Preview: 114th Massachusetts Amateur Championship - MASSGOLF

Mass Amateur Championship Title Up For Grabs At Concord Country Club

CONCORD, Massachusetts – The 114th Massachusetts Amateur is returning to one of the founding member clubs of Mass Golf. Concord Country Club, the historic course designed in two visits by Donald Ross, will host the Mass Amateur for the third time in its history from July 11-15, featuring 144 of the state’s best amateur golfers.

The competition begins with a 36-hole stroke play qualifier to determine the 32 match play spots available. Any ties for the final spot(s) will be broken by a sudden-death playoff at the conclusion of play on July 12. Last year at Brae Burn, there was a 10-for-7 playoff to determine the final spots, and it carried into the third day of competition.

First and second round matches will take place July 13, followed by the quarterfinals and semifinals on July 14. The competition will conclude with a 36-hole championship match July 15. The winner earns the Massachusetts Cup, while the 32 match play qualifiers earn merchandise certificates. The medalist(s) during the stroke play portion earns the Harry B. McCracken, Jr. Medal.

Live Scoring will be available during all rounds.

“The club is very excited to host,” said David Poplyk, the head golf professional at Concord for the past 22 years. “What I’d tell the players is the course is in amazing shape, and my recommendation is stay below the hole.”

Spectators are encouraged to attend, and admission throughout the event is FREE OF CHARGE. Food and beverages will be available in the pool house behind the 9th green from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Cash only. Restrooms are also available in the clubhouse and at any of the on-course restrooms.

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THE COURSE

The original Concord Golf Club was founded in 1895 and in 1900 became one of the four founding clubs of the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts, which merged with the Massachusetts Golf Association to form Mass Golf in 2018. The club later moved across town to its current site on the former Brown Farm, with a barn that was built in the 1850s still serving as the clubhouse.

In 1913, legendary architect Donald Ross was hired to build the original nine holes (current day 1, 8, 9 and 13-18) on the Brown Farm, and those holes are some of the flatter ones on the course. The course opened on July 4, 1914, and in subsequent years Ross returned occasionally to enhance the course, including bunkers. In 1928, Ross returned to build nine more holes on much more rolling and rugged terrain. Those holes opened in 1930.

Richard D. Haskell, the former Massachusetts Golf Association Executive Director and 2021 inductee into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame, once said the opening stretch of holes at Concord Country Club tell the story. “It’s a great match play course,” he said.

That message is echoed in the present-day membership at Concord, a true classic New England course that has continued to evolve and challenge the best players in the area.

“You have to be patient when you play Concord, especially holes 2-6, because there aren’t a lot of birdie opportunities,” said Tom Bagley, a longtime Concord member who will serve as the Official In Charge at this year’s championship. “It’s a golf course that tests everything. You have to be able to hit it long and straight off the tee.”

Since 2004, nearly half the holes have been lengthened to adjust for the progressively longer hitters in the game. Among those are holes 2-5 and holes 17 and 18.

“I think Concord is a bit on the short end (about 6,679 yards), but the defense will be that the greens are going to be quick, and it’s tight the first 5-6 holes,” Poplyk said.

Ross once said, “Give the player a chance to warm up a bit and get the swing of his stroke under control. Then give him some nuts to crack.” At Concord, those “nuts to crack” come early and often, as holes 2-5 are four consecutive par-4s all over 420 yards that navigate rolling terrain. The “big-league par-4” 2nd is a slopped dogleg right, and it’s followed by a dogleg left on the third.

The 4th has a wide fairway, but the approach is a carry over a deep 25-30ft gully toward a green perched atop a sand dune. After a sweeping par-4 5th followed by the steep downhill par-3 6th that makes club selection a challenge, the rest of the front nine may seem to ease up on the par-4 7th, only 383 yards with a creek to the right. However, Charlie Volpone, the 1956 Mass Amateur champion once said, “many a player has met disaster here, assuming it was a breeze.” His recommendation is to hit a driver and try to leave a short iron into the green.

