Mass Amateur: Top Seeds Reach Quarterfinals At Brae Burn - MASSGOLF

MasS Amateur Quarterfinals Feature Four Returners, Four Newcomers

For Immediate Release: July 15, 2021

WEST NEWTON, Massachusetts – On the first completely sunny and balmy day of the 113th Massachusetts Amateur Championship on Thursday, many of the highly-seeded players shined brightly and advanced through the first two rounds of match play to make it to the quarterfinals at Brae Burn Country Club (par-72, 6,770 yards).

Four players – Ben Spitz, Matt Parziale, Chris Francoeur, and Weston Jones – are back in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. Meanwhile, Michael Thorbjornsen, who tied the course record with a 64 Wednesday, will be in the quarterfinals for the first time along with Christopher Bornhorst, Eric Lifson and Michael Amari.

ONLINE: MASS GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL | MATCH PLAY BRACKET | STARTING TIMES & PAIRINGS | ROUND 2 RECAP | PHOTO GALLERY | PAST CHAMPIONS

Matt Parziale, the 2017 champion, is in contention for another Mass Amateur title. (David Colt)

WHAT’S NEXT

The remaining 8 players will compete in the quarterfinals Friday morning. The four winners will advance to the semifinals Friday afternoon. The 36-hole championship match is scheduled for 7 a.m. Saturday.

Here are Friday’s quarterfinal matchups:

7:30 a.m. – Ben Spitz (George Wright Golf Course) vs. Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club)

7:40 a.m. – Christopher Bornhorst (Brae Burn Country Club) vs. Eric Lifson (Nashawtuc Country Club)

7:50 a.m. – Michael Thorbjornsen (Wellesley Country Club) vs. Michael Amari (Northern Spy Golf Club)

8:00 a.m. – Chris Francoeur (Amesbury Golf & Country Club) vs. Weston Jones (Charter Oak Country Club)

WATCH: DAY 3 VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

ROUND OF 16 RECAPS

1-Ben Spitz, George Wright Golf Course def. 16-Joe Harney, Charles River Country Club, 2&1

Stroke-play medalist Ben Spitz is back in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, but once again, it wasn’t exactly a smooth road. After needing to rally from 3-down in his first match, things didn’t get any easier for Spitz in his second. He was given all he could handle by Joe Harney, who had been 1-up after eight holes. Spitz, the 2006 champion, still made an eagle on the 10th hole, as well as a birdie on 15 to eventually pull away. He sealed the deal on the 17th with a two-putt for par.

“Everyone’s good out here at this point,” Spitz said. “There are no easy matches, so you just have to bear down and play well.”

8-Matt Parziale, Thorny Lea Golf Club def. 24-Frank Vana, Marlborough Country Club, 5&4

Matt Parziale earned another trip to the quarterfinals as he made relatively quick work of his longtime friend Frank Vana, only losing one hole (5th) in their head-to-head matchup. Parziale set the tone early by driving the green on the 1st hole and sinking the 6-foot putt for eagle.

Parziale said he’s been successful taking some chances out on the course. Even after finding the water on the par-3 6th, Parziale was able to chip-in for par and then win the 7th to build a 3-up lead. “For some reason, this course sets up for me to be aggressive, and it’s been working,” Parziale said.

4-Chris Bornhorst, Brae Burn Country Club def. 20-Dan Brooks, Dudley Hill Golf Club, 6&4

In his second round of the day, Chris Bornhorst needed just 14 holes to put away Daniel Brooks, continuing his dominance on his home course. Bornhorst opened up a 5-up lead through nine with two birdies. Among a number of solid shots, Bornhorst pointed to the par-4 11th hole (466-yards), where he hit a nine-iron into about 1 foot.

“It felt great,” Bornhorst said. “It looked awesome in the air and definitely was my best swing of the day. I had to take a little off with the back pin. I didn’t want to push it back there too much, but I caught it great, it took a great hop on me and it turned out perfect.”

Brae Burn member Chris Bornhorst is still standing after the first two rounds of match play. (David Colt)

21-Eric Lifson, Nashawtuc Country Club def. 5-Ricky Stimets, Worcester Country Club, 3&2

Eric Lifson is in match play for the first time in four attempts at the Mass Amateur, but the former Division III standout at Kenyon College looked like a seasoned veteran in his match against former professional Ricky Stimets.

