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DARTMOUTH, Massachusetts – 66 players made their way to Allendale Country Club on Wednesday morning, eyeing a spot to the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. After 18-holes, four Bay State golfers left the North Dartmouth club with a ticket to the 64th playing of the Championship Proper being contested at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon later this month.
Hyannis’ Kevin Carey, a longtime competitor in the local golf community and a multi-time champion at Dennis Pine Golf Course, fired a 2-under 70 in the 18-hole qualifier to top the field and earn medalist honors, besting the leaderboard by three strokes.
Joining him in Oregon is fellow Cape Cod native and Carey’s longtime Mass Golf Four-Ball competitor, Joe Walker and Stow’s John McNeil, who both finished at T2 on the leaderboard at 1-over par 73, and Boxford’s Stephen Camara, who concluded the Bay State sweep in fourth at 2-over 73. Frank Vana, Jr., a 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur semifinalist, is already exempt into the Championship field.
Advancing to his first Senior Amateur Championship since 2016, Carey had more than one reason to be excited.
“It will be my third or fourth playing in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, and they are an absolute blast to go to,” said Carey following his round. “To represent Massachusetts is pretty cool, but getting to go with Joey, (Joe Walker) the guy who I play golf with all the time, is pretty special.”
The two most recently competed in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament last week and advanced to the final day of play, each netting spots in the top-10 of the Eddie Lowery Division. They have been longtime friends from their time spent competing in various championships at Dennis Pines, and the opportunity to compete together on a national stage is also intriguing.
He said, “I’m 61 now, so the times to qualify are waning, but to qualify with my friend from the course is really special to be able to go together, it is hard to do.”
As the only competitor in the field to finish below par, Carey was at the top of his game Wednesday, thanks in part to the two birdies he had in his first six holes, then the solid par or better round he had on the remaining 11.
“Today I played solid all day. I drove it good and I love the golf course,” said Carey. “I remember playing here in high school. I played pretty steady. I made some good birdies and grinded out three holes in the middle of my round to make three pars, and that was the key to my round.”
On holes eight through ten, Carey’s scorecard showed three straight pars for each of the three holes. However, what the scorecard didn’t detail was what Carey had to go through in order to save par three times.
“I hit the cart path on my tee shot on nine and it went right into the hazard,” Carey recalled. “I hit a rescue club in front of the green and chipped up and still made par. On the tenth hole, I laid up with a rescue club and I topped it off the tee. I had 225 in and made four.”
#MassGolf sweeps the @usga #USSeniorAm qualifier! Kevin Carey of Hyannis earns medalist honors while Joe Walker, John McNeill and Stephen Camara take three additional spots. They’ll join Boxford’s Frank Vana, Jr., exempt into the field, at Eugene Country Club (OR) starting August 25! Full recap: MassGolf.org
For John McNeill, Wednesday’s successful T2 finish was an accomplishment 20 years in the making.
“It’s great, I’ve been trying for USGA events since 1990’s,” said the 56-year old McNeill. “I’ve been close, been an alternate a couple of times. This is my second year as a senior and I just missed last year where I had to go down to Connecticut to try and qualify.”
Coming off of a tied T8 finish at the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship, which concluded yesterday in Southwick, McNeill was able to rebound from an early hole and finished strong to jump into second on the board at 1-over 73.
“I had a tough time, I was three over through six holes and I just kind of kept battling and made a couple birdies on the way in,” said McNeill. “I was just glad to make that one on the last hole because I do not think I could have made another putt. I was pretty exhausted.”
Unlike most players, McNeill has previous connections with this year’s Senior Amateur host course, Eugene Country Club, one that could be an advantage beginning in 25 days.
“I’ve actually played Eugene Country Club,” said McNeill, who holds his GHIN out of the BAGS. “My brother lived out there back in the 80s and I visited him a few times. We know some family friends out there too that I will be staying with and I am really looking forward to the trip. I know it is a lovely trip and really glad to make it today.”
Rounding out the qualifying spots was Boxford’s Stephen Camara, who was competing in his second U.S. Senior Amateur Championship qualifier Wednesday.
“It’s a great event, and a special day that is something we all work towards,” said Camarra, who plays out of Ferncroft Country Club. “It’s exciting, these opportunities do not come a long every day, so I just want to make the best of it.”
In addition to the four Bay Staters heading west at the end of the month, John Snow of Scituate and Randy Daniels of Sturbridge earned alternate positions Wednesday.
Mass Golf will provide coverage for its competitors playing in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. Visit MassGolf.org and follow @PlayMassGolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest information. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #MassGolf and #USSeniorAm.