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WEST NEWTON, Massachusetts – Two past United States Golf Association champions who appeared together in the 2019 U.S. Open are the final players still standing in the 113th Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
Brockton native Matt Parziale, 34, (Thorny Lea Golf Club), who won the Mass Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2017, is making his third appearance in the final match of the state amateur. His opponent is Wellesley’s Michael Thorbjornsen, 19, (Wellesley Country Club), the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, who just completed his first year at Stanford University.
Both players advanced through the quarterfinals and semifinals with relative ease Friday at Brae Burn Country Club (par-72, 6,770 yards) and will compete in the title 36-hole final match, which begins at 7 a.m. Saturday. Spectators are welcome to attend the final match at Brae Burn Country Club.
Last fall, Matt Parziale thought he might never play golf again. While arm wrestling with a friend of his, Parziale snapped his humerus (upper arm bone) in two pieces and now has a plate with 10 screws. He still bears the scar on his right arm, and while he said the arm is not 100 percent, Parziale was relieved that there was no nerve damage and he’d be able to recover.
“I talked to my doctor who did the surgery, my friend Dr. Brian McKeon, and he said, ‘Can you move your hand?’ and I said yes, and he goes, ‘You’ll be fine,'” Parziale said. “He took care of me all winter, checked in with me almost every day. I did physical therapy in his office, and he didn’t cut my muscle during surgery so it helped the recovery.”
Parziale has played competitively throughout the spring and summer, and on Friday said his arm is as strong as it’s ever been.
Now he’ll shift his focus to the final with Thorbjornsen, his most fierce competitor to this point. Parziale lost in his first-ever final appearance to John Hadges in 2008, but defeated Matthew Cowgill in 2017.
“I don’t take it for granted because I know how hard it is,” Parziale said. “To have a chance tomorrow, it makes the whole week worth it. It’s been a lot of hard work, so I’m pleased where I’m at.”
Thorbjornsen, meanwhile, is trying to become the first person to win the Mass Amateur in his first attempt in over a decade. He’s played in several events with Parziale in the past, including the 2019 U.S. Open, and most recently in last month’s Northeast Amateur, but they’ve never gone head-to-head.
Therefore, he said he’s not surprised to see Parziale in the final.
“Going into this championship, I knew that he’s probably going to get into the semifinals, probably going to get into the championship match,” Thorbjornsen said of Parziale. “I’m really going to make sure that I’m ready for tomorrow and play well.”
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Stroke Play: 71-71–142 (T8/No. 8 seed)
R32: Def. Kevin Gately, 3&2
R16: Def. Frank Vana, 5&4
Quarterfinals: Def. Ben Spitz, 2&1
Semifinals: Def. Chris Bornhorst, 4&3
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Stroke Play: 73-64–137 (2nd place/No. 2 seed)
R32: Def. Alex Snickenberger, 4&2
R16: Def. Dan Howard, 5&3
Quarterfinals: Def. Michael Amari, 3&2
Semifinals: Def. Chris Francoeur, 3&2
8-MATT PARZIALE, Thorny Lea Golf Club def. 4-CHRIS BORNHORST, Brae Burn Country Club, 4&3
Matt Parziale wasn’t shaken after making bogey and losing the first hole of his semifinal match. He knew the next one would be a good chance to make it up. For the fourth consecutive match, Parziale made birdie on the par-4 2nd (362-yards) and after winning the next hole held the lead the rest of the way.
“I’ve had good numbers for a wedge,” Parziale. “That’s a green you don’t really want to spin it on, and I’ve had numbers where I haven’t had to spin it.”
Bornhorst had a chance to swing the match after he made birdie and won the 9th hole (par-4, 310-yards), cutting the lead to 1-up at the turn. But Parziale grabbed the momentum back when he hit a 9-iron from the rough that hit the flagstick and set up a 2-putt opportunity for birdie, which he converted. Bornhorst, meanwhile, ended up making par and falling to 2-down.
“I thought it was going to jump a little bit, it was moving pretty good when I hit the pin, so I was fortunate I hit the stick, and made a good putt,” Parziale said.
“That was kind of a turning point for him to go 2-up, instead of squaring it back up,” Bornhorst said.
Parziale then iced the match by winning the 11th (par-4, 466-yards) and going 4-up with a bride on the par-5 14th (555-yards).
