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NORTON, Massachusetts – For the first time, Mass Golf’s year-end awards include seven different Player of the Year categories. The Women’s Senior Player of the Year and the Girls’ Junior Player of the Year were added alongside the Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year, the Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year, the George M. Cohen Senior Player of the Year, the Christopher Cutler Rich Junior Player of the Year and the Women’s Mid-Amateur Award.
ONLINE: PLAYER OF THE YEAR HOME
Since 1976, Mass Golf has recognized top performers in Mass Golf Championship and Women’s Championship events, as well as select regional and USGA events. The winners are based on the final tallies of the respective Mass Golf Player of the Year point systems. Despite a condensed schedule due to COVID-19, local, state and regional points-earning events took place between June and November. Some USGA qualifiers that took place in 2019 were carried over into this year’s points race.
Notable Massachusetts golf champions who have achieved Player of the Year honors include: Jim Hallet, former PGA TOUR pro and low amateur at the 1983 Masters, current PGA TOUR pro Kevin Johnson, recent Korn Ferry Tour winner Evan Harmeling and Mass Golf Hall of Fame inductees, Frank Vana, Jr. and Anne Marie Tobin.
“After a unique season, to say the least, we are pleased to recognize each of these competitors as the best in the state,” said Kevin Eldridge, Mass Golf’s Director of Rules of Competitions. “Their consistent play during a season which looked and felt a little different highlights their abilities to adapt to their surroundings and still compete at an extremely high level.”
This year’s award recipients are as follows:
NICK MACCARIO (Home Club: Bradford Country Club, Haverhill)
>>Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year (1st Win)
SHANNON JOHNSON (Home Club: Thorny Lea Golf Club, Brockton)
>>Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year (3rd Win) & Women’s Mid-Amateur Award (4th Win)
FRANK VANA, JR. (Home Club: Marlborough Country Club, Marlborough)
>>George M. Cohen Senior Player of the Year (4th Win)
PAMELA KUONG (Home Club: Charles River Country Club, Newton)
>>Women’s Senior Player of the Year (Inaugural Winner)
JOHN BRODERICK (Home Club: Dedham Country & Polo Club, Dedham)
>>Christopher Cutler Rich Junior Player of the Year (1st Win)
ALLISON PAIK (Home Club: Ledgemont Country Club, Seekonk)
>>Girls’ Junior Player of the Year (Inaugural Winner)
Scroll down to learn more about each of Mass Golf’s Player of the Year winners.
>>RICHARD D. HASKELL PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 954 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)
If there’s one way to describe Nick Maccario’s 2020 season it was that he was always in the hunt to win.
Following a three-week stretch in July when Maccario finished runner-up by the slimmest of margins in the Mass Amateur Championship, New England Amateur Championship and Ouimet Memorial Tournament, he finally got an elusive victory in the Hornblower Memorial Tournament. The win, followed by a third-place finish in the Mass Mid-Amateur Championship capped off one of the most dominant summer stretches in recent history and put Maccario well ahead in the Mass Golf Player of the Year race.
Maccario, 29, a Waltham resident who plays out of Bradford Country Club in Haverhill, became the 25th individual to earn the Richard D. Haskell Mass Golf Player of the Year Award since it was first bestowed in 1976.
“Being able to always be in the group where things were happening was always fun,” Maccario said. “I certainly had my share of chances to win, but in golf, if you put yourself there more often, it will go your way. I feel like I did that and will strive to do that in years to come.”
Maccario, a former standout at St. John’s Prep High School, burst onto the amateur golf scene last year by winning the Mass Mid-Amateur Championship, the Mass Four-Ball Championship and qualifying for the U.S. Amateur for the first time.
When the 2020 season eventually got underway, Maccario certainly had a knack for making things interesting. After overcoming a 3-hole deficit to Matt Parziale in the semifinals of the Mass Amateur at The Kittansett Club, he faced a 4-down deficit to Matthew Organisak with six holes remaining in the final match. Relying on his clutch short game abilities, he closed the gap to 1-down, bringing the match to the 36th and final hole of the day.
The next week, he fired back-to-back 67s in the final two rounds of the New England Amateur at Concord Country Club, going into a playoff with John Broderick, this year’s Mass Golf Christopher Cutler Rich Junior Player of the Year. Maccario sank a clutch putt to tie the first playoff hole, but Broderick made birdie on the next hole to win it.
