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PLYMOUTH, Massachusetts – Weather conditions, delays and suspensions of play dominated headlines during day one of the 35th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, which is being held this week at Plymouth Country Club.
Heavy fog delayed the start of the annual 54-hole event by an hour, and then lightning forced a 55-minute suspension of play beginning at 2:33 p.m. Play was officially suspended for the day at 4:29 p.m. when heavy rain began to fall and made the course unplayable.
“Unfortunately the condition of the course was not favorable for us to get the competitors back on the course today,” said Kevin Eldridge, Mass Golf’s director of rules & competitions. “We appreciate the patience of the competitors and the work of the club staff. We look forward to a full day of golf on Thursday and Friday.”
When play was suspended, all competitors from the afternoon wave had not yet completed the first round of play. Those competitors will return to Plymouth Country Club on Thursday morning. Play will resume at 8:00 a.m.
Following the completion of 18 holes, the field will be cut to the low 70 scorers & ties. The second round of play will begin at approximately 11:30 a.m. off the 1st and 10th tees. Upon the completion of 36 holes, the field will be reduced to the low 30 scorers and ties or anyone within 5 strokes of the leader. Those competitors are scheduled to compete in a final 18 holes to determine a champion. Any tie for first place will be decided immediately by a hole-by-hole play-off.
One half of the starting field – those who had morning starting times – were able to complete 18 holes on Wednesday. Posting the low round of the day was Mike Calef (Pine Oaks GC), the 2011 winner of the event, who finished with a score of 3-under par 66.
One back of Calef at 2-under par 67 were Kyle Tibbetts (Framingham CC) and Matt Miller (Plymouth CC). Rick Moreau (Nabnasset Lake CC) and Derek Schug (Plymouth CC) were the only other competitors from that morning wave to post under-par rounds. They finished at 1-under par 68.
While the dreary, cool and rainy conditions on Wednesday frustrated many, Mike Calef (Pine Oaks GC) was one competitor who was simply happy just to be on the course in Plymouth.
The 39 year old Brockton native posted a day-low score of 3-under par 66 and held a one-stroke lead over Kyle Tibbetts (Framingham CC) when play was suspended on Wednesday afternoon.
Seeing his name atop the leaderboard was something that Calef never expected given what transpired less than a month ago.
On August 20 while competing in a U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying round, Calef experienced an episode that he unfortunately is familiar with and one he was hoping that he would never encounter again.
“I was playing in the U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier at Charles River and was standing over the ball and started to get really dizzy and just felt terrible,” said Calef. “I finished the round, and then it just got progressively worse that day.”
Fatigue, chills and a fever quickly led to severe joint and muscle pain, which Calef knew to be classic symptoms of Lyme disease, something which he contracted 10 years ago.
“It started in the center of my body and it just spread everywhere and was really weird,” said Calef of the symptoms which intensified over the next 24 hours. “I couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days… the doctors said that it was a no brainer that it was Lyme disease and put me on the medication right away.”
The road to recovery has been slow and has forced Calef to miss several key competitive events over the past three weeks. This week marks his first return to major competition since the USGA qualifier in Newton on August 20.
“It is really a serious thing,” said Calef, who like many Lyme Disease sufferers never found a tick or the tell-tale red bulls-eye mark on his body. “I am right at the end of the medication now. All of the symptoms went away within a week or so, and for the last two weeks I have just been trying to build muscle back because it just takes it right out of you so quickly.”
Despite the adversity, Calef found a way to muster the strength and focus to post what was the low round of the day. It was an 18-hole stretch which saw him card five birdies and two bogies.
“I hit it pretty solid from tee to green,” said Calef. “I was in the fairway a lot and that means that you can get a little more aggressive with your second shots. If you are in the rough and it’s wet and it’s thick it is difficult. But today I was pretty good.”
On his very first hole of the day and with rain coming down hard, Calef hit his wedge approach shot on the 348-yard, par 4 1st hole to 12 feet and made the putt. It was the putt he made two holes later – on the 205-yard, par 3 3rd hole – however, which Calef believes was key to his solid round.
“I made a good solid 12 to 15 foot save on three which was a good momentum builder,” said Calef.
Two holes later, Calef made his second birdie of the day after sending his 7-iron approach from 190 yards out on the 405-yard, par 4 5th hole to six feet. Another key for Calef on this day was surviving a two-hole stretch that he says has been unkind to him in past years at this golf course.
“My nemesis holes are 7 and 8,” said Calef, who is a regular competitor in the Hornblower Memorial Invitational held every May at Plymouth Country Club. “Me and those holes don’t get along well, but on seven I hit it to about a foot or six inches, and I kicked that one in.”
He made the turn at 3-under par 31, and despite making two bogies down the stretch on the 13th and 17th holes, Calef managed to keep his round going by making birdie first on the par-5 16th hole and then on the 18th hole where he hit his approach to five feet.
“It feels good to strike the ball solid and keep the ball in front of me and hit good shots,” said Calef, who noted that 66 represents the lowest round he has ever posted at Plymouth Country Club. “To get it under par at this golf course is good because it has teeth and it can bite back. It was good to get a couple here, and now I’ll try to build on that for tomorrow afternoon and am looking forward to the third day.”