2-MICHAEL THORBJORNSEN, Wellesley Country Club def. 14-CHRIS FRANCOEUR, Amesbury Golf & Country Club, 3&2
Michael Thorbjornsen and Chris Francoeur started the week as playing partners, but the Division I golfers finally got to compete head-to-head in the semifinals. Both golfers came out firing with birdies on the par-4 1st hole (335-yards) and they remained tied through five holes. Thorbjornsen was able to mount a 2-up lead at the turn but saw that slip to 1-up after Francoeur made eagle on the 11th hole (par-4, 466-yards).
At 3:36 p.m. play was suspended while the players were on the 14th hole due to lightning and dangerous weather conditions. Following the resumption of play, Thorbjornsen chipped off the back end of the green and put himself close for a birdie, which he made, to regain a 2-up lead. As he’s done all week, Thorbjornsen was solid off the tee and was able to hit two more to set up birdies on the 15th and 16th put the match away.
“I’d say driver has been the best club in the bag so far this week,” Thorbjornsen said. “There were some misses, but a yard or two off the fairways, it’s still in the rough so it makes it tough to attack pins and get it close.”
8-MATT PARZIALE, Thorny Lea Golf Club def. 1-BEN SPITZ, George Wright Golf Course, 2&1
In a contest between the only two past champions remaining, Matt Parziale (2017 winner) advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. Ben Spitz (2006 winner) shot 4-under on the back nine and tied the match with a 22-foot eagle putt on the 13th. Parziale broke the tie for good on the par-4, 15th (295 yards) when he drove the green with a 3-wood and two-putted for par.
He closed it out on the par-3, 17th (255-yards) by hitting his tee shot to 18 feet and hitting his second putt to about a foot. Spitz found the left rough and was unable to save par and extend the match.
“It’s a pleasure playing with Ben,” Parziale said. “I’ve known him for 15 years now, and he’s the best — his golf game and in person — so we had a good time together.”
4-CHRIS BORNHORST, Brae Burn Country Club def. 21-ERIC LIFSON, Nashawtuc Country Club, 2&1
The two former Division III college athletes each held 1-up leads on the back nine, but Chris Bornhorst prevailed by winning three of the final four holes. Eric Lifson, who attended Kenyon College, took the lead with a birdie on the par-3 12th (157-yards), but Bornhorst fired back by making a birdie on the par-5 14th (555-yards) and a par on the par-4 15th (310-yards).
Bornhorst, the former Babson standout, won it on the 17th after landing his tee shot on the left apron, while Lifson found the rough, and was unable to make a 7-footer downhill par putt. Bornhorst then two-putted his way to victory.
2-MICHAEL THORBJORNSEN, Wellesley Country Club def. 10-MICHAEL AMARI, Northern Spy Golf Club, 3&2
Michael Thorbjornsen won 8 of the 16 holes played to earn a spot in the semifinals for the first time. Only three holes between the pair were tied, but Thorbjornsen won holes 8-11, including a birdie on the par-4 9th (310-yards), to take a 4-up lead. After Michael Amari cut it to 2-up through 15, Thorbjornsen crushed his drive down the middle, leaving himself an easy wedge in, and he made the birdie putt to end it.
14-CHRIS FRANCOEUR, Amesbury Golf & Country Club def. 11-WESTON JONES, Charter Oak Country Club, 2-up
Chris Francoeur got himself back in the semifinals for the second consecutive year, thanks in part to some clutch shots on the back nine. On the par-4 11th (466-yards), he saved par despite hitting a shot that was mere inches from out of bounds. On the next hole, he made a 15-foot sliding putt for birdie and never trailed after that. Francoeur took a 1-up lead to the 18th, but both he and Weston Jones found the right rough, with Jones coming up short of the green. He then conceded the match after Francoeur putted to about 3 feet, and Jones missed his par putt.
Brae Burn Country Club is set up at approximately 6,806 yards and will play to a par of 35-37-72
BRAE BURN COUNTRY CLUB HOLE BY HOLE
You Choose What We Do!
We couldn’t decide what type of #MassAm content to bring you this morning, so we’ll let you choose. Voting ends at 9 a.m
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) July 16, 2021
— Stanford Men’s Golf (@StanfordMGolf) July 16, 2021
Not that I would root for or against any of the semi-finalists of the #MassAm – go @Matt_Parziale! – but @PlayMassGolf may just have two @USGA Champions squaring off tomorrow in the Finals of the #MassAm. Stay tuned. This just in, Massachusetts has some players!
— Doug Clapp (@OSgolf18) July 16, 2021