Poplyk said the 352 yard,13th, the shortest par-4 on the course, could also play a major factor in match play. If tees are up, it could be drivable, but either way it leaves many options off the tee. Ultimately, the two-tiered green could make or break that hole.

“Length will not challenge the elite, but the green complexes and getting on the right side to make pins will determine who wins and plays well,” said Dr. William Healy, a 30-year member of Concord and current president of the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund.

And he reiterated, “Concord is a fantastic match play course.”

VIEW: SIGNATURE HOLE PREVIEWS IN MASSGOLFER MAGAZINE

As a founding member of Mass Golf, Concord has a long history of hosting championship events. Fittingly, its first championship was the 1953 Women’s Mid-Amateur for the Keyes Cup, which is named after Grace Keyes, a Concord member and one of the WGAM’s founders.

In total, Concord hosted eight different Mass Golf Championships, including the inaugural Mass Four-Ball in 1981.

The club hosted its first Mass Amateur as part of the club’s centennial in 1995. That year, Ed Fletcher, a retired U.S. Air Force sergeant and postmaster from Falmouth, set the record for oldest victor as the 53-year-old bested 22-year-old John Curley in the championship match. In 2007, Burgess Houston won the title over Frank Vana, Jr., and similar to Fletcher made a 5-footer on the 36th hole to win it.

A view from above the 13th tee which intersects the parking lot. (Mass Golf)

THE CHAMPIONSHIP FIELD

Out of over 800 entries accepted, 144 advanced to the Championship Proper, including a handful of exempt players. The 32 players who made match play last year at Brae Burn Country Club are among those who earned full exemptions.

Michael Thorbjornsen (Wellesley Country Club), a Stanford University standout who won last year in his first appearance in the Mass Amateur, is not competing in this year’s state amateur.

John Broderick (Dedham Country & Polo Club) will return to Concord two years after his thrilling victory in the New England Amateur Championship. Broderick, then 16, shot a 5-under 65 in the second round went on to defeat Nick Maccario on the second playoff hole (14th) following the conclusion of the third and final round.

Included in the field are seven past champions, with 2018 winner Patrick Frodigh (Dedham Country & Polo Club) being the most recent champion. Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club), who won the Mass Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2017, is exempt after making it into the final match last year. Other past champions in the field: 2001-Brendan Hester (Pleasant Valley Country Club); 2009-Bill Drohen (Brookmeadow Country Club), 2008&2010-John Hadges (Thorny Lea Golf Club); 2014-John Kelly (Twin Hills Country Club); and 2015-Nick McLaughlin (Far Corner Golf Club).

Matt Parziale reads a putt during the championship match of last year’s Mass Amateur Championship at Brae Burn Country Club. Parziale will look to make another deep run in the championship this year. (Allyson Mollung, file)

PLAYER NOTES

A collection of notable players in the 2022 Mass Amateur:

JOHN BRODERICK, 18, a Wellesley native and member of Dedham Country and Polo Club, is no stranger to success at Concord Country Club, where he won the 2020 New England Amateur Championship. Broderick will begin his freshman year on the Vanderbilt University golf team in the fall after being recruited as the top-ranked golfer in the Bay State’s Class of 2022. Broderick was the 2020 Mass Golf Junior Player of the Year and advanced to the Round of 32 at the 2021 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship.

STEVE CAMARA, 67, a Boxford native and member of Ferncroft Country Club, is the oldest player in the field. Camara previously played in the 2018 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship and finished fifth in the 2016 New England Senior Amateur Championship.

MATT COWGILL, 27, a Weston native and member of Granite Links Golf Club, returns to the championship for the first time since regaining his amateur status. Cowgill, a 2018 graduate of the James Madison University golf team, was the runner-up to Parziale in the 2017 Mass Amateur. He also reached the Round of 16 in 2018 but lost Parziale in match play.

