Mass Golf | 2021 Player Of The Year Awards - MASSGOLF

MASS GOLF ANNOUNCES 2021 PLAYER OF THE YEAR RECIPIENTS

For Immediate Release: November 16, 2021

NORTON, Massachusetts – Mass Golf is pleased to announce the 2021 Player of the Year Award recipients. This year marks the third time Thorny Lea Golf Club members Shannon Johnson and Matt Parziale have earned Player of the Year awards in the same year. This is the seventh Player of the Year Award for Parziale, while Johnson has now won four times.

ONLINE: PLAYER OF THE YEAR HOME

Since 1976, Mass Golf has recognized top performers in Mass Golf Championships as well as select regional and United States Golf Association (USGA) events. The winners are based on the final tallies of the respective Mass Golf Player of the Year point systems. For the first time since last year’s addition of the Girls’ Junior Player Of The Year and Women’s Senior Player of the Year, Mass Golf will recognize 7 different individuals as award winners.

“It’s an incredible group of Massachusetts competitors,” said Jesse Menachem, Mass Golf’s Executive Director/CEO. “To get back to a full slate of events and to have the competitions at their highest level, it’s an impressive feat across the board.”

This year’s award recipients are as follows:

Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year

MATT PARZIALE (Home Club: Thorny Lea Golf Club, Brockton; Hometown: Brockton)

Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year

SHANNON JOHNSON (Home Club: Thorny Lea Golf Club, Brockton; Hometown: North Easton)

Christopher Cutler Rich Junior Player Of The Year

WESTON JONES (Home Club: Charter Oak Country Club, Hudson; Hometown: Sudbury)

Girls’ Junior Player Of The Year

MOLLY SMITH (Home Club: Vesper Country Club, Tyngsborough; Hometown: Westford)

Women’s Senior Player of the Year 

PAMELA KUONG (Home Club: Charles River Country Club, Newton; Hometown: Wellesley)

George M. Cohen Senior Player of the Year

KEITH SMITH (Home Club: Franklin Country Club, Franklin; Hometown: Franklin)

Women’s Mid-Amateur Award

MEGAN BUCK (Home Club: Thorny Lea Golf Club, Brockton; Hometown: North Easton)

Scroll down to learn more about each of Mass Golf’s Player of the Year winners.


MATT PARZIALE

>>RICHARD D. HASKELL PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 903 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)

Matt Parziale helped Team Massachusetts win the 2021 Tri-State Matches at Cape Cod National. (David Colt)

For the early part of 2021, Matt Parziale was taking everything day by day. About a year ago his golf future was in question after he suffered a broken humerus (upper arm bone) during an arm-wrestling match gone wrong.

But the 34-year-old former firefighter was able to rehab effectively and by the time the season rolled around, he took part in some of the most exciting moments throughout the year, now culminating in his seventh Player of the Year Award.

“To win this it means you played well for an extended period of time,” said Parziale, who now only trails Frank Vana, Jr. for the most Player of the Year awards all-time (9). “After the injury, thoughts go through your head about how long it’s going take to get back. I had to do so much work on my arm the night before an event. I didn’t take things for granted, I just gave it my best.”

Parziale collected his first points by qualifying with Herbie Aikens for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which took place at Chambers Bay and The Home Course in Washington state. The pair also finished runner-up by two strokes in the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship, shooting 64-69–133. Shortly after, Parziale finished T2 in the Norfolk County Classic.

As championship season kicked into gear, Parziale earned the invite to the prestigious Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club (RI), where he shot the best round (1-under 68) of the Day 1 morning wave and made the cut (low 55 and ties) for the final day.

Parziale shined in the 113th Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Brae Burn Country Club. After shooting matching 71s to finish T8 in stroke play, he took down past champions Frank Vana, Jr. and Ben Spitz (No. 1 seed), plus Brae Burn member Christopher Bornhorst in match play to earn a spot in a historic 36-hole final match. Parziale, the 2017 US Mid-Amateur Champion, faced Stanford University sophomore Michael Thorbjornsen, the 2018 US Junior Amateur Champion, in the first final state amateur match featuring two past USGA champions. Though Parziale shot 67 in the first 18, Thorbjornsen made 12 birdies to go 6-up in the morning round en route to an 8&6 win.

“That was a cool day to be a part of, ” Parziale said of the Mass Amateur final. “Even though I didn’t win, that was the best week I’ve had in 3-4 years when it comes to my focus. It wasn’t about the shots I was hitting, my focus was where it needed to be to hit the shot, and I didn’t have to manufacture it.”

Parziale followed up with a 4th-place finish in the New England Amateur, but he finally broke through with a victory when he won his third Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship. Parziale shot consecutive 69s and led wire-to-wire in the rain-shorted, 36-hole event at Weston Golf Club.

