- Golfer Benefits
MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, Massachusetts – Matthew Naumec and Ryan Downes have played oodles of golf together growing up in Western Massachusetts. They’re even in a group chat with members of GreatHorse in Hampden, the club they’ve shared together for years.
Friday’s 36-hole match in the final round of the 115th Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Essex County Club will prove to be their biggest one to date.
On one side is Downes, the 17-year-old phenom and Vanderbilt University commit from Longmeadow, who has found his way back to the final match after coming up short last year at Concord Country Club. He has one more chance at becoming the youngest champion in this event’s illustrious history.
On the other is Naumec, a 26-year-old former professional from Wilbraham, who earned his amateur status back last year and has been playing some of his most enjoyable golf since. He has since joined Framingham Country Club but maintains close ties to GreatHorse.
Now the two friends, who have bonded through playing one of the state’s newest premier golf clubs, will square off at one of the state’s classic golf courses. The match begins at 7 a.m. Admission is free, and spectators are welcome to attend and follow along.
LIVE STREAM: Mass Golf will broadcast the final match live on social media. Follow @playmassgolf on Instagram to access the stream.
Beyond their club matches, Downes and Naumec met together in a battle of GreatHorse greats last year at Concord. Despite losing the first two holes, Downes got the better of that exchange as he tied it by the turn and controlled things down the stretch.
A year older and a year wiser, now they’ll play for what’ll be the biggest prize on either of their resumes.
“I’m sure he’s looking for a little redemption after last year,” said Downes, after winning his semifinal over Joe Harney (Charles River Country Club), 4&2. “He’s going to give me a good hard match tomorrow I’m sure. There’s plenty of birdies out there, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Getting to the final match and coming up short is a difficult moment to overcome, but Downes has been anything but discouraged. Two weeks after losing at Concord, he ran away with the Ouimet Memorial Tournament title and in the fall announced his commitment to Vanderbilt. The slender rising senior at Longmeadow High School has been working out constantly to ensure he has the energy to perform well in a 36-hole final.
“I’ve worked really hard in the gym this winter to get a little stronger,” Downes said. “I feel like last year my game wasn’t good enough to win. I didn’t have the stamina to compete in the 36-hole final and play how I wanted to. But today I feel like my game and stamina held up really well, and I think it’ll be fine tomorrow.”
Downes’ putting was excellent Thursday, making four birdies in his quarterfinal against Dedham’s Joey Lenane (KOHR Golf) en route to a 4&3 victory, doing the same against Harney in the afternoon.
Asked what the biggest difference will be in this year’s final, “Whoever makes more putts,” Downes said.
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Matthew Naumec made the semifinals back in 2015 at Oak Hill Country Club, but that was in the process of being recruited. Now working a 9-5 job like most mid-amateurs over age 25, the former Boston College standout appreciates the ability to still play on a high level.
“I take vacation days to go out and play these tournaments,” said Naumec, who was the Round 1 leader with a 3-under 67 earlier this week. “It’s just a pleasure to be out here. We do this for the passion of the game and love for the game. Playing professionally for two and a half years, it’s different. But now just the essence of golf brings us back, and it’s pretty great to do that at this place.”
Going up against John Broderick (Dedham Country & Polo Club), who annihilated the competitive course at Essex with an 8-under 62 on Tuesday, Naumec remained a cool customer, surely a trait of somebody who played in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
“I don’t think I did anything special,” Naumec said. “I feel like old Donald Ross courses it’s all about fairways and greens and using the contours the greens to your advantage and not missing in the wrong spots. I made a couple lucky putts coming down the stretch against John, and it was a great match. He’s a heck of a player. It was just lucky to kind of have some putts fall my way.
“You kind of have to do your own thing at your own pace,” he added. “I kept up my pace and my rhythm and I think it kind of helped me coming down the stretch. It felt a little bit calmer. And that’s something I learned throughout playing a bunch of these events.”
No matter what happens Friday, GreatHorse and Western Massachusetts will surely have a claim on this year’s champion.
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Hometown: Wilbraham, MA
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Stroke Play: 67-72–139 (-1)
R32: Def. Brendan Hester, 1-up
R16: Def. Weston Jones, 4&3
Quarterfinals: Def. Jack Boulger, 4&3
Semifinals: Def. John Broderick, 3&2
Hometown: Longmeadow, MA
ROAD TO THE FINAL
Stroke Play: 71-70–141 (+1)
R32: Def. Cael Kohan, 1-up
R16: Def. Ethan Whitney, 19 holes
Quarterfinals: Def. Joey Lenane, 4&3
Semifinals: Def. Joe Harney, 4&2
5-Matthew Naumec def. 1-John Broderick, 3&2
Naumec got the putter going early and never allowed Broderick to go more than 1-up on him. It wasn’t until the back nine that Naumec made his move on Broderick and took the lead slowly and steadily. He secured the win on hole 16, as both men came up short of the green. Naumec hit his putt close, and Broderick missed his opportunity to extend the match.
7-Ryan Downes def. 22-Joe Harney, 4&2
On the front nine, it looked like Downes would cruise into the semifinals as he took a 4-up lead before the turn. Harney started a rally with Downes making bogey twice in a row. Downes got his momentum back by winning 13th hole and closed it out on the 16th when Harney was unable to make birdie.
1-John Broderick def. 25-Jake Shuman, 4&3
In a rematch of last year’s opening round match that went 22 holes, Shuman won the first hole, but Broderick won four of the next six with consecutive birdies on holes 4, 6, and 7 to take a lead he wouldn’t surrender. Broderick made a birdie on the par-3 11th and closed it out with another on the 15th.
5-Matthew Naumec def. 13-Jack Boulger, 4&3
Naumec trailed against Boulger as the former Boston College standout made birdie on the 10th to move to 3-up and closed it out with a birdie on the 15th.
7-Ryan Downes def. 31-Joseph Lenane, 4&3
Downes won five of the first six holes to shoot 33 on the back nine and cruise into the semifinals for the second straight year. Lenane tried to rally by winning the 10th and 11th with pars, but Downes closed out his match with a 3 on the par-4 15th.
22-Joe Harney def. 14-C.J. Winchenbaugh, 3&1
Harney advanced to the semifinals for the first time, holding off the young Georgetown commit Winchenbaugh. Despite dropping the opening hole, Harney made birdie on the 6th and 7th to get to 2-up. Both players proceeded to tie the next nine holes before Harney closed it out on the 17th.
Here are some other tidbits from Day 4 at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
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