RYAN DOWNES, 16, a Longmeadow native and member of GreatHorse, is the youngest player in the field. Downes, a rising junior on the Longmeadow High School golf team, won the individual title at the Division I Western Mass Golf Championship last fall. He reached the Round of 32 in his first Mass Amateur appearance last year.

PATRICK FRODIGH, 27, a Westwood native and member of Dedham Country and Polo Club, is the most recent Mass Amateur winner in the field, having won the title in 2018. The former Elon University and University of Louisville golfer reached the Round of 32 last season before losing, 2 and 1, to Andy Luther.

JOHN HADGES, 61, a North Easton native and member of Thorny Lea Golf Club, is the oldest champion in the field. Hadges won the Mass Amateur in 2008 and 2010, defeating Parziale and Dan Head, respectively. He last played in the championship in 2020, when he did not advance to match play.

BRENDAN HESTER, 52, a Northbridge native and member of Pleasant Valley Country Club, is in the field after winning the Mass Amateur 21 years ago at Orchards Golf Club. In 2020 and 2021, Hester repeated as back-to-back champions with his son Jack at the Massachusetts Father Son Tournament.

WESTON JONES, 18, a Sudbury native and member of Charter Oak Country Club, started the summer by finishing the Mass Open as one of the low amateur golfers behind Matthew Naumec and Ethan Whitney. The 2021 Mass Golf Christopher Rich Cutler Junior Player of the Year and Rutgers University standout advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2021 Mass Amateur.

JOSEPH LENANE, 18, a Dedham native and member at KOHR Golf Center, was the New England high school golf champion this past fall and has committed to North Carolina State. In 2021, Lenane also qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur, earned stroke-play medalist in the Mass Junior Amateur, and won the prestigious Tarlow Invitational.

ERIC LIFSON, 23, a Sudbury native and member of Nashawtuc Country Club, made it to the quarterfinals last year as the No. 21 seed. Lifson previously attended Division III Kenyon College but is transferring to Miami University (OH) this fall.

XAVIER MARCOUX, 21, a Concord native and member of Nashawtuc Country Club, is one of three Concord natives in the field (Tyler Bruneau, 17, and Matt Vaughn, 37, are the others). Marcoux is a rising senior and captain of the Rutgers University men’s golf team and was a Division I PING All-Region Team selection this season. Marcoux also won the 2019 New England Amateur Championship and played in the 2021 U.S. Amateur Championship. He qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Longmeadow.

MATTHEW NAUMEC, 25, a Wilbraham native and member of GreatHorse, set his sights on the Mass Amateur after coming a few strokes shy of winning the Mass Open last month. The former professional and former Boston College standout will play in the Mass Amateur for the first time since 2018, when he reached the Round of 32 but fell to 2006 champion Ben Spitz in match play.

ALBERT OH, 49, a Chestnut Hill native and member of The Country Club, is one of the most well-traveled golfers in the field. Oh first made a name for himself in golf as a standout high school player in Southern California. He then moved to the New York Metropolitan area, finishing as the runner-up at the 2006 New York City Amateur and qualifying out of New Jersey for the 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur in Houston. He will now make his first appearance in the Mass Amateur as a Bay State resident.

MATT PARZIALE, 35, a Brockton native and member of Thorny Lea Golf Club, is one of seven previous Mass Amateur champions in the field. The seven-time Mass Golf Player of the Year honoree won the championship in 2017 and has been in the Round of 16 nine years in a row, including last year’s championship match. Parziale’s resume also includes appearances in the 2018 and 2019 U.S. Open Championships after earning exemptions by winning the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

ETHAN WHITNEY, 19, a Westminster native and member of Oak Hill Country Club, raised eyebrows at the Mass Open, tying for the competitive course record at Longmeadow Country Club and finishing fourth. The Temple University standout previously reached the Round of 32 at the Mass Amateur in 2020. He also finished runner-up in the Worcester County Amateur this year.


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