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WESTON, Massachusetts – One club rests alone at the top of the leaderboard after one round of action at the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship being played at Weston Golf Club. Matt Parziale, Ryan Riley, and Shuvam Bhaumik, all of Thorny Lea Golf Club, sit in the top three spots on the leaderboard.
Parziale, the champion in 2015 and 2016, shot the low mark of the day at 3-under-par 69. Riley sits one stroke back at 2-under 70 and Bhaumik finished 1-under 71. They were the only three players to shoot under par.
Due to rainy conditions on Thursday, round one was canceled and the Mid-Amateur Championship was reduced from 54-holes to a 36-hole event. Typically, the final day sees the low 30 players and ties compete. With the reduction of holes being played, that figure was adjusted to the low 50 players and ties advancing to Saturday’s final round which will begin at 7:00 a.m.
Through 12 holes Friday, Matt Parziale was shooting even par. He turned it on and birdied three of his final six holes to get to 3-under. The hot stretch included three straight birdies on holes five (par-3, 201 yards), six (par-5, 475 yards), and seven (par-4, 372 yards).
“I actually really screwed up the par-5 second hole,” Parziale said. “That was a pretty bad bogey. I hit what I thought was a nice shot on the next hole, the par-3, and it went pretty far over the green. I was able to make a nice par save there.”
That save was what started the birdie streak and Parziale felt that moment swung the fate of his round.
“That was big for momentum to keep things in the right direction because that could have been two bogeys in a row easily,” he said. “One unforced and one was just a bad result because I hit it pretty well. To be able to make that and then I knew the par-5 you can probably get if you hit two good ones.”
Parziale is no stranger to succeeding in Mid-Amateur’s. He has won the Massachusetts event twice before (2015 and 2016) and won the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in 2017 which earned him an exemption into The Masters.
“I took a lot of time off last month because July was busy and then from here on out to the end of this month it’s pretty straight out,” Parziale said. “I’m glad to start this stretch with a nice round, but there’s a lot of golf left. I got tomorrow, the Crump Cup next week, and then the U.S. Mid-Am on Nantucket the following week. [There’s] lots of golf left, but I was happy after taking so much time off to put a nice round together.”
Coming in just behind Parziale was Ryan Riley, another successful Thorny Lea Golfer who won the Massachusetts Amateur Championship in 2011. Riley had an up-and-down round with six birdies and four bogeys, but a stretch of four straight birdies proved to go a long way towards keeping him near the top of the leaderboard.
Riley broke down the hot stretch in detail following his round.
“I was able to make birdie on 18, then I hit it to about a foot on one for birdie, hit it to three-feet on two for birdie, hit it to about seven-feet on three for birdie, and then I hit about a 25-footer on five for birdie,” Riley said. “I was moving pretty good there and the course is hard. Holes six, seven, eight, nine, and 10 is a good stretch. I made a couple of good bogeys and made a good up-and-down on 10 for par to close it out.”
Riley did indeed finish his round in style. His closing hole was 10 (par-3, 173 yards) and Riley missed his approach shot from the tee box landing pin high, but wide left of the green. He was able to chip on and left himself close enough to roll in a par and stay at 2-under.
“It’s nice to make a putt,” Riley said. “It’s a shot that I should be able to just hit the green and I was trying to be aggressive and tugged it just a touch. I looked at that pin and I saw that if I did miss left, it’s a manageable up and down, not an easy one, but something that I could do. When I hit it over there I had a delicate shot, didn’t hit it great, but was able to make about a seven-footer. I’m pretty happy to end that way for sure.”
Shuvam Bhaumik rounded out the Thorny Lea trio at the top of the scoreboard shooting 1-under 71. He started the day with a bogey on one, but was mistake-free the rest of the day carding two birdies and 15 pars.
“It feels good,” Bhaumik said. “It feels good that the game is coming together. I’ve been working hard on it over the last year and a half with my coach over at KOHR, Dan Boisvert, and my mental coach who’s actually in Australia. I’m just trying to keep things simple and keep the game ball in front of me.”
An early bogey on hole one didn’t faze Bhaumik. In fact, he used the moment to joke with himself and respond.
“As I’m walking to the second tee I just laughed at myself and said you’ll have plenty of chances,” Bhaumik said. “Then, on four, the long par-4, I hit a great second shot into about three feet and I made birdie there and it settled me down. From there, I just eased into the round and it was really boring golf. Obviously, a lot of pars and I got on in two on 18 and I two-putted for birdie and that was it.”
With a more relaxed approach towards the game, Bhaumik isn’t putting any pressure on himself heading into Saturday’s finale.
“My perspective on golf has changed a lot over the past year and a half,” Bhaumik said. “Especially what tomorrow is, September 11, which is a very solemn day for our country and we’re playing golf. We don’t get paid to play this game and you got to enjoy it.
“Over the last couple of years, I said to myself I’m gonna have fun out there, I’m gonna smile more…that’s what I’m going to do tomorrow and if it means I’m up there, great, if it doesn’t, that’s also great because my wife and my dog are still going to love me.”
The lead trio from Thorny Lea will tee off together tomorrow at 9:48 a.m.
Several competitors in the state Mid-Amateur Championship will also be competing later this month at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. That event holds some extra meaning this year for Bay State players as the Championship Proper is being held in-state on Nantucket Island.
The Championship, which is being played from September 25-30, is split between Sankaty Head Golf Club in Siasconset and Miacomet Golf Course in Nantucket. Currently, there are 10 men slated to compete in the event from Massachusetts. Among those ten, five of them are in the field for the state amateur.
The competitors are Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich Golf Club), Nick Maccario (Bradford Country Club), Cameron Moniz (Swansea Country Club), Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club), and Arthur Zelmati (Cranberry Valley Golf Course).
It’s a talented group with Zelmati (2020) and Maccario (2019) having won the last two state amateur titles. As mentioned, Parziale also won the event back-to-back year’s in 2015 and 2016, in addition to winning the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in 2017. The men are excited for the unique opportunity to compete in-state for a USGA event.
“For the last two years, ever since I saw it was going to be on Nantucket, I’ve been really excited to try to get in the tournament,” Zelmati said. “It’s really not easy. You only get one round to make it, so I’m really excited that I was able to qualify.”
Zelmati played in the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2019, as did Moniz, who echoed his sentiment that he’s excited to be back once again.
“It’s for sure going to be fun being in the hometown and being able to have some family go out and watch,” Moniz said. “[The USGA] treat you well. The whole setup from the practice rounds and on is just really good. The nerves of being on there on the first day, it’s just a good experience.”
The U.S. Women’s Mid Amateur Championship is also being played from September 25-30, though that Championship Proper will be held at the Berkeley Hall Club in Bluffton, South Carolina. Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club) is exempt into that event due to her victory in the 2018 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur.
She too is competing in the state Mid-Amateur, the only woman in the field, and is looking forward to playing in an event where she has found major success.
“Obviously, all the USGA events are awesome,” Johnson said. “Anytime you can go play in them, which it doesn’t happen all the time and I think sometimes it gets taken for granted, but yeah I’m excited to get down there. I heard Berkeley Hills is an awesome place to play and seeing the pictures, it’s awesome.”
Johnson did mention that being a past champion comes with some added pressure, but she’s able to rely on her network to work through the challenge.
“It’s good and bad all at the same time,” she said. “Luckily, having Matt [Parziale] at the club we can kind of bounce things off each other because he was in the exact same position. Everyone thinks you go out and you should win every tournament or play awesome all the time or win this thing every time, that’s just not how golf is.”
Johnson will join Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club), Sue Curtin (Boston Golf Club), Pam Kuong (Charles River Country Club), and Mary Mulcahy (Hatherly CC) as the Bay State natives in the Championship Proper.
In total, 15 men and women from Massachusetts playing in USGA Championships is a tremendous number and both sides will look to leave a mark and represent the state well.
Weston Golf Club has hosted numerous Mass Golf Championships in the past and is the perfect spot for high-level golf. Located just 12 miles west of Boston, the course plays to a mark of par-72 and measures in at 6,657 yards from the black championship tees.
First constructed in 1894, Weston is a Donald Ross design. The club first opened in 1894, but it did not move to its current location until 1916-1917. The original nine-hole design was done by Ross, and he also put together the expanded par-71 layout, which officially opened for play in 1923.
Ross is highly regarded for being one of the greatest golf course architects to live, but Weston also had another outstanding architect contribute to the course. Geoffrey Cornish designed the newest holes on the course (11 and 12) which were added in 1965 and moved the course to a par-72.
Cornish, an architect and fellow of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA), designed over 200 golf courses across the world in his legendary career. A native of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Cornish received a Master’s from the University of Massachusetts in agronomy.
Cornish authored several books on golf course design and also won numerous awards for his work. Among his many honors, he received the Donald Ross Award from the ASGCA in 1982 and was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame in 1996.
The impact of Ross and Cornish is still felt at Weston with the challenges the course provides in the present day. Green and bunker restoration in the early 2000s has helped keep Weston a desirable place to play and a perfect spot for Championship golf.