Senior Amateur Championship: 3-Time Champ Keith Smith Leads Field - MASSGOLF

Keith Smith Holds 1-stroke lead At Pocasset; round 1 suspended due to weather

For Immediate Release: September 28, 2020

BOURNE, Massachusetts – Keith Smith (Franklin Country Club) sank a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole Tuesday to finish as the leader of the clubhouse at 2-under-par 70 in the first round of the 61st Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship at Pocasset Golf Club (par-72, 6,281-yards).

With clouds rolling in, Smith and his group played deliberately to finish their rounds before the weather horn sounded. Fortunately for them, the 60 players in the morning wave finished their rounds, while the remaining half of the field was still on the course. The first round was officially suspended at 2:29 p.m. due to a dangerous weather condition (thunderstorms). Round 1 will resume at 8 a.m. Wednesday, with the low 40 and ties advancing to the second round, beginning at 12:15 p.m.

Pocasset Golf Club, a Donald Ross layout established in 1916, is hosting the Mass Senior Amateur for the first time since 1989.

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Keith Smith is trying to win the Mass Senior Amateur Championship for the fourth time. (Mass Golf)

Smith, 63, is putting together one of his best seasons to date so far. The three-time Mass Senior Amateur champion (2013, 2016, 2017), won the Mass Senior Four-Ball with Steve Tasho (Thorny Lea Golf Club) back in June and last month made it to the Round of 32 at the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at The Country Club of Detroit.

“About halfway through the season I finally found my tempo, and you know it still comes and goes, but most of the time it’s with me,” Smith said. “At the beginning of the year, it was a bit more of a challenge, but ever since I found my tempo I’ve been able to strike it a little bit better, and that gives you confidence.”

Smith has played Pocasset before and had a good read on the quick greens all day, making four birdies total.

“I made three, 12-footers in a row, a couple for par and one for birdie, that really kept me going,” said Smith, who had an up-and-down birdie on the 9th and a fortuitous bounce on the par-3 15th to set up a birdie. “Anytime you’re around even-par in this championship, you know you’re going to be right in the thick of it, and so glad to get off to a good start.”

If Smith holds his lead, he’ll join Ed Fletcher as the only other player to win the Senior Amateur four times. However, he’s also trying to win the George M. Cohen Mass Golf Senior Player of the Year for the first time. He’ll try to unseat Frank Vana, Jr (Marlborough Country Club), who has won the award the past four years.

Smith’s group Tuesday included points leader John McNeill (Amateur Golf Tour of New England), who won the New England Senior Amateur two weeks ago in Vermont. McNeill has 551 points, edging out Smith (445) and Tasho (335). The Senior Amateur winner gets 300 points, 2nd place 200, third 150, fourth 100, and fifth 50.

“I don’t know if anybody will catch John, I’ll probably have to win the thing to do it,” Smith said. “But that’s an honor that anybody would be happy to have so it’ll give me something to shoot for tomorrow.”

Vana also finds himself in the hunt after shooting a 1-under 71 in the opening round. Vana got up and down for a birdie on the opening hole and added birdies on the 8th, 12th, and 16th. He also had close bids on the 9th and 17th that he just pushed past the hole.

“I was in pretty good shape, and I felt like I was hitting solid putts today, and sometimes they don’t go in,” Vana said.

Vana has yet to win a point-eligible event this year, but if he captures the title this week, it could springboard the Hall of Famer into his fifth straight Senior Player of the Year Award.

“A lot of guys playing well, which is great,” Vana said. “It’s better for golf that all these guys playing well. The winner here is going to be in good shape. If it’s John, he’s going to be way ahead, but if it’s not John, and it’s one of these other guys, then it’s gonna be interesting.”

Of players who have finished Round 1, John Hadges (Thorny Lea Golf Club) and Mark Lemons (Cyprian Keyes) are in the hunt at even par. Ronald Laverdiere (Crumpin-Fox Club) currently sits at 2-under through 7, while Todd Ezold (Twin Hills Country Club), David Pierce (Thorny Lea Golf Club), and Michael Mertes (Crumpin-Fox Club) are 1-under through 8, 7, and 6 holes, respectively.

Frank Vana, Jr. made four birdies en route to a 1-under-par 71 at Pocasset Golf Club. (Mass Golf)

FROM THE BIG SCREEN TO THE LINKS

An actor from an Academy Award winning film was in the field Tuesday at Pocasset Golf Club. Sturbridge native Gary Galonek (screen name Gary Galone) played the role of a BC High spokesman Jack Dunn in the film Spotlight, which won Best Picture at the 2016 Oscars.

Galonek, 57, a 30-year member of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has held minor roles in some of the most iconic Boston-based films in the past decade, including The Town, Black Mass, and a new film called CODA, set in Gloucester.

“Anytime I saw more than two words, the pay goes up,” Galonek said. “Background, which I don’t do anymore, is a couple hundred bucks a day, and if you speak, whether it’s two lines or 20, you’re getting a Screen Actors Guild scale, which is pretty good.”

Gary Galonek had a speaking role in the film Spotlight, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016.

A member of Pleasant Valley Country Club, Galonek has followed amateur golf for decades and in recent years has gotten his golf game in decent shape. The Senior Amateur is the first Mass Golf Championship that he’s qualified for, as he shot an 83 in the opening round. Galonek finished T34 with his brother Brian in the Senior Four-Ball earlier this year.

“My only goal was to literally not embarrass ourselves and don’t come in last,” Galonek said with a chuckle.

As a kid, Galonek envisioned going into sports broadcasting and attended UMass Amherst with a major in marketing and a minor in communications. A father at 24, Galonek worked for a company NC Basin in Boston but would sneak away to auditions.

One of his first roles (uncredited) actually involved golf in the movie The Company Man starring Ben Affleck, which Galonek calls one of the funniest filming days of his career.

“He couldn’t even make contact with the ball,” Galonek said. “The coach from Boston College was there to help him, but he was so far from where we were filming, so I said, ‘Ben you’re not chopping wood. Drag the club away a little bit.’ He hit it and picked the tee, then he choked the driver like he’s holding a torch, and he finally goes, “Thank God one of you people was smart enough to cast Gary, none of you even know what the hell you’re doing.’ They don’t use that in the actual movie, but I got to see the outtake.”

Galonek recently traveled to Oklahoma to film ‘God’s Not Dead: We the People’, the fourth installment of a series. On top of filming and golf, he also records audiobooks from his home studio.

But the next time you see a Boston-based film, make sure to look out for Galonek.

ABOUT POCASSET GOLF CLUB

The lush green fairways, rolling terrain, and cool sea breezes make Pocasset Golf Club an ideal location for golf on Cape Cod. Located 3 miles south of the Bourne Bridge, the club was established in 1916, with the first nine holes open for play in 1917. Around that time, Donald Ross was retained to oversee the layout of the full 18-hole course. In 1924, many experts referred to it as the “best course on Cape Cod.”

A view overlooking the 9th green at Pocasset Golf Club. (Mass Golf)

Originally built on old farmland, the course has been renovated and shifted several times since its founding. It used to stretch west of the railroad tracks across Shore Road toward Hen Cove. By eliminating and combining some holes, including 2 and 3, the course is now entirely east of the railroad tracks and Shore Road.

Since becoming a private club in 1989, membership has financed several improvements including a driving range and bunkers on the left of the 18th fairway (1989), a new irrigation system (2000), new pro shop (2006).

In recent years, Donald Ross specialist Ron Forse has overseen constant renovations, including the fairway bunker on the 4th that provides a sightline for the uphill approach to the green. Now stretching to a 6,542-yard, par-72, the club has hosted several Mass Golf events in the past 40 years, including the 1989 Mass Senior Amateur, the 2011 Mass Mid-Amateur, and the 2019 Women’s Stroke Play Championship for the Baker Trophy (won by Pocasset member Hannah Ghelfi). Several qualifiers and Member Days have also been held at Pocasset.

“The board is very on board with having events here like this,” said Stephen Molis, an 18-time Pocasset club champion and a member of the Greens Committee who shot 8-over 80 on Tuesday. “It usually provides a pretty difficult test, especially when it’s windy like it was for a while. I’m most proud of the way the course has matured and how we’ve developed it and made it into a first-class operation. That’s why I’m more proud of that than any club championship.”

FOLLOW ALONG

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