- Golfer Benefits
HARWICH, Massachusetts – Jack O’Donnell (Boston GC) made an 18-foot birdie putt on the first sudden-death playoff hole (Hole 10) to defeat Matthew Epstein (Hopkinton CC) and win the Championship Match of the 102nd Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship on Thursday at Cranberry Valley Golf Course.
For both individuals, it was their final competition before they move on to college in the fall. O’Donnell, a Cohasset native, will compete for the University of Michigan, while Epstein, a Hopkinton native, will play for The College of William & Mary.
O’Donnell has played in the Championship Proper six years. Back in 2014 when he was 12, he won what was then known as the Boys’ Division of the Championship Proper. This year he lifted the Charles E. Mason Trophy for winning the overall title.
“It means a lot,” O’Donnell said. “To finish strong like I did, it definitely feels special.”
When he needed it most, Jack O’Donnell was able to get the right breaks and right reads to conclude his junior golf career with a Championship victory.
From holes 9-18, O’Donnell grew frustrated as he left several putts short and had trouble keeping drives in the fairway. But then stepped up to the first playoff tee, and though his iron shot drifted left, it hit a tree and kicked out into the fairway. Epstein, also in the fairway after his tee shot kicked off a grassy mound in the rough, landed his approach in the back-left corner of the green and left his birdie putt a tad short.
That left the door open for O’Donnell, who rolled his slightly downhill putt from the left of the pin and gave an underhanded fist pump as it dropped into the hole.
“I felt like I was hitting good putts all day, but nothing was really dropping,” O’Donnell said. “Actually, earlier today on 10, I did the exact same thing: I hit four iron, eight iron to the exact same spot and left it like two inches short. So I just hit a little harder, and it went in.”
O’Donnell said he the course played to his strength of being able to hit driver most times, allowing him to set up shorter approach shots on a course that played roughly 6,547 yards. As a result, he made par on 12 of 18 holes in the final. He also made par on 13 straight holes in the semifinals, followed by a birdie to win the match.
“I felt like that was a big advantage for me especially match play,” O’Donnell said.
Epstein had to compete in 39 holes Thursday as he needed 20 holes to defeat Joseph Lanane (KOHR Golf) in the semifinals, followed by 19 against O’Donnell.
“It’s been a lot, so I felt like I played pretty well today, but I gave a few holes away,” Epstein said. “You just have to rely on your practice at those moments.”
Epstein struck first by winning the first hole, but then O’Donnell won holes 6-8, including a birdie on the 8th. O’Donnell almost had a 3-up lead at the turn but left his birdie putt short. Epstein was able to win back the 12th before the match took an interesting turn with some gamesmanship on the 15th.
After a tie on the 14th, O’Donnell took a cart ride to the 15th tee, while Epstein walked down the long wooded path to the tee. Epstein had honors to tee off first, but O’Donnell took his tee shot anyway and drove the green on the 309-yard par-4. Because Epstein had the honors, he decided to cancel out O’Donnell’s tee shot, which is allowed in match play, and have him re-tee. O’Donnell then put his drive far left into the penalty area, and despite almost hitting the pin on his next shot, he lost the hole with a bogey to bring the match to a tie.
Epstein said they almost ran into a similar issue with the order of play earlier, which was when they became aware of the match play rule, which allows for the cancellation of a shot out of order.
“It was a good time to make him hit a second one,” Epstein said. “We’re buddies, and I respect him, but as a competitor, I thought it was the right move to do and it worked in my favor, so.”
“I was just focused on hitting the shot,” O’Donnell said. “He’s just trying to win, so he was just following the rules.”
After a tie on the 16th, O’Donnell won the par-3 17th after hitting his uphill putt from the front fairway just shy of the hole. Epstein hit his tee shot into the left bunker and had a tough lie, forcing him to make bogey.
Epstein was able to win the par-5 18th, a hole O’Donnell hadn’t played since stroke play, since his previous matches all ended on the 17th or earlier. O’Donnell hit his tee shot in the fairway and took four shots to hit the green. He had a chance to win it with a par putt for a share of the hole, but he left it short, sending him to a playoff.
Though he fell in the playoff, Epstein said he feels good about making it this far in the tournament as he now steps into the college level.
“I feel really good,” Epstein said. “I would say this is probably the longest stretch of tournament golf where I felt in control of the golf ball. And I played pretty consistently for most of them. It’s a good way to go out before college. I’m proud of my effort.”
MONDAY ‘A’ BRACKET
Jack O’Donnell def. John Broderick, 4&3
Jack O’Donnell made his lone birdie when he clinched the match on the 15th hole. Despite overdriving the green, he was able to chip on for an up-and-down birdie to defeat the 2020 New England Amateur champion. Broderick (Dedham C&PC) won the first hole, but O’Donnell answered by winning three of the next four holes with pars and making par on every hole from 2nd to 14th. O’Donnell increased his lead to 3-up by winning the par-3 13th.
TUESDAY ‘B’ BRACKET
Matthew Epstein vs. Joseph Lenane, 20 Holes
Matthew Epstein was 2-down with three holes to go but climbed out of the deficit by winning the 17th with a bogey and the 18th with a par to force a playoff. After the pair tied the 10th holes, Epstein hit his tee shot into the right rough sloping down, but he hit his approach to about 10 feet and was able to two-putt for par. Lenane hit over the green from the fairway. After leaving.his birdie putt short, his par putt rolled toward the cup but lipped out, giving Epstein the win.