The thought of playing a third day of golf here in Plymouth let alone potentially being in contention for another state title is something that Calef would never have expected just three weeks ago.
“I am back now and can hopefully move forward,” said Calef. “I felt like I got hit by a truck. It was really strange, and it’s a scary thing.”
While most of the competitors who finished their rounds on Wednesday made a quick exit back home or to the office, Matt Miller (Plymouth CC) spent a few extra minutes hanging out in the clubhouse.
For Miller, a longtime member of the host club, this week represented a special opportunity for him to spend time with fellow friends and golfers at his most favorite golf spot in the state.
“It’s a great event to show off the course,” said Miller. “It’s always good to get the best players to come in and test the place you play all the time. It’s fun. It’s fun to be a part of it.”
Although age eligible for the event since he turned 25 years old, the 41-year-old Miller does not recall ever trying to qualify for the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship. This year was different, however, since for the first time in event history, the state mid-amateur championship was coming to his home course.
“It always comes at the end of the year, and it is tough time to get time off work when you’ve played in other events,” said Miller. “When it was at Plymouth, it was a no-brainer to try and qualify for it. We have a decent amount of guys who got in, so it’s a great showing.”
To Miller’s point, Plymouth Country Club had the most number of members in this year’s starting field. In addition to Miller, other club members in the field include Don Foberg, Guy Lansing, Steve Bruce, Derek Schug and Matt Montt.
Of the six competitors, three finished round one on Wednesday and all were led by Miller, who posted a score of 2-under par 67 to stand T2 overall. He began his round by making birdie on three of his first seven holes.
“I hit my irons great,” said Miller, who carded birdies on the 1st, 3rd and 7th holes. “I hit the tee ball really well. I had a great day with the irons and was able to roll putts in. On one, I knocked it pretty close and kind of attacked it. On three, I drained a nice 20-footer.”
After making the turn at 2-under par 34 following a bogey on the 9th hole, Miller continued his stellar play on the back nine where he posted three birdies through his final five holes including a round-ending birdie on his final hole of the day.
“On 18, I hit a really good tee ball and hit a good shot in there to probably two or three feet,” said Miller. “It was a nice little end to the day there.”
Schug finished just one back of Miller at 1-under par 68. After making the turn at 1-over par 35, Schug made seven pars and two birdies – on the 15th and 16th holes – on the back nine.
“We lucked out,” said Miller of the morning conditions. “It was a heavy mist all day and the pace of play was great. The course always drains pretty well, so considering the weather, I think the course played great. We never got rained on. We finished just before the weather came in.”
And Miller’s thoughts on continuing to climb the leaderboard?
“For me, it comes down to the putting,” said Miller. “Having played here so long, it’s a tough place to go really low at. Today was a little bit softer. It was a little more gettable today. I got a lot of great looks today and was able to roll a couple in. You could always say you left a few out there, but I was able to roll a few in too, so all in all, I was happy the way I hit it.”
Past Champions: A total of four past champions representing 12 titles are competing this week in Plymouth. In addition to defending champion Colin Brennan, Herbie Aikens (2014) and Mike Calef (2011) have both won this championship one time each. Frank Vana, Jr. holds the record for most titles won with nine. He captured the championship from 1999 through 2003 and then again in 2005, 2006, 2012 and 2013.
Missing Parz: One key mid-amateur is not in the field this week. Matt Parziale, the reigning Richard D. Haskell Mass Golf Player of the Year and winner of this event in 2015 and 2016, is currently competing in the 94th edition of the George A. Crump Memorial Tournament, which is also known as the Crump Cup, being held at Pine Valley Golf Club in Pine Valley, New Jersey. The Crump Cup, an invitational event that draws some of the country’s top mid-amateur and senior competitors, features 36 holes of stroke play qualifying which is used to determine match play brackets of 16 for the mid-amateurs, and 8 for the seniors.
Playing for the Tri-States: A handful of competitors have extra special motivation to do well this week. The Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship represents one of the final events that will be used to determine the team that will represent the Bay State at the Tri-State Matches scheduled for October 16-17 at Oyster Harbors Club. Team selection is based on the Richard D. Haskell Mass Golf Player of the Year point standings. Each team from the three states – Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut – includes 10 mid-amateur and six senior amateur competitors. The Bay State has won the last 14 titles.
Youngest in the Field: Three competitors are age eligible for the first time in 2018. Michael Souliotis (Haverhill CC), Matt Montt (Plymouth CC) and Brian Wolgast (Brookline GC) have all turned 25 years old in the last 10 months. Wolgast, who was one of 15 qualifiers to advance from Sandwich Hollows GC on August 27, is two days younger than Souliotis which makes him the youngest competitor in the field.
Oldest in the Field: For the second year in a row, 65-year-old Michael Kaloyanides (Walpole CC) is the oldest competitor in the field, one of only five competitors who have reached their 60th birthday.
Age Breakdown: Here is a breakdown of the field by age:
Blame It on the Rain: Only two times in the past 15 years has the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship had its original 54-hole format shortened or altered due to inclement weather. In 2012, Frank Vana, Jr. won the title following 36-holes. The same occurred in 2004 when Andy Drohen won his title following 36 holes at Blue Hill Country Club.