- Golfer Benefits
HAMPDEN, Massachusetts — Carson Erick (Boston Golf Club) didn’t have much match play experience entering the week, in fact, he said he’d played only one round of competitive match play, and it was three years ago–you wouldn’t know it from watching him.
Erick leaned on a methodical approach and unwavering short game to take down the 2023 Mass Amateur Champion on his home course, then defeat a 2023 Mass Am Quarterfinalist to win the 105th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Powered By KOHR Golf and hoist the Charles E. Mason Trophy.
Erick was relentlessly consistent in his morning semi-final match, shooting a bogey-free 69. He didn’t take the lead against Ryan Downes (GreatHorse) until the 17th hole, when he poured in a birdie putt to go 1 up with one to play.
He knew it would take near perfect golf to defeat the stroke play medalist Downes: “Coming into today, I knew that this first matchup was going to be one of the hardest matches I think I’ll have in awhile. Ryan has had an incredible summer and I mean, he was playing great. I just tried to keep it as clean as I could and not let many bogies let me lose holes. I was fine if I lost a hole with a birdie, because I mean, he made a million of them.”
CJ Winchenbaugh (Oyster Harbors Club) has had a successful summer in his own right. He entered the final round hot after a 3&2 victory over Matthew Costello (Segregansett Country Club), which he closed out with two consecutive birdies.
Winchenbaugh got off to a slow start in the afternoon match, bogeying each of the first three holes to face an early two-down deficit. However, he birdied the par-4 5th, then won holes 6 and 9 with pars to take a 1 up lead at the turn. The players halved each of the next four holes, before Erick made the putt that would prove to be the turning point of the match.
A wayward drive off the tee on the par-5 14th forced Erick to lay up well short of Winchenbaugh’s third shot. With the flag tucked in the back right behind a minefield of fescue laced bunkers, he played conservatively to the front of the green, around 40 feet from the hole. Winchenbaugh hit his approach to the fringe, 15 feet from the hole.
Erick proceeded to knock his putt in and ever-so-briefly betray the stoic demeanor he held throughout the day, jabbing an abbreviated fist pump and emitting a stifled grunt of excitement. Winchenbaugh missed, squaring the match.
The par-3 15th played under 100 yards, but freshening wind and a tricky pin placement on the rolling ribbon of a green bedeviled both players from the tee. Erick flew into a back bunker, while Winchenbaugh found one in front. “Usually when I’m thinking about my approach shot, I’m trying to miss in the best spot possible, where I’m not going to have too hard of an up-and-down. I’m not getting short-sided. I know on 15 I definitely did not do that,” said Erick.
No matter. With the green running away from him, Erick played first and played brilliantly, judging the pace and break to perfection. He holed it for a two, seizing the lead.
The shots on 14 and 15 were undoubtedly the difference. Winchenbaugh kept an even perspective on the outcome after the round, “He made a long putt on 14 and he had that hole-out on 15 and as much as it sucks losing like that, my mindset was kind of, what are you gonna do? I mean there’s nothing I can do about like a 40 footer and a hole-out.”
The final three holes were not without intrigue. On 16, Erick missed a three foot par putt that would have put him 2 up with two to play. His approach on the 17th flew the green, while Winchenbaugh had about 15 feet for birdie. Erick’s chip checked and rolled out to about 6 feet, which he made to halve the hole after Winchenbaugh just missed his bid at squaring the match.
Needing to win the 18th to extend the match, Winchenbaugh hit the fairway on the difficult par-4, then knocked his approach to 20 feet. Erick’s tee-ball carried through the fairway and into some thick rough. He was unable to advance the ball all the way to the green, again leaning on his short-game and steely nerves. His pitch skipped up the slope, hole high, leaving 8 feet for his par. Winchenbaugh gave his birdie try an aggressive run past the cup, before Erick cooly dropped in his putt to secure the victory.
After the round, Erick seemed genuinely speechless by his accomplishment, “I’m definitely, very excited right now. I mean, that was…I couldn’t dream of anything like this to happen. This is just…I couldn’t even imagine something like this happening.”
It happened. Carson Erick is your 2023 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Champion.
5-Carson Erick def. 1-Ryan Downes, 2 up
Erick played impeccable golf, carding three birdies and no bogies, to take down tournament favorite Downes. Erick birdied the par-5 14th to square the match, then took his first lead of the day on 17th with another birdie. Downes’ drive found the right trees on 18, his second ran through the green into a bunker, and his third went from bunker to bunker. Erick feathered his third from the greenside bunker to a few feet, sealing the upset victory.
7-CJ Winchenbaugh def. 11-Matthew Costello, 3&2
Winchenbaugh and Costello were neck-and-neck through the front nine. Winchenbaugh won the 10th with a par, then a birdie on the 11th put him 2 up. Costello got one back on the 13th with a birdie, but Winchenbaugh knocked it tight on the short par-3 15th for a tap-in birdie, then closed out the match with a conceded birdie putt on 16.
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