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PITTSFIELD, Massachusetts – For the third time in five years the team of Matt Parziale (Brockton, MA) and Herbie Aikens (Kingston, MA) will be teaming up to compete at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
The two-time Massachusetts Four-Ball Champions (they won that title in 2016 and 2017) secured the second and final spot in a sudden-death playoff held at a qualifier on Wednesday at the Country Club of Pittsfield.
“We have tried to qualify all five years and actually started playing together in the state four-ball because of this tournament,” said Parziale, about the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship which made its debut in 2015. “We have tried to play as much as we can together to try and make a run. We have not had much success so far, but we are happy to have another chance.”
The duo of Aikens and Parziale finished with a final score of 7-under par 64 which was just two back of the medalist team of Tyler Cooke (Warwick, RI) and Bobby Leopold (Coventry, RI) who turned in a day-low score of 9-under par 62.
When all scores were tallied for the 54-team field, Aikens and Parziale found themselves deadlocked in second place overall with Ryan Pelletier (Mansfield, MA) and Michael Philipp (Mansfield, MA), which resulted in the foursome returning to the golf course for a sudden-death playoff.
On the first playoff hole – the CC of Pittsfield’s par-3 17th hole – all four competitors found the green off the tee and all made par. They moved on to the 337-yard, par 4 18th hole where Aikens and Parziale appeared to be in trouble after Parziale missed the green and Aikens had to negotiate a long birdie putt attempt.
Parziale was able to chip his third shot to four feet, while Aikens lagged his putt to three feet.
“We were hoping that our par putts would matter and would let us halve the hole,” said Parziale.
As it turned out, Parziale’s par putt proved to be the winning shot.
“At the end of the day, there is always more pressure because you don’t want to let your partner down,” said Aikens. “You just have to play the way you normally do.”
The two teams that advanced from Pittsfield – Cooke & Leopold and Aikens & Parziale – will now set their sights on competing at the 2019 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which will be held on May 25-29 at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Bandon, Oregon. Due to the early spring timing of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, qualifying for this Championship Proper is held during the fall months in the Northeast region.
“Next year is a whole new year, and we will be ready to go in May,” said Parziale. “Whenever I can play with Herb it’s a blast. Even when we play badly, we have a great time.”
The timing of the qualifier did not impact the play of the two qualifying teams, however, the road to qualifying for Aikens and Parziale was not always smooth.
Both players carded bogey on their first hole of the day – the 391-yard, par 4 1st hole. They responded by both making birdie on the very next hole and then played the rest of the front nine to four-ball perfection.
“We have been doing this a long time, and we don’t get worked up after a bogey on one,” said Parziale. “We didn’t let it get to us. We stayed in it and made birdie on the next hole and then had a good stretch on 5, 6, and 7 and on 8 and 9 which got us right back where we needed to be.”
During that key stretch, Aikens made back-to-back birdies on the par 4 6th and 7th holes, and then Parziale took over and made birdies made on the 562-yard, par 5 8th and 170-yard, par 3 9th holes. They turned at 4-under par 31.
Parziale carded two key birdies early on the back nine – on the 11th and 14th holes – to help maintain their positive momentum. And then – on the 509-yard, par 5 16th hole and with Parziale in trouble off the tee – Aikens picked a perfect time to register his first birdie on the back nine. He would also go on to make two all-important pars to close out the 7-under par round.
“We had a chance to qualify which is all we can ask for,” said Parziale, who recently returned home from his honeymoon. “This is the first round that I have played in three weeks, but Herb was steady all day. I had a good start where I was able to make four birdies, but he was steady especially on those final four holes.”
For Cooke and Leopold, this will mark their second appearance together at the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. The brothers in law (Leopold is married to Cooke’s sister, Taylor) made their first appearance in this Championship Proper in 2017 where they advanced to the round of 32.
In Pittsfield on Wednesday, the pair combined for a total of 10 birdies including five on the back nine where they posted a score of 5-under par 31 en route to capturing medalist honors.
Following the conclusion of play, Pelletier and Philipp were named first alternates, while the team of Jordan Burke (Needham, MA) and Ryan Riley (South Easton, MA) earned second alternate honors after finishing as the only team with a score of 7-under par 64.
The two qualifying teams will join three teams that advanced at a qualifier held last month at Boston Golf Club. Advancing at the Hingham site were the following teams: Jacob Zaranek (Ludlow, MA) & Kyle Puzzo (South Deerfield, MA), James Cimini (Stoughton, MA) & Joshua Shepard (Pittsfield, MA), and Matthew Mancini (Mickleton, NJ) & Zachary Falone (Douglassville, PA).
A third and final qualifier will be held locally on September 12 at Kirkbrae Country Club in Lincoln, Rhode Island. Click here to view starting times for that qualifier.