- Golfer Benefits
HINGHAM, Massachusetts – Hingham’s Boston Golf Club is regularly regarded as one of the most challenging golf courses in the state, but for three teams of two, Monday’s U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship qualifier was a continuation of successful summers that each competitor has experienced. The trio of teams, two of which consisted of Bay State players, combined to shoot 8-under 64 to each take a share of medalist honors and advance to the Championship Proper, being contested at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon next May.
Bay State golfers Jacob Zaranek, of South Deerfield and a rising sophomore on the Fairfield University Men’s Golf team, and playing partner Kyle Puzzo, of Ludlow, were one of the three teams to solidify their starts to next year’s golfing schedule. They were joined atop the leaderboard by fellow Massachusetts residents James Cimini (Stoughton, Mass.) and Joshua Shepard (Pittsfield, Mass.), as well as Matthew Mancini and Zachary Falone, who are from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, respectively.
For the team of Zaranek and Puzzo, who will each be making their first career appearance in a USGA Championship, both as individuals and together as a team starting May 25, 2019, today’s victory was the result of building from momentum in the first half of their 18-hole qualifier and besting that performance in the second half.
After combining to fire two birdies and an eagle on their front nine, the duo tallied five more birdies and avoided any bogeys from counting on their cards in the second nine to place amongst the best for the day.
“It feels so good to qualify for the Four-Ball Championship” said the 20-year old Zaranek on their team’s performance Monday. “It’s amazing. It’s so cool that we were able to get it going today, that we played well and I’m so excited to go out there and try to play well again.”
In their first four holes, both Puzzo and Zaranek each tallied one birdie and found themselves entering the ninth hole at 1-under par. It was there that things picked up immensely.
Using his 3-wood off the tee, which was playing as a par-5, Zaranek hit his shot to 191 yards, then hit his second shot to within feet of the pin.
“You definitely can’t see the green when you’re hitting your second shot, so it felt good to see it at six feet or whatever it was,” said Zaranek on his eagle. “That really kind of boosted us. 3-under feels a lot better than 1-under going into the back nine.”
Making the turn at 3-under and in good standing, Zaranek tallied birdies on 11, 12, 15 and 18, while Puzzo tallied his second of the day on the 17th hole. While unplanned at first, the balance of birdies between the two teammates turned out to be part of a successful strategy in the team format – a type of event that neither player competes in often.
“We didn’t really set a specific strategy, but once we found something that worked, I hit first because you never know how I swing, and then [Jake’s] more consistent,” said Puzzo, who is older than Zaranek by five months. “I hit first and hit the ball pretty decent today, which opened it for him to be more aggressive. We weren’t messing with that after it started to work, so we just let it go.”
Both Puzzo and Zaranek work together at Crestview Country Club in Agawam, and although the decision to try and advance to the Championship Proper was a last minute decision, both are thrilled that it worked out in their favor.
“It was an unreal experience out here today,” said Puzzo. It’s an awesome golf course and a rough, demanding, long day but it was totally worth it.”
The other Massachusetts tandem of James Cimini and Joshua Shepard will also be making their first career appearance in a USGA Championship Proper next May after advancing Monday in what was their first time trying to qualify for the event, which will celebrate its fifth year in 2019.
“It means everything. Playing in a USGA Championship is something you dream about as a kid and having the dream come true is everything,” said Cimini, a 35-year old who lives in Stoughton, after earning his spot to next year’s Championship.
Cimini and his partner, Joshua Shepard, each tallied four birdies apiece, three on the front nine and five on the back nine, and shot nothing more than par on all 18-holes en route to their spot as co-medalist honorees.
“Jamie and I are best of friends and being able to do this together is pretty amazing,” added Shepard.
Similar to the two teams from Massachusetts who qualified for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Monday, the third and final team to finish tied atop the leaderboard – the team from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, will also be advancing to their first national championship together.
In what was their third time playing together in the USGA Four-Ball qualifier, the younger Zachary Falone tallied five of the team’s seven birdies, plus added an eagle on the par-5 15th hole, while Matthew Mancini made back-to-back birdies on both the ninth and tenth holes.
In their first time trying to qualify together for the USGA Amateur Four-Ball, the two missed the cut by one stroke, so they were thrilled to get over the hurdle and get to compete in Oregon next spring.
In addition to the teams who qualified, a three-team sudden death playoff was contested to determine placement for both first and second alternate seeding. After a five-hole playoff that was called to darkness, the first alternate honors were decided by lot, awarding the honor to the brother duo of Ben and David Spitz, while the North Carolina team of Brady Eckard and Joe Kastelic were crowned second alternate.
Mass Golf will provide coverage for its competitors playing in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship next May. Visit MassGolf.org and follow @PlayMassGolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest information. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #MassGolf and #USFourBall.