Still carrying a 10-year exemption for the US Mid-Amateur, Parziale concluded the competitive season by competing in the Championship Proper at Sankaty Head Golf Club and Miacomet Golf Club on Nantucket Island. Parziale shot 71-73–144, coming up two strokes shy of making the cut. Though 2020 Player of the Year Nick Maccario made the semifinals at Sankaty, Parziale effectively clinched the award with his Mid-Amateur victory.

Parziale said he credits his father and caddie Vic Parziale, swing coach Shawn Hester and orthopedic surgeon Brian McKeon for his success this season. “We don’t try anything different, those are the people in place that we trust,” Parziale said.

Matt Parziale holds the first-place trophy after winning the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship at Weston Golf Club. (Mass Golf)

SHANNON JOHNSON

>>ANNE MARIE TOBIN WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 1,361 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)

Shannon Johnson has won the Women’s Player of the Year Award four times now. (David Colt)

For Shannon Johnson, 2021 not only marked a decade since making the move from South Dakota to Massachusetts, but it was also a return to her 2018 form in many ways.

With a pair of Mass Golf title defenses, plus two deep runs in highly-esteemed events, Johnson tallied enough points to earn the Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year for the second straight year. Johnson and Tara Joy-Connelly, a 2021 Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame inductee, are the only players to win the award four times or more since it was established in 1994.

“I’m honored to be Women’s Player of the Year, and to do it in back-to-back years is nothing that I take for granted,” Johnson said. “There were so many similarities, and my game started to come around towards the back half of the year which made things shape up similarly to 2018. I came up a little bit short of another national championship, but it was a great season nonetheless.”

Johnson tallied her first win of the season when she and Megan Buck successfully defended their title in the Massachusetts Women’s Four-Ball Championship for the Townshend Cup. Johnson made 5 birdies between holes 9 and 17 as the pair split the work evenly with a 10-under 62 at LeBaron Hills Country Club. At the end of July, Johnson finished runner-up in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament.

August and September proved to be the most crucial months for Johnson, as she made it all the way to the final 18-hole match of the 118th Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, with victories over young standouts Angela Garvin and Molly Smith. Johnson, however, ran into a tough final match with Harvard first-year Catie Schernecker, who made six birdies and closed the match out in 14 holes at Plymouth Country Club.

Johnson also successfully defended the Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup in an epic rainy clash at Berkshire Hills Country Club. Johnson shot 72-75–147, holding off Buck and Pamela Kuong by 1 and 2 strokes, respectively.

Johnson then made the most of her lone USGA Championship appearance of the year, advancing to the semifinals of the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship at Berkeley Hall in South Carolina. The 2018 champion shot 71-73–144 to earn the No. 2 seed in match play, and in the process defeated fellow Mass Golfer Sue Curtin as well as Tara Joy-Connelly. In the semifinal match, Johnson rallied from 4-down through 10 against eventual champion Blakesly Brock but wound up tying the match. Johnson converted a 12-foot par putt on the 18th hole to force extra holes, but Brock regained her form on the first playoff hole and made an uphill 15-foot birdie putt.

Despite coming up short of another USGA title, Johnson had gathered plenty of points to once again claim the Women’s Player of the Year Award. Johnson said working with her swing coach Dan Boisvert at KOHR Golf on a more regular basis made a huge difference in her performance.

“I think that was a big help knowing that I was swinging it well for a majority of the season,” Johnson said. “I did put some emphasis on getting better on the short game side. Putting will still be a focus of mine this winter along with getting back into the gym over the off-season.”

Shannon Johnson reacts to making a birdie putt on hole seven during the quarterfinals of the 2021 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur at Berkeley Hall Club. (Jeff Haynes/USGA)

PAMELA KUONG

>>WOMEN’S SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 915 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)

Pam Kuong earned Low Senior honors at five different points-eligible events during the 2021 season. (David Colt)

In only its second year of existence, the Mass Golf Women’s Senior Player of the Year award is staying with Pamela Kuong.

Once again, Kuong’s strong performance in USGA Qualifiers and placing low among seniors in championship events, helped her stay in contention to defend the award. However, a fourth-place finish in the Women’s Eastern Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship boosted her above the rest of the field.

“It’s an honor to win any award, but especially rewarding to win a player of the year award given the extent of talent amongst the Massachusetts Women golfers,” Kuong said.

Kuong’s ability to get up and down from tricky spots was a common pattern throughout the year. Avoiding big numbers helped her finish as low senior in the New England Women’s Amateur Championship (T10 overall), the Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy (T7 overall), the Massachusetts Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship (3rd overall), and the Ouimet Memorial Tournament (6th overall).