During the final round of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament at Woodland Golf Club, Maccario birdied the 18th and in a rare display of outward emotion, pumped his fist and shouted “Yes!” in celebration as it fell into the cup. The birdie gave him a second consecutive 66, however, Chris Francoeur, sank a 30-plus footer for birdie in the final group to give him the win.
Maccario finally broke through by winning Hornblower at Plymouth Country Club in August, firing a final-round 3-under 66 to win by one stroke.
But ultimately he said his favorite part of the summer was having his caddy, Mackenzie Murphy, on the bag. Murphy’s family owns Bradford CC and has a close relationship with Maccario. “It is special to have such a great family close to me,” Maccario said.
While these last two accomplishments don’t count toward his point total, Maccario put an exclamation on a legendary season with an immaculate round of 56 at Bradford, chipping in on 18 to smash his own course record at 15-under. He also qualified for the 2020 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship with close friend Mike Calef earning a trip to Chambers Bay Golf Course (WA) in the spring.
“I love USGA events,” Maccario said. “And to have a team event with such a great friend, I can’t ask for anything better.”
Shannon Johnson said she wanted to enter the 2020 season with a fresh mindset after wins were hard to come by in 2019. While that was easier said than done during the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson once again established herself as the player to beat in statewide events.
Buoyed by three Mass Golf Women’s Championship victories, Johnson earned the Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year for the third time in her career (previously 2016 & 2018).
Johnson swept the Mass Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy at The Club at New Seabury and the Mass Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup at Black Rock Country Club. She also tacked on a victory with Megan Buck in the inaugural Mass Women’s Four-Ball Championship for the Townshend Cup at Haverhill Country Club.
She also won the Women’s Mid-Amateur award for having the lowest combined gross score in the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship (36 holes, stroke play) at Essex County Club and the Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup (36 holes).
“I’m honored to be this year’s Women’s Player of the Year,” Johnson said. “With everything that went on this year, there was a lot of uncertainty as to if we would even be able to compete this season. Mass Golf did an amazing job of putting on their events with even more participants than the previous year. Having a feeling of normalcy while on the course was a nice escape.”
With several national events canceled, such as the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship (won by Johnson in 2018), Johnson was mainly focused on competing within the Bay State. Following a runner-up finish in the New England Women’s Amateur Championship at North Conway Country Club (NH), Johnson and Buck cruised to victory in the Mass Women’s Four-Ball Championship.
Johnson, 37, a North Easton resident who plays out of Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton, was the only Massachusetts player to compete in the exemption-only field in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship in Woodmont Country Club (MD) during early August.
After falling to Anne Walsh in an epic 20-hole quarterfinal match during the Mass Women’s Amateur, Johnson said she began to play her best golf. With a one-stroke victory, she notched her fifth Women’s Stroke Play title. Three weeks later, she shot an opening-round 5-under 66 en route to a seven-stroke victory in the Women’s Mid-Amateur.
“There is some great competition here in Massachusetts and anytime you can win an event it shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Johnson said.
Johnson said ball striking was her biggest improvement during this season. That was fully on display during the final stretch of the Women’s Stroke Play Championship. One stroke off the lead on the par-5 15th hole, Johnson hit the green in two using a 7-wood and made birdie to move into a tie for first place. On the next hole, she hit into a fairway bunker but used an 8-iron to land on the fringe and make par to stay even with eventual runner-up Krystal Knight. On 18, she was able to two-putt for par to give her the victory.
“My coach, Dan Boisvert, and I worked hard on tweaking a few things in my swing that lead to more consistency, especially with my approach shots,” Johnson said. “It definitely came together towards the back half of the season, so hopefully we can continue to work on a few things this offseason and be ready to come out of the gates in 2021.”
Pamela Kuong didn’t start playing golf until she was in her mid-30s, but in her quarter-century of play, she continued adding to an already-stellar amateur career.
Kuong, 59, a Wellesley native playing out of Charles River Country Club in Newton, is the first recipient of the Mass Golf Women’s Senior Player of the Year Award. She earned nearly half her points from defending her title in the Mass Women’s Senior Amateur Championship, shooting a 1-under 71 at South Shore Country Club to win by four strokes.
“I’m honored to be the first award recipient for the Mass Golf Senior POY,” said Kuong, who was the 2019 Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year. “Anytime you can win a Player of the Year award it’s a significant achievement given the quality of the players in Massachusetts.”
Kuong’s strength has always been her putting as she never had a three-putt during the Women’s Senior Amateur. Her deft touch around the greens helped her advance to the President’s Cup final of the Mass Women’s Amateur Championship at Essex County Club and finish low senior in the Women’s Division of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament at Framingham Country Club and Woodland Golf Club and the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy at The Club at New Seabury.
Though it didn’t count for points, Kuong won the Mixed Four-Ball Championship with Doug Clapp, edging Sue Curtin and Frank Vana, Jr. in a thrilling playoff as daylight faded at The Cape Club in Falmouth.
But winning was secondary for Kuong, who like many were happy to be able to play competitively and socially during the pandemic. “Being able to see my fellow members at Charles River River and friends at Mass Golf events was a highlight for sure.”
Kuong also played in several Charles River member events this year. She earned a share of the Orlyn Reese Player of the Year Award, a new award named after the late Resse, an avid golfer, active member of Charles River’s House Committee and volunteer for many of the tournaments at the club.
“With over 220 single-digit index men and women golfers at Charles River, there was no shortage of competitive rounds on weekends,” Kuong said.
Kuong also thanked her continued work with swing coach, Shawn Hester, as well as Fordie Pitts III and Karen Gray of Titleist for conducting a wedge fitting session of Kuong, adding to her already excellent short game.
>>GEORGE M. COHEN SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 514 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)
Winning the George M. Cohen Senior Player of the Year is nothing new for Frank Vana, Jr. He’s now won it four years in a row.
But without national events to play in this year, Vana zeroed in on regional and statewide events and added to his legacy with his first-ever New England Senior Amateur Championship victory at Mt. Washington Resort Golf Club (NH). That win, coupled with his dominant 10-stroke victory in the Lowery (Senior) Division of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament at Framingham Country Club and Woodland Golf Club gave him enough points to join Ed Fletcher and Jim Ruschioni as the only players to win the award four consecutive times.
“Winning Senior Player of the Year is a season-long goal each year,” said Vana, a 2016 inductee into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame. “National events were canceled and several big local events were as well. This was something we never imagined would happen. The best news late spring and early summer was that Mass Golf was moving forward with their schedule. Every event I played in I felt safe and lucky to be playing in a top tier event at a top venue. What looked to be a missed season turned out to be a safe and competitive season.”
Vana, 58, a Boxford resident who plays out of Marlborough Country Club, said it took some time to get his swing alignment and putting alignment back on track, but by mid-summer Vana hit his stride. He shot a 5-under 67 in the opening round of the Ouimet at Framingham Country Club, a course he played often growing up, and finished with a 3-under 68 on the final day at Woodland. In total, he made 15 birdies and was the only player to finish under par (6-under) in the 54-hole tournament.
“I tell my buddies all the time it’s hard to win,” Vana said after winning the Ouimet. “I’ve been lucky enough to have my share of wins, but every time it’s enjoyable and it’s fun and you feel good afterward. It’s one of those things, you don’t get tired of it.”
Like any champion, mental focus was crucial to his win in the New England Senior Amateur. After an opening-round 3-under 69, Vana had to cling to his lead in the final round after a pair of double bogeys put his lead in jeopardy. However, he tallied two straight birdies on the back nine and two-putted from 40 feet on the final hole to close out his one-stroke victory.
“I’ve been playing in NEGA events for a long time, so it was nice to check that box off,” Vana said. “We play a lot of great tournaments, and it’s nice to win this one.”
In addition, Vana earned runner-up finishes in the Senior Division of the Norfolk County Classic and the 2020 Amateur Invitational.
As for next year, “I’m most looking forward to seeing this pandemic in the rearview mirror and getting back to normal life on and off the course come springtime. Between now and then, I hope that we all can stay healthy and get prepared for 2021 season.”
>>CHRISTOPHER CUTLER RICH JUNIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 555 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)
John Broderick called his victory at the New England Amateur Championship “unbelievable and crazy.” It’s also a pretty good way to sum up his 2020 season.
Broderick, a 16-year-old Wellesley native, waited out a five-hour-long rain delay to pull even in the final round of the New England Amateur at Concord Country Club and then outlasted Player of the Year Nick Maccario in two holes of a sudden-death playoff.
That win was instrumental in Broderick’s campaign to win the Christopher Cutler Rich Junior Player of the Year for the first time. He’s the 19th overall recipient since the award was first presented in 1997.
“All the names on the list of recipients are all Massachusetts junior golf greats, and I am so excited to be on that list,” said Broderick, a junior at Belmont Hill School who has verbally committed to Vanderbilt University. “The award definitely reflects the year-long success of a player. Winning this award was one of the highest things on my list of goals for 2020.”
Broderick, a left-handed phenom who plays out of Dedham Country & Polo Club, hit crushing drives all season and performed well when the lights were brightest. While waiting to make a short putt on his penultimate hole, he took his 9-iron to the range to prep for the final hole, the par-3 9th. He said he chunked all five shots, but when he stepped up to the 9th tee, he stroked it well and hit the green, setting up the par he needed to advance to a playoff. On the second playoff hole, he hit a beautiful approach shot with a gap wedge, which set up his winning birdie.
“That win was huge in just validating the work I was putting in,” Broderick said. “I knew that I could beat the best from New England. I have loads of confidence because of that win. I step up to the tee in every event I play knowing that I can win.”
Broderick also had strong performances later in the summer, including a semifinal appearance in the Mass Junior Amateur Championship at Cranberry Valley Golf Course where he fell to eventual champion Jack O’Donnell, who now attends the University of Michigan. He also finished runner-up to George Washington-bound Arav Patel in a playoff during the AJGA Golf Performance Center Junior Open in Danbury, Connecticut.
Before this run, Broderick said he was lacking some confidence heading into July, especially after a disappointing finish at the North & South Amateur Championship. But an important practice session helped turn things around.
“The switch for me was definitely a lesson I had with Shawn Hester,” Broderick said. “I went in angry with my game and with no control over my irons and I left with loads of confidence.”
Next season, Broderick’s goal is to play in the Mass Amateur and Mass Open for the first time and enter as many national events as possible.
“I am looking forward to being able to test my game against some of the best juniors and amateur golfers in the country in big 2021 events,” he said.
Allison Paik capped off her junior golf career with a pair of historic feats.
Now a first-year student at Columbia University, Paik won the Mass Women’s Amateur Championship at Essex County Club by the widest final match margin (7&6) in more than half-century over fellow Columbia first-year Anne Walsh. That win, coupled with other strong performances, gave her enough points to become the first-ever recipient of Mass Golf’s Girls’ Junior Player of the Year Award.
“Realizing this is the first Girls’ Junior Player of the Year award is tremendous, especially knowing there were eight members of the Class of 2020 who are playing at the Division I level,” said Paik, an 18-year-old Sharon resident. “But the real credit goes to those who got girls golf to where it is today, especially the organizers and volunteers at Mass Golf and golf courses such as The Cape Club of Sharon and Ledgemont Country Club.”
Paik, who plays out of Ledgemont Country Club in Seekonk, cruised through match play at the Women’s Amateur, with no match going beyond 15 holes. In the final match, she made five birdies to take a 5-up lead on the front nine, including a 35-foot putt on hole 4.
“The greens especially were a good fit for me,” Paik said. “They weren’t too quick so I could really attack all my putts, and I’m not afraid to hit it like a couple too far that way I can try to make as many birdies as possible.
“The greatest part of the entire week was the atmosphere that Mass Golf set up for the players to uphold the prestige of the tournament’s history,” she added.
Paik also won the Kathy Albright Junior Trophy as the low junior in the New England Women’s Amateur Championship at North Conway Country Club (NH), shooting a 2-under 69 in the second round. She then played in the final group with champion Megan Buck and runner-up Shannon Johnson and placed third overall. Paik also qualified for the Girls Junior PGA National Championship for the third time and finished T2 in the AJGA Junior Golf Hub Championship at Chicopee Country Club.
Without being on campus during the fall and spring semesters, Paik said she’s been home playing with a local pod of friends, connecting virtually with college teammates and managing the rigors of college coursework.
“I’m treating [competitive golf] like an extended rain delay and enjoying the great food in the clubhouse,” Paik said. “Focusing on staying competitive is key to getting back in competitions hopefully in the spring.”
Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by promoting its competitive spirit and camaraderie. Presently, more than two-thirds of the 360 member clubs are public-access facilities, while nearly one-half of member golfers are enrolled at public facilities.
As the seventh largest state golf association in the country, Mass Golf has been at the forefront of industry advances such as the creation of a computerized handicap system, online registration and real-time Championship scoring.