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Hyde Park, Massachusetts – Somehow, the grand Norman-style clubhouse at George Wright Golf Course looked even statelier on a grey, drizzly day in August. Players trudged up from the parking lot at the foot of the hill and through the arched doorways, bearing the weight of clubs and aspirations for a slot in this year’s U.S. Mid-Amateur and U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championships.
On most summer afternoons, George Wright is abuzz, if not frenetic; tee sheet stuffed to the gills with golfers more than willing to pay the modest greens fees for a crack at this radical Donald Ross gem. Today, the atmosphere was muffled due to a lingering light rain, a small field, and a course devoid of motorized carts.
Now and again, the glass door of the Wright Grill peeled open, betraying the quiet, as the sound of players boisterously recounting the highs and lows of their rounds echoed out into the vaulted ballroom. Two competitors on the men’s side had clinched their spots early with scores of -2, while four at -1 awaited a playoff for the final spot at Sleepy Hollow. Meanwhile, the women’s field began their own preparation around the putting green, umbrellas sprung open to shield bags.
MORNING PLAY: U.S. MID-AMATEUR QUALIFYING
Sean Fitzpatrick is no stranger around George Wright. He has called it his home club for over twenty years, as evidenced by the wooden Club Championship and Junior Club Championship plaques on the walls, upon which his name was neatly printed in sharpie more than a few times.
So was there any extra pressure on the local fixture? “I want to say no, but you know, it’s always there in the back of your head. You know, just step on the first tee, a first hole I’ve played a million times, my expectations were probably a little bit higher, but once I got out there I was able to just clear my head, just focus on what I was doing in front of me,” said Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick got off to a shaky start with a double bogey on the 2nd hole, but he was able to right the ship and play -4 the rest of the way, tying for medalist honors with a -2 total of 68. “I made a double on two with a bad tee shot, but I didn’t let it bother me, knowing my comfort level on this golf course. I knew there were going to be plenty of opportunities to make that up.”
Fitzpatrick shared co-medalist honors with Ryan Brown (Cape Cod National Golf Club). It was Brown’s first time playing George Wright, which can be a daunting task given the number of blind shots, but he was able to get by with a little help from his friends, “First time ever playing here, so I didn’t know what to expect. I got some notes from friends, but hit it really well off the tee and I was hitting good iron and wedge shots.”
Brown survived a double bogey on the short par-4 16th, keeping an otherwise clean card, which included four birdies. “Qualifying golf, you just need to make pars and trickle in some birdies. I was watching the leaderboard towards the back nine and knew what I had to do and I made some putts at the end that counted.”
Four players shot one-under 69, necessitating a playoff for the remaining qualifying spot, as well as two alternate slots. The shortish par-4 1st hole is about as straight forward as it gets at George Wright, setting the stage for a player to step-up and seize the final spot with a birdie. Christian Jensen (Wedgewood Pines Country Club) did just that.
A drive deep down the left side in the rough gave him just a half-wedge to the green. All three of his competitors played before him and none were able to put it particularly close. Jensen saw the window and knocked his approach to about three feet, which he finished off to snatch up the final spot.
Asked about his mindset entering the playoff, Jensen said, “Honestly, make birdie. I’ve been in a couple playoffs, not in this type of pressure, but I haven’t come through. And so you’ve got to know that you have to give yourself a look at birdie and see what happens. Luckily I’ve been working on my wedges the last couple weeks here, and just stuck one in there to like three feet and made it easy.”
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AFTERNOON PLAY: U.S. WOMEN’S MID-AMATEUR QUALIFYING
Nine-time Mass Golf Women’s Player of the Year Tara Joy-Connelly (Bay Club) took home medalist honors, shooting even par 72. She made three birdies and one bogey on the front nine to go out in 34, then bogeyed 15 and 17 on the way in.
Joy-Connely has been a mainstay at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, advancing to match play every year between 2006 and 2018, and most recently a notching a final 16 appearance in 2021. Her best finish was a trip to the semi-finals in 2014.
Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club) made it through qualifying despite a triple bogey on the par-5 15th. Six-over 78 was good enough to claim one of five qualifying spots and guarantee Buck a fifth consecutive appearance at the championship. Buck advanced to match play at the 2022 U.S. Women’s Mid-Am, before going down in the round of 64. In 2021 she made it to the final 32 and the quarterfinals in 2019.
Tracy Martin (Vesper Country Club) nabbed the final spot with a +7 79. She’ll look to build on a final 32 appearance at last year’s championship. “It was a grind,” Tracy said, “I think that was the whole day. Started off a little rough and rocky…swing wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be today, but ended up being good enough. So definitely a relief.”
Also qualifying were Shirley Vaughn of Pinehurst, North Carolina, with a round of +4 76, and Jessica Shapiro of Lake Worth Beach, FL, who shot +5 77.
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U.S. MID-AMATEUR QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Sean Fitzpatrick (Walpole, MA); (-2) 68
Ryan Brown (Boston, MA); (-2) 68
Christian Jensen (Wakefield, MA); (-1) 69*
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Ernest Mcalister (Milton, MA); (-1) 69
Jonathan Hill (Boston, MA); (-1) 69
*Advanced with a birdie on the first playoff hole
U.S. WOMEN’S MID-AMATEUR QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Tara Joy-Connelly (Middleborough, MA); (E) 72
Shirley Vaughn (Pinehurst, NC); (+4) 76
Jessica Shapiro (Lake Worth Beach, FL); (+5) 77
Megan Buck (North Easton, MA); (+6) 78
Tracy Martin (Wakefield, MA); (+7) 79
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Mary Chamberlain (Dennis, MA); (+8) 80
Jacqueline Gonzalez (Boston, MA); (+8) 80
The 2023 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship will take place September 9-14 at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, New York. The original nine holes were designed by Charles Blair Macdonald, before AW Tillinghast contributed 18 more holes in the ’20s. Stroke play will be co-hosted by Fenway Golf Club in Scarsdale, NY. The championship is open to any amateur golfer who has reached their 25th birthday as of Sept. 9 and whose Handicap Index does not exceed 3.4. Todays players join several Massachusetts players who have already made it through qualifying at other sites: Matthew Cowgill (Granite Links), Antonio Grillo (Farm Neck Golf Club), Kurt Flionis (Old Sandwich Golf Club) and Conor O’Brien (Thorny Lea Golf Club). 2021 semi-finalist Nick Maccario (GreatHorse) and 2017 champion Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club) earned exemptions.
The 2023 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship will take place September 9-14 at Stonewall (North Course) in Elverson, Pennsylvania, a Tom Doak designed course. The championship is open to any female golfer who has reached her 25th birthday by September 9 and whose Handicap Index does not exceed 9.4. 2018 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club) is exempt into the field.
George Wright ranks among the best municipal golf courses in the country. The course was designed by legendary architect Donald Ross and opened in 1938. Upon surveying the land, Ross reportedly said, “You would need one of two things to build a suitable course on this property. Either a million dollars or an earthquake.” Though there was no earthquake, the course’s construction was carried out by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration–a job producing endeavor that was part of the Second New Deal.
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