Stimets Maintains Lead Through Round 2 Of Mass Mid-Amateur - MASSGOLF

Ricky Stimets & Kevin Gately Gain Some Distance On The Field Despite Round 2 Struggles

For Immediate Release: September 20, 2023

MASHPEE, Massachusetts – The winds were dialed back a bit for Wednesday’s Round 2, but Willowbend showed its teeth much more as players in the 40th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship got their second shot at the venerable Cape Cod layout.

Despite running into a bit more of the course’s ever-present hazards in the middle round, Ricky Stimets and Kevin Gately remain firmly at the front of the back heading into the third and final round Thursday as each will try to chase down their first Mass Golf championship title.

The odds are still looking promising for Stimets, who carded two eagles Wednesday including on the course’s signature closing hole with an island green surrounded by a cranberry bog. With a 1-over 71, he’s 4-under total with a three-stroke lead over Gately and a seven-stroke edge over the next closest player. If he was to capture victory Thursday, Stimets would clinch enough points to earn the Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year Award and earn the title exactly 30 years after his grandfather won it at Country Club of New Seabury and Willowbend.

A total of 31 players made the cut for the final round, with any scores 12-over 152 or better making the mark.

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Ricky Stimets will take a three-stroke lead over the field in the 2023 Mass Mid-Amateur Championship. (David Colt)

Stimets managed just one bogey on Tuesday, but on Wednesday he gave back six strokes, including a 3-over stretch on holes 13-15 where he lost a ball and made a double bogey on the 13th. But as good players do, they find a way to bounce back.

“I just gave myself a pep talk and said let’s finish strong,” said Stimets, a former playing professional. “We’ve got some birdie holes coming in, and you’re still in the lead even though you’re playing poorly.”

After a birdie on the 16th to get back on track, Stimets took a more aggressive line off the tee on the 18th (Bog 9th), playing more toward the middle. He then placed his approach to four feet and made the eagle putt to earn some breathing room over the final group.

Stimets’ other major highlight came early in the round when he drove the green on the 300-yard, par-4 3rd, and made a nearly 40-footer back up the hill.

“Long is not bad, [because] there’s that little back slope right there,” Stimets said of the 3rd hole. “I just hammered a driver. The only thing I didn’t want is to go was left, so I just hung it out in the right and wind just took it back in, landed on the green, and banged a 40-footer.”

After two days of playing ahead of Stimets, Gately will now be paired up with his good friend in the final round. Gately also went 3-over on holes 13-15 but managed a birdie on the 17th with a solid wedge inside 5 feet. Aside from birdies on holes 1 and 3, Gately said the pins were the biggest test. One example was the par-4 10th (Bog 1) which plays over water and had the pin tucked in the front of a heavily sloped green from back to front.

“It was a big grind day,” said Gately, who played in U.S. Open Final Qualifying back in June. “The pins got me in some pretty bad spots, but I just grinded it out. I was a little little tight today, but I’ll be loose tomorrow [and] ready to go.”

Gately said Tuesday that winning his first Mass Golf event would mean the world. A day later, he’s among the top two and the closest he’s been to winning this event.

“I like where I’m at,” Gately said. “I just have to go out there and get it. I don’t have to hold on to anything. I know Ricky is going to be thinking the same thing. He’s a machine out there, but we’ll try and hang with him tomorrow.”

Kevin Gately hits a tee shot during the second round of the Mass Mid-Amateur Championship on Wednesday at Willowbend. (David Colt)

Among those chasing the back will be former Georgetown University standout Brad Cadigan (South Shore Country Club). The lefty has had some adventure playing the closing holes over the past two days. After a triple-bogey on the 18th derