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BOLTON, Massachusetts – Opening up play in the first Mass Golf Championship of the season, 2018 runner-up Mike Calef picked up where he left off in last year’s Championship, despite competing with a new partner. The 40-year old from Portsmouth, Rhode Island, fired a 9-under par 63 on the Oaks course to top all competitors Monday with longtime Mass Golf competitor Nick Maccarrio (Manchester) to jump out to an early two-stroke lead over the team of Matt Montt & Gregory DiBona at The International Golf Club in Bolton.
Starting on the 10th tee of the Oaks course, Calef and Maccario, who play out of Pine Oaks Golf Club & Bradford Country Club, respectively, parred their first hole and bogeyed their second hole – an uphill par-3 – before settling into a groove and eventually their spot atop the leaderboard.
The duo birdied the par-5 12th hole and started a streak that saw them swap pars and birdies for the remainder of their first nine.
On their back nine, Calef & Maccario birdied the par-5 first hole, which was playing at 520 yards, parred the next two holes, and followed suit with three straight birdies on holes 4, 5, and 6 to extend their lead. They finished with two more birdies on their final two holes, the par-5 8th hole and the par-4 9th hole.
They will tee off at 1:58 pm Tuesday on the Pines Course looking to continue top-performance en route to collecting their first Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship, both together as a team and as individuals.
Montt & DiBona, who are representing Plymouth Country Club & Fairway Club, tallied eight birdies to one bogey in the morning round on the Oaks course to finish at 7-under 65 while the Kernwood Country Club duo of Derek Witwicki and George Merry, who were competing in the afternoon wave and battled heavy rains through the majority of their round, fired an afternoon best 6-under 66 to jump into sole passion of third place.
McLaughlin Back as an Amateur
The last time that Nick McLaughlin was playing in the Mass Golf circuit was 2015. It was in that year that he became the first ever competitor to win the Massachusetts Amateur Championship, the New England Amateur Championship and the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship in the same season. Following a three-year pro stint, the now 25-year old is back in the Bay State having regained his amateur status and looking to collect some additional Mass Golf hardware. On Monday, he and partner Patrick O’Leary shot an even-par 72 on the Pines course, carding one bogey to one birdie.
“It is a lot of fun to be back and we had a lot of fun out there today,” said McLaughlin on his return to Mass Golf play. “My favorite thing about pro-golf was the competition. Everything else was really challenging. Now that I’m back, everything else has been taken away and it is just still the competition of it. That is really exciting.”
A last minute addition to the tee sheet after some previous cancellations, McLaughlin is hoping this week’s play will be an indication of what the future holds for him.
“It’s nice to just be able to get a couple of competitive rounds in,” said McLaughlin, who played at the University of Virginia and graduated in 2016. “This is my first competitive round in almost two years. I can almost ease back into it. I had a couple bad holes and my partner, Pat, hits a great tee shot on 17. Ends up making a birdie. It’s kind of nice to ease back into it with a safety net this week.”
Part of the morning grouping of tee times on Monday, McLaughlin had to return back to Boston on Monday evening, where he was set to give a presentation at UMass Boston as part of his Master’s program. He said, “I’m in my masters in history and education at UMass Boston. That has been really exciting. I’ve enjoyed it. I think that is going to be a career that I enjoy much more than the last one.”
In addition to his play this week at the Four-Ball, McLaughlin still has an exemption into the Open Championship and the Amateur Championship thanks to his 2015 Massachusetts Amateur win, is exempt into the Amateur Public Links due to his 2015 win that championship, and is eligible to compete in the Mid-Amateur Championship in September having now met the age requirement.
Preparation For Next Week’s National Championship
We are now less than two weeks away from the start of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Oregon’s Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, and three of the team’s competing in the national championship are getting their final tune-ups in this week playing in the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship. The teams of Herbie Aikens & Matt Parziale, James Cimini & Josh Shepard, and Kyle Puzzo & Jacob Zarankek are all competing this week before heading west ahead of Memorial Day Weekend. The trio all qualified at respective qualifiers in Massachusetts last fall.
“It is really the best preparation we can get,” said Pittsfield’s Josh Shepard on how the Mass Four-Ball Championship will prepare him and teammate James Cimini for their appearance in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball. “It’s been a long winter and I’ve only been able to play a handful of rounds and the same case for Jamie.”
He added, “I think the biggest goal this week was to get a couple turnarounds under our belts and just to prepare us in getting the blood flowing for next week.”
Having not played together since qualifying for the 2019 U.S. Four-Ball last August at Boston Golf Club, the two look forward to both competing in their first USGA events.
“First and foremost, we are going to go out there and just try to enjoy the experience. It’s the first time playing in a USGA event for either of us. I’ve been out to Bandon before but Jamie hasn’t, so I’m actually looking forward to his experience out there.
The two leave Massachusetts on Sunday and will fly to San Francisco before continuing their trip to Oregon to take in some practice rounds before Round 1 of the Championship gets underway on Saturday, May 25. All competitors are guaranteed two rounds of stroke play before the format switches to match play on May 27.
In Monday’s first round at the International, Shepard & Cimini finished at 3-over 75 on the Pines course. The team of Matt Parziale & Herbie Aikens led the group of Bay Staters who will compete in the U.S. Four-Ball, as they fired a 5-under 67 on Monday on the Oaks course layout while Kyle Puzzo & Jacob Zaranek carded a 2-under 70 on the Oaks too.
No Repeat This Year
One year ago, the team of Jimmy Hervol (Hopkinton) and Tim Umphrey (Northborough), Bay State natives & UConn Huskies teammates, added their name to the Massachusetts Four-Ball record books by firing a 10-under 62 in the second round of play, then following suit by defeating Mike Calef & Kevin Silva in a three-hole playoff at Brewster’s The Captains Club. Like most defending champions, Hervol & Umphrey had plans this week to attempt a repeat and become only the eighth team in the 39-year history of the Mass Golf Championship to repeat as champions in back-to-back years. That plan was in play until May 1, when Hervol, a senior for the University of Connecticut, heard his name called during the NCAA Division I Selection Show. After finishing eighth at the American Athletic Conference’s Golf Championship, Hervol was selected as an individual to compete in the NCAA Regional Tournament, the first Huskie since 1992 to earn the honor, and was sent packing to Simpsonville, Kentucky for Monday’s first round of the 54-hole Regional Tournament.
Needing to find a partner to eye at least part of a repeat, Tim Umphrey, who just finished his junior year at the Storrs campus, didn’t have to look far to find a new competitor to join him at The International for this week’s Four-Ball. Fellow UConn teammate, Nick Hampoian, of Reading, is competing in his first Mass Golf Four-Ball Championship this week. In their first round on the Oaks course Monday, the pair fired a 4-under 68. After bogeying the first hole, the two teammates carded five birdies in their final 17 holes, while making nothing less than par to finish at T5 on the leaderboard.
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