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WALPOLE | FOXBORO, Massachusetts – Through Round 1 of the 24th Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball Championship, the race to the top of the leaderboard is a tight one. Two teams share the lead with scores of 4-under-par. At Walpole Country Club, Tai Lee (Granite Links Golf Club) and Jim Bandera (Plymouth Country Club) shot a 4-under-par-67. In Foxborough, Ray Richard (Willowbend Club) and John Hadges (Thorny Lea Golf Club) grabbed their share of the lead shooting, 4-under-par-68.
In the Super Senior Division, representing players aged 65 and older, Carter Fasick (Westborough Golf Club) and Jon Fasick (New England Country Club) led the scoring at 3-under-par-68. That mark also tied the pair for third overall. The Fasicks have won the Super Senior Division the past two times (2018 and 2019) and also won the Senior Four-Ball title outright in 2018.
For Lee and Bandera, their success was a result of constantly picking each other up throughout their round. It took some time, but the team got in a rhythm midway through as birdies on holes 10, 12, 13 and 15 were key towards grabbing a share of the lead.
“We ham-and-egged pretty good,” Lee said. “When I was out of the hole, Jim picked me up. When he was out of the hole, I made a few birdies, which was a huge help.”
Perhaps more impressive than the actual performance on the course was that this is the first time Lee and Bandera competed together. Lee turned 55 last July, the minimum age for senior competition, and he met Bandera at his first senior qualifier event. “He and I both played like dogs,” Lee recalled with a laugh. “But we kind of hit it off, he plays fast, so do I, and we just kind of got along. He came up and said, let’s go, so I said sure, why not.”
Despite the heavy amount of rain over the weekend, the course was in sharp condition for play, which allowed Lee and Bandera to take full advantage. As they shift to Foxborough for Round 2, Lee will be relying on advice from Bandera, who has played the course previously. “He tells me it’s kind of the same type of golf course,” Lee said. “You have to kind of move the ball around, not hit too many drivers off the tee. You know in any of these tournaments, whoever makes the most putts wins, right.”
With a successful Round 1 in the books, the two are just focused on keeping things going in round two and not looking towards end results. “We’re just going to play our own game like today,” Lee said. “Jim is really, really steady, so maybe I can help him with some birdies tomorrow.”
After the cancellation of Senior Four-Ball in 2020, this year provided an opportunity for several past winners to compete once again. The 2019 defending champion duo of Joe Walker (Dennis Pines Golf Club) and Kevin Carey (Dennis Pines Golf Club) finished the day 3-under-par-68. The pair totaled four pars to keep themselves in a competitive position heading into the final round.
“The course was wonderful,” Walker said. “It was very fit for play, very fair. We played it blind, unfortunately, so there are a couple of quieting tee shots where you can’t see where the ball is going to land, but I play conservatively anyway.”
While the pair is not sitting a top the leaderboard, they remain well within striking distance which is all they hoped to achieve after Day 1. “We put ourselves in contention,” said Carey, who has won this event twice with Ray Richard. “That’s the name of the game. You can’t win at the first day, but you can lose, so that’s the way I look at it.”
“People always thinks the scores are going to be much lower than they are,” Walker added. “It gets exponentially more difficult, especially on a strange golf course, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow. Maybe we’ll have one of those days where we shoot six-under-par and manage to wiggle out a victory. Just like two years ago.”
At the conclusion of the previous season, Walpole Country Club began the next phase of its “master plan” to improve the golf course. Over the winter, nine new bunkers were added, and many trees were taken down.
As you’ll see in this video, bunkers on holes 1, 2, and 14, in particular, have bunkers that will enhance the risk/reward element during the competition.
Tom Giffin is the Head Golf Professional at Walpole Country Club, and the changes to the course have been a welcome sight for him to see. “It is incredible, the difference in how much more visually interesting the golf course is,” he said. “Everything is so much more defined and everything is so much more distinctive.
In particular, Giffin has appreciated the drastic changes made to the second hole, where several trees were cut down in favor of bunkers. “The second hole especially is so dramatic. I feel like from the tee box now, that hole looks like a hole from a destination golf course,” Giffin said. “It’s just really a neat look and again, super distinctive. I can’t really think of a hole in New England I’ve seen that looks anything like it.”
