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WESTON, Massachusetts – Less than two weeks removed from winning his record 10th career Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, Boxford’s Frank Vana, Jr. added another first to his resume, collecting his first career victory in the Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship. The 56-year old Vana, of Marlborough Country Club, fired a score of 1-under par 69 in the reduced 18-hole Championship Proper at Pine Brook Country Club to edge Mark Savel and Jack Kearney by one stroke.
Having completed five holes on Tuesday afternoon before play was suspended for more than 22 hours due to a non-dangerous weather situation, the reigning George M. Cohen Senior Player of the Year recipient Vana tallied two birdies and a bogey in his remaining 13 holes Wednesday afternoon to ascend up the leaderboard and net his first state Senior title.
“It’s what we want to do,” said Vana on taking the top-spot on the leaderboard, something that he has become accustomed to often for more than two decades. “We play in all these events and work hard to do it. Like I said a few weeks ago, it’s hard to win and I’m thrilled. I’m just happy to get another one.”
After teeing off on the sixth hole on Tuesday afternoon before play was suspended due to heavy rain, Vana had already carded a birdie on the fifth hole to erase an early blunder and sat at even par before the long delay.
Much like he did at Plymouth Country Club two weeks ago, when long delays and heavy rain shortened the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship – an event he won in a sudden-death playoff – Vana returned to exact form Wednesday and showed no signs of let up despite having to return for the continuation of play.
“Today, I felt good. I felt loose,” explained Vana in respect to picking up play in the middle of the sixth hole, where he had left off on Tuesday. “I didn’t know what to expect after being out there. I got out there and I was thinking pretty clearly and I was hitting it solid.”
He added, “I actually was hitting it good on the range. I felt good heading out to the course.”
Boxford's Frank Vana, Jr. continued his winning ways, shooting a 1-under 69 en route to capturing his first career #MassSenior title Wednesday at Pine Brook Country Club!
— #MassGolf (@PlayMassGolf) September 26, 2018
Upon resumption of play at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Vana made par on the sixth hole and then carded a birdie on the seventh before making the turn at 1-under par 34 following two more made pars on the eighth and ninth holes, respectively.
Knowing that the leader in the clubhouse had carded an even-par 70, courtesy of Concord’s Mark Savel (The Haven CC), who had completed his round prior to the suspension of play on Tuesday, Vana said that getting under par was essential to at least having a chance at hoisting the trophy at the completion of play.
Vana also knew that Elmcrest Country Club’s Jack Kearney, who had won the New England Senior Amateur Championship last week in Burlington, Vermont, was at 1-under early in his round on Tuesday before play was suspended and would also be fighting for a spot atop the leaderboard.
“I didn’t know I had a one-stroke lead down the stretch, but I knew that someone was in at even so I knew I wanted to be red,” explained Vana. “I wasn’t right on Jack [Kearney’s] tail, so I didn’t know how he was doing. I couldn’t get a real feel so I just figured the lower the better and it worked out.”
Following a 10-foot birdie putt on the seventh hole that pushed him under par, Vana followed suit with another birdie on the 15th hole, the course’s longest hole at over 525 yards, by knocking in a five-foot birdie putt. He escaped the 16th hole with a bogey after a poor choice of club, said Vana, but he was still in a position to earn the victory.
“That was all that I needed there, which was great,” said Vana on his two birdie putts Wednesday. “I unfortunately maybe didn’t hit the right club on 16. I hit an OK shot, but I think I hit a little too much club and missed the green a little long and left and didn’t get that up and down. I played 17 and 18 fairly solid.”
While this marks the first Massachusetts Senior Amateur title for Vana, after finishing T4 in his inaugural appearance a year ago at Oakley Country Club, the seasoned veteran did capture the Lowery (Senior) Division title, at the 51st Ouimet Memorial Tournament at Concord Country Club and Woodland Golf Club.
While that victory back in July was nice, Vana says it doesn’t compare to taking home a full state championship like he did this week in Weston.
“It’s good that I was able to win the Ouimet this summer to partly break the ice, but as a Mass Golf event, I’m thrilled to get it. I just turned 55 last year, so it’s nice to get it sooner rather than later.”