Despite being outdriven by Stimets often, Lifson hit green consistently and made par or better on all but two holes. He won 10, 12 and 14 to open a 3-up lead. “I was really just trying to keep it in the fairway and just two-putt through that stretch [on the back nine].

2-Michael Thorbjornsen, Wellesley Country Club def. 15-Dan Howard, Norfolk Golf Club, 5&3

Michael Thorbjornsen had another solid day of ball striking to secure himself a spot in the quarterfinals for the first time. The Stanford University standout, who is ranked 85th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings, made two of his five birdies on the opening two holes. Though Dan Howard fought back to tie it on the fourth and fifth, Thorbjornsen won holes 8, 9, 11, and 12 to run away with the victory. He put an exclamation point on the victory with one last birdie on the 15th.

10-Michael Amari, Northern Spy Golf Club def. 26-Andy Luther Boston Golf Club, 6&5

Michael Amari, a rising sophomore at the University of Hartford, came out punching against Andy Luther, who had a share of the lead after the first day of stroke play. Amari hit fairways early and often to pick off four of the first five holes (1, 2, 4, and 5) and was able to finish off Luther in 13 holes to extend his first experience in the Mass Amateur. Amari, the first-ever club champion at Northern Spy Golf Club, said it’s been comforting to have family watching and his best friend on the bag.

“It’s been a great experience,” Amari said. “I can’t wait to come back tomorrow.”

14-Chris Francoeur, Amesbury Golf & Country Club def. 3-Kyle Tibbbets, Framingham Country Club, 3&2

For the fourth consecutive year, Chris Francoeur is heading to the quarterfinals of match play. Going up against Kyle Tibbets, Francoeur turned things up on the back nine. After making the turn tied, Francoeur nailed birdies on the 10th, 13th, and 15th as he willed his way to victory. On Friday, Francoeur will look to return to the semifinals where he fell to eventual champion Matthew Organisak in 2020.

11-Weston Jones, Charter Oak Country Club def. 6-Christian Emmerich, Kernwood Country Club, 2&1

After having to sweat out a full 18 holes in his first match of the day, Weston Jones found himself as part of the only other round of 16 matches to reach 17 holes. Jones needed three birdies on the front nine and another one on the back to eventually separate himself from Christian Emmerich, a left-handed golfer from Holy Cross.

Weston Jones, 17, is the youngest player remaining in the field. (David Colt)

ROUND OF 32 RECAPS

1-Ben Spitz, George Wright Golf Course def. 32-Colin Spencer, Cummaquid Golf Club, 4&3

Through three holes to start the round, it appeared as though top-seeded Ben Spitz needed to be on upset alert. Colin Spencer, fresh off the playoff, came out and birdied the first two holes and made a par on the third to grab a quick 3-up lead. Spitz, steady in his performance all week, responded with birdies on the 4th, 7th and 9th holes to tie things back up. Eagles on the 10th and 14th solidified the round for the No. 1 seed as he closed things out after 15 holes.

16-Joe Harney, Charles River Country Club def. 17-Henry Hall, Weston Golf Club, 3&1 

Joe Harney, the 2015 Mass Open champion, never trailed in his opening match, winning three of the final four holes to defeat Henry Hall. Harney finished the match on the 17th by hitting the left side of the green to set up a birdie putt, which was eventually conceded.

8-Matt Parziale, Thorny Lea Golf Club def. 25-Kevin Gately, Harmon Golf, 3&2

Matt Parziale, the 2017 Mass Amateur champion, set the tone in his opening match by driving the green on the first hole and making birdie. Parziale led 4-up at the turn and despite birdies from Kevin Gately on holes 12 and 13, Parziale won the 14th with a birdie to help close out the match.

24-Frank Vana, Marlborough Country Club, def. 9-Jonathan Hill, Granite Links Golf Club, 3&2

Back in 2012, Jonathan Hill qualified for match play. It helps to draw on past experience, but there may be no one in the field with more experience than his opponent Frank Vana who has been in match play over 20 times. Vana was able to get to 2-up by the turn and a birdie on Hole 13 put him 3-up where he would ultimately stay by the conclusion of the match.

4-Chris Bornhorst, Brae Burn Country Club def. 29-Dan Head, Wellesley Country Club, 6&5

Continuing on his same tear from Wednesday, Chris Bornhorst ran away for a victory over Dan Head, a finalist in the 2010 Mass Amateur. Bornhorst began his round with a bogey, but a pair of birdies on the front helped him turn at 4-up. It was more of the same on the back where another birdie helped as he moved on to the next round.

20-Dan Brooks, Dudley Hill Golf Club def. 13-Owen Quinn, Worcester Country Club, 2 up

In a battle of Central Mass natives, Dan Brooks prevailed over Owen Quinn in his first-ever appearance in match play at the Mass Amateur. The Siena College commit was 1-up at the turn and knocked in an eagle on the 10th hole en route to the victory. Brooks held a 1-up lead entering the 18th, but Quinn had to hit a provisional after his drive and ended up conceding after Brooks hit his third shot within three feet of the flag.

5-Ricky Stimets, Worcester Country Club def. 28-George Zolotas, Tedesco Country Club, 2 up

Ricky Stimets nearly squandered a 4-up lead through 11, but he made a slow-rolling, downhill birdie putt breaking left-to-right on the 18th hole to finish off his opponent. George Zolotas, a Round 1 co-leader in stroke play, advanced Wednesday through the first wave of the playoff.

21-Eric Lifson, Nashawtuc Country Club def. 12-Anthony Vecchiarelli, Springfield Country Club, 2&1

Eric Lifson knocked off Anthony Vecchiarelli, the 2014 Mass Amateur stroke-play medalist, in a tight matchup throughout. Tied through 10, Lifson won the next two holes, including a birdie on the 12th, and never trailed again.

Eric Lifson is competing in match play for the first time in four appearances in the Mass Amateur.

2-Michael Thorbjornsen, Wellesley Country Club def. 31-Alex Snickenberger, Wellesley Country Club, 4&2

Despite falling behind by one through seven holes, Michael Thorbjornsen took the lead at the turn and never looked back, closing out the match by winning holes 14-16 by going birdie, birdie, par. The win marks his first match victory in a Mass Amateur.

15-Dan Howard, Norfolk Golf Club def. 18-Andrew DiRamio, North Hill Country Club, 2&1

In a closely-contested round, Dan Howard was able to outlast Andrew DiRamio. Howard, who played collegiately at Wentworth, began his round with a birdie and would sink two more, with one coming on the front and another on the back on his way to a win. DiRamio, a 2021 U.S. Amateur qualifier, kept it close but ultimately failed to make a push past his opponent.

26-Andy Luther Boston Golf Club def. 7-Patrick Frodigh, Dedham Country and Polo Club, 2&1

After making it through the playoff on Wednesday, Andy Luther eliminated 2018 champion Patrick Frodigh. Tied through 11, Luther won the 12th with a par and the 14th with a birdie to go to 2-up. Leading 1-up on the 17th, Luther almost holed out from the sand as his ball hit the flag, allowing for an easy tap-in. Frodigh, who fell in the Round of 64 last year, was unable to extend the match as he couldn’t make par.

10-Michael Amari, Northern Spy Golf Club def. 23-A.J. Oleksak, GreatHorse, 1-up

In a match-up featuring a current and former player for the University of Hartford, the student bested the graduate as Michael Amari won the back-and-forth contest. Both players shared 1-up leads on the back nine but entered the 18th tied. Amari reached the green in two, while A.J. Oleksak hit an errant tee shot and ended up conceding.

3-Kyle Tibbets, Framingham Country Club def. 30-Max Hutter, Weston Golf Club, 2&1

Kyle Tibbets came out hot with four birdies across the first nine holes to go into the turn 4-up over Max Hutter. The former Worcester County Amateur champion would knock in another two birdies on the back nine to keep ahead of Hutter and punch his ticket to the Round of 16.

14-Chris Francoeur, Amesbury Golf & Country Club def. 19-Ryan Downes, GreatHorse, 8&7

Chris Francoeur had the shortest match of the morning, needing only 11 holes to defeat Ryan Downes, who at 15 was the youngest player in the field. Francoeur’s putting was dialed in early as he made five birdies and an eagle on the 10th.

6-Christian Emmerich, Kernwood Country Club def. 27-Sean Fitzpatrick, George Wright Golf Course, 19 holes

On the first playoff hole (Hole 1), Christian Emmerich almost holed out from the fairway with a wedge as it rolled back within 3 feet. Sean Fitzpatrick, the 2017 Southeastern Amateur winner, conceded the shot after he missed his birdie bid from the right edge of the green.