Kuong also made a pair of national appearances as she was co-medalist in the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Qualifier at Bayberry Hills Golf Course, and also made it to the Round of 32 at the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur at The Lakewood Club in Alabama.

Kuong also credited several individuals for her success this season, including the Mass Golf Staff and Volunteers.

“I also want to acknowledge my colleagues at Bank of America, my caddy/work colleague, Peter McCarthy, and the membership at Charles River CC for their undivided support and encouragement,” Kuong said. “My teacher, Shawn Hester, has continued to elevate my game in all aspects and motivates me to seek higher goals.” 

Pam Kuong gets a read from her caddie during the final round of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament at Woodland Golf Club. (David Colt)

KEITH SMITH

>>GEORGE M. COHEN SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 745 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)

Keith Smith won two Mass Golf events this year and helped lead Team Mass Golf at the Tri-State Matches at Cape Cod National. (David Colt)

Keith Smith has carried some quiet confidence since joining the Mass Golf senior ranks about a decade ago. In 2021, that confidence yielded more than just good finishes, it resulted in his best season yet.

Smith, now a 63-year-old Franklin native, won his record-tying fourth Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship and made a solid run on the national stage en route to capturing Mass Golf’s George M. Cohen Senior Player of the Year Award for the first time.

“It’s really an honor and something you can never assume you’re going to accomplish,” Smith said. “There’s no shortage of talented seniors [in Massachusetts], and it’s tough to compile enough points to beat those guys.”

There were several signs this would be Smith’s year, starting with the last hole of the Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball Championship where he chipped in for birdie on the 18th at Foxborough CC to clinch the title with Steve Tasho. In the summer, Smith finished runner-up behind Tasho in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament.

A week later, Smith was co-medalist in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship Qualifier at Marshfield Country Club and earned his second-ever trip to the Championship Proper. At the Country Club of Detroit, Smith advanced to the Round of 32 in match play, and though he didn’t advance further, he said it was his favorite event of the season.

Before the U.S. Senior Amateur, Smith said, he was struggling with his driver tempo. But once he was able to find his rhythm and trajectory, he hit more fairways and had more short irons into greens.

“At that time I felt comfortable with my game, and the competitiveness at Mass Golf and USGA events is top-notch, which makes it enjoyable,” Smith said.

But as is the norm most years, the Senior Amateur championship was a key factor in who would be this year’s Senior Player of the Year. Smith shot 2-under 70 in the first round at Pocasset Golf Club, and in the final round held off a late charge from Hall of Famer Frank Vana, Jr. to win the title by one stroke.

Keith Smith won his fourth Massachusetts Senior Amateur title en route to earning his first Senior Player of the Year Award. (David Colt)

molly smith

>>GIRLS’ JUNIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 971 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)

Molly Smith hits a tee shot during the New England Women’s Amateur Championship at Agawam Hunt (RI). (RIGA)

Molly Smith took a big leap forward in 2021. The young phenom had established herself as a long hitter off the tee, but this year she emerged as more of an all-around golfer and was rewarded with a bevy of accolades.

Smith, 16, who was the token Massachusetts representative in this year’s U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship, became the second-ever winner of the Mass Golf Girls’ Junior Player of Year Award. Smith also finished third in the Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year race.

“It was a goal I set for myself back in the spring, so it definitely feels really good to achieve it,” Smith said. “It kind of proves that all the hard work I put into golf is paying off and it shows improvement from years past.

The Smith family is full of successful golfers, so it was only fitting that her season began by winning the Massachusetts Mixed Four-Ball Championship for the Stone Cup with her father, Phil Smith, at Twin Hills Country Club. As the year progressed, Molly and her sister Morgan Smith (2nd place in Girls’ POY standings) also qualified for the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur together for the first time.

Smith concluded June with a runner-up finish in the Massachusetts Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy and a top-five finish in the New England Women’s Amateur (low junior) before really turning on the jets. On her way back from the US Girls’ Junior Amateur, Smith fired a 1-under 71 in New Jersey to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Westchester Country Club.

“It’s such a privilege to be able to go to venues like Westchester Country Club and compete against the best players in the world,” Smith said. “It really opens your eyes to where your game stands currently and where your game needs to go to compete at that level. It was definitely a great learning experience and I hope to be back in future years.”

Smith carried that momentum back to the Bay State where she won the Ouimet Memorial Tournament by a commanding 10 strokes. In the second round at Charles River Country Club, Smith shot a 6-under 68 with a 31 on the back nine that began with a stretch of eagle-birdie-birdie.

“It was definitely a top-2 round of the year,” Smith said of the Ouimet Tournament. “Then at Woodland, I just played very solid all day.

