of the low-amateur honor with Aikens. In the second to last group off the first tee Tuesday afternoon, Brennan birdied two of his first three holes, added an additional birdie on the par-5 seventh hole then collected three more on the back-nine to zero bogeys for his 4-under finish.
HONORARY FLAG STICK ATTENDANT
In continuing the annual tradition of the last day of the Massachusetts Open Championship, select veterans will serve as the honorary flag stick attendants on the 18th hole at Vesper Country Club tomorrow between 11 am and 2 pm.
As part of the tradition, the Mass Golf flag on the 18th hole, which has been in place all week, will be exchanged with an American flag for tomorrow’s final round.
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