11-Weston Jones, Charter Oak Country Club def. Ryan Riley, Thorny Lea Golf Club, 1-up

A duel between Rutgers-bound Weston Jones and 2011 Mass Amateur Champion Ryan Riley came down to the wire. Riley holed out from 40-yards out on 17 to force play to continue. On 18, Jones was able to reach the green in two shots and after Riley missed a birdie, his fate was in his own hands. Jones nailed a clutch birdie putt from 15-feet away to move on.

FINAL SPOTS IN

Before match play began Thursday, five players — Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club), Jack Boulger (Walpole Country Club), Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich Golf Club), Max Hutter (Weston Golf Club), Alex Snickenberger (Wellesley Country Club) — converged on the 17th tee to compete for the final three spots into the next round.

Both Hutter and Snickenberger got up-and-down for par on the downhill par-3 17th (229-yards) to advance, while the remaining players made bogey. On the 18th, Spencer made his 2-putt par to claim the final spot.

WATCH: LIVE STREAM OF THE PLAYOFF

 

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NOTABLE

  • Matt Parziale met Frank Vana for the first time during their Round of 16 match in the 2006 Mass Amateur at Worcester Country Club. Vana, then the two-time defending champion, won the match 3&2. Since then the two have been close friends and golf partners.
  • Parziale and Ben Spitz have the most Mass Amateur match play experience and are the only past champions remaining. Parziale is 24-10 in his matches, while Spitz is 19-12.
  • Of the 32 match play qualifiers, there are 25 Mass Golf Member Clubs who were represented Thursday. Wellesley Country Club had the most number of players with three (Dan Head, Alex Snickenberger, Michael Thorbjornsen).
  • The hole location on the downhill par-3 6th hole (156-yards) made life difficult for many players Thursday. Situated on the back right shelf, there was a ridge located one step away from the flag making it difficult for players to spin the ball back near the hole. Only Kyle Tibbets and Weston Jones managed a birdie on the 6th. The par-3s on No. 8 (225-yards) and No. 17 (229-yards) also yielded just two birdies each.
  • Christian Emmerich played the most number of holes with 36, while Chris Francoeur needed just 27 to advance. Weston Jones played 35, the most of the players who advanced.

 

QUOTABLE

  • He’s been great to me since [2006]. He just always provides support. I can bounce things off him, and we’ve just become great friends. I’ve always taken what he’s said to heart, and he’s always tried to help me. It’s always tough to play your friend in match play, but we had a great time and a great conversation — Matt Parziale on his bond with Frank Vana.
  • “I just kind of stayed in my zone and tried to play the course, rather than the opponent. I had a great caddie out there, so I got to give it to him and all the support and all the members and buddies that came out to watch. It was really special, so that helped me. I’ve never won a match, so I’ll keep riding the momentum.” — Chris Bornhorst on playing at Brae Burn.
  • “I was down three early, and probably not awake. Colin played well. He birdied the first two, I made a bogey and then came back on number four with a birdie, which was really big. I had a good up and down on six to stay two down and then birdied seven, had a good up and down on eight, then birdied nine to get it back to even with the back nine to play. I did well on the back again. Went eagle, par, birdie, conceded eagle and then another birdie. It turned around at the end which was nice and it was nice to get a victory.” — Ben Spitz on his opening match against Colin Spencer
  • “My aunt came out, and my mother’s sister. My mother and father can’t really make it out anymore, so she was nice enough to come and give me support. My cousin John is caddying for me. He’s been awesome.” — Ben Spitz on his support system during the championship. 
  • “This is my favorite week every year. I feel like I kind of psych myself out every year. This year, I’m just trying to have more fun with it, not taking it too seriously. Match play is a little easier mentally because you’re not worried about making a big number. It’s about having fun and playing the guy you’re looking at. It’s just cool. — Eric Lifson, on his first Mass Amateur match play experience.
  • “We chatted about it quite a bit. [AJ Olesak] is an alum there. His caddy is an alum as well. With all the stuff going on with Hartford brought up a lot of conversations. But I’m going to stay.” — Michael Amari, on his status at the University of Hartford, which will reportedly submit a formal request to the NCAA to join Division III in January 2022
  • “I was the one pitching to keep going [last night]. I knew we were going to 17, and I thought it was just light enough out to keep going, but they called it last night. You have such adrenaline flowing that it was hard to calm yourself down and go to bed. We all got home late last night and were scrambling for dinner and just settling down in order to come back out here right away and hit a good shot on 17, which is one of the hardest holes on the course.” — Alex Snickenberger on surviving the playoff to make it into match play. 

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