After cruising into match play for the third straight year in the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur, Smith made an incredible run that included wins over senior standout Pamela Kuong and Boston University junior Alice Fan. She then scored her biggest victory by knocking off No. 1 seed Rebecca Skoler, as Smith aced the par-3 10th en route to a 2-up victory. Though Smith’s run ended at the hands of Shannon Johnson in the semifinals, it still was a great run for the young standout who oozes potential moving forward.

“The one person who really helped me progress this year is my dad, Phil,” Smith said. “He knows a lot about golf and for the most part knows how I can improve my golf game. He is willing to bring a bag chair to the range and watch me hit balls for hours and help me to grow my arsenal of shots that I can hit. He also caddied for me in a lot of events over the summer. I would also say my competitors helped me progress as well. I am not satisfied with going to events and just playing and not having a chance to win so that kind of motivates me to keep improving so I can give myself more opportunities to win tournaments.”

Molly Smith holds up the trophy after a commanding 10-stroke victory in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament. (David Colt)

WESTON JONES

>>CHRISTOPHER CUTLER RICH JUNIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 740 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)

Weston Jones represented Mass Golf in the U.S. Amateur in his final year as a junior golfer. (David Colt)

Weston Jones entered the year as the No. 1 overall signee for the Class of 2021 in Massachusetts, but he backed it up with strong, consistent performances during the spring and summer.

Currently a first-year for the Rutgers University men’s golf team, Jones capped his final year of junior golf by earning Mass Golf’s Christopher Cutler Rich Junior Player of the Year for the first time. 

“I was happy to get the award, it was one of my goals at the beginning of the year,” Jones said. “I was able to get into good events this year, and that was my motivation: playing in better fields. It was nice that everything paid off.”

Jones began the year with a Challenge Cup victory at The Ridge Club, followed by winning the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship with last year’s Junior Player of the Year John Broderick. The two became the youngest winners in the history of the Mass Four-Ball as birdies from Jones on holes 14 and 15 helped carry the pair to a two-stroke victory.

In a year where he earned two invitations to compete at the heralded Pinehurst Resort, Jones was also stellar in USGA Qualifying events. Jones made it to U.S. Open Final Qualifying after shooting a 71 at Eastward Ho! He later made his USGA Championship debut in the U.S. Junior Amateur at Pinehurst, and he later shot a 68 in qualifying at Pinehills to earn a spot in the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club, which he said is likely the most difficult course he’s played.

Still, Jones said his experiences back home helped him prepare for national events and how to handle the rigors of college golf.

I love being part of the Mass Golf family,” Jones said. “The way they have accepted me and have given me the comfort of being with better players, it gave me a lot of confidence heading into school.” 

Back home in Massachusetts, Jones had stellar performances in both the state Amateur and Junior Amateur. Jones made the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year in the Massachusetts Amateur at Brae Burn. In the Junior Amateur at Indian Pond Country Club, he shot a second-round 67 to finish second in stroke play, advancing to the semifinals.

Jones cited the positivity of membership from Charter Oak Country Club and working with Coach Kevin Duffy in the offseason as factors that led to his success this year.

Weston Jones is currently in his first year for the Rutgers University men’s golf team. (David Colt)

MEGAN BUCK

>>WOMEN’S MID-AMATEUR AWARD

Megan Buck has been among the best stroke-play competitors in Massachusetts in recent years. With strong performances in such events this season, she’s taking home a Mass Golf yearly award for the first time.

Buck earned the Women’s Mid-Amateur Award, given to the female competitor (age of 25 & over) who scores the lowest combined gross score in two events: the stroke-play qualifying round of the Women’s Amateur Championship (36-holes) and the Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup (36-holes).

“We are lucky to have so many strong players here in Massachusetts, so to be honored as one of the players of the year means a lot,” Buck said. “From last season I improved my accuracy off the tee. I built confidence as the year went on, and felt like I could safely get the ball in play, and then I can always rely on my iron play.”

Buck shot 71-74–145 to finish third in stroke play qualifying in the Women’s Amateur at Plymouth Country Club. Next month, she shot 71-77–148 to finish runner-up in the Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup (36-holes).

“The Women’s Amateur is always my favorite event of the year,” Buck said. “It is such a well-run event at the top courses in the state. It is always fun to see the high level of competition and camaraderie. It is always the strongest field and it’s cool to see how ladies stick around to cheer on friends.”

Though it didn’t count toward this award, Buck made four consecutive birdies on the front nine to help her and Shannon Johnson win the Massachusetts Women’s Four-Ball Championship for the Townshend Cup. However, it did help Buck finish 2nd in the race for the Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year.

Buck and Johnson both finished T4 in the Amateur Golf Alliance Women’s Amateur Championship as well.


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