Part of the appeal for members of Walpole Country Club with these new changes is bunker consistency. Giffin described that while the nine new bunkers added to the course all look different and distinctive, each one holds the same consistency in terms of sand depth, firmness and how the ball plays out of them.
“Everybody’s loving the course,” he said. “We’ve had and probably will continue to see an increase in the number of guest rounds that we get because everybody can’t wait to have their friends coming to see the place now that these changes have taken place.”
Daniel Murphy (Walpole Country Club) has been a member for 22 years and agreed that the changes brought on through the renovation were in the best interest of the course. “I like the changes,” he said. “I like the bunkers, I think they’re more playable, I think they’ve made for some harder shots. I think the overall playability of the course is much better, I think the holes look a lot better now and it does add some more challenges to the course. Overall, I’m happy with the renovations.”
Murphy partnered with Tom Alighieri (Walpole Country Club), whose been a member for 33 years and he too has been impressed with what the changes did for the course. “Aesthetically, the course looks fantastic,” Alighieri said. “It’s actually great seeing the consistent sand. What we had prior to that, every bunker looked different.”
The first group of the day to tee off at Walpole Country Club included Lee Boykin (Green Hill Muni Golf Course) and Mike Lemerise (Cyprian Keyes G C) who shot a 7-over-par-78. The early tee time was intentional, as the pair needed to finish up their round and get back over to Worcester ahead of the Worcester Red Sox game at 6:35 p.m. The WooSox are the Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, and they play their games inside the newly constructed Polar Park, where Boykin serves as the Director of Security and Lemerise is a Security Supervisor.
Boykin, a retired police officer who spent 26 years on the force in Worcester, did not intend to get into the security role upon retiring last July. “I was just chilling out and my ex-Chief of Police Officer put my name in for the position,” Boykin said. “Next thing you know, Charles Steinberg, the President of the Club, is calling me and I’m working.”
Boykin took the position, and his longtime friend Lemerise works on the weekends, outside of his job with UPS.
“Everybody loves it. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened,” Lemerise said of the WooSox development. “Friday nights we have fireworks there. Saturday’s there is catch after dark, a sunset catch with kids, and then Sunday they have the little kids walk around the track, and then they get to run the bases. It’s good for the kids.”
Still, the pair found time to get out for Senior Four-Ball Championship play. The event was the first-ever Mass Golf event that Boykin has participated in. Lemerise estimated that he has played in upwards of 20 Mass Golf events. “I liked it. I wish I had played a little bit better, but it was fun,” Boykin said of the event. The two will tee off Tuesday in Foxoborough before once again heading back to Worcester for first pitch at 6:35 p.m.
Both courses hosting the Senior Four-Ball have a rich history that make them ideal host sites for the 24th annual playing of the event.
Walpole Country Club is the older of the two courses that was originally founded in 1927. Al Zikorus, a well-known golf course architect, designed Walpole’s current course in 1974. By 1994, Walpole had retained architect Ron Forse to help continue with the development of course master plans. The course itself, plus a fully accomodated and well kept clubhouse makes Walpole a desirable site for tournaments and other events of the same nature.
Foxboro Country Club had its incorporation papers signed on July 18, 1955. Claude Young was the Clubs first President and he, along with his crew nicknamed the “Rock Pickers”, did much of the original work to construct the courses original nine holes. By 1971, the course had a full 18-holes built and ready for play.
Over the years, Foxboro has been home to many major events and the course has received numerous distinctions, including: 2018 Mass Amateur Championship Qualifying Site; 2016 U.S. Girls’ Junior Sectional Qualifying Site; 2015 U.S. Women’s Amateur Four Ball Qualifying Site; 2012 will begin their day on hole 1 of Walpole Country Club at 1:36 p.m. The Fasicks will be in Foxborough on Hole 10 at 12:52 p.m. Senior Amateur Qualifying Site; 2010 Mass Junior Amateur Championship – Host Site; 2009 Mass Amateur Championship Qualifying Site; 2002 Travel & Leisure List of Best Places to Play in MA; 1998 Golf Digest “Best Places to Play” (4 stars).
For Round 2, the players will flip courses to the remaining one in which they have not played. Play will begin tomorrow at 8 a.m. on both courses. Current leaders Lee and Bandera will tee off at 1:03 p.m. on the 10th hole at Foxborough Country Club. Richard and Hadges, who also share the lead at 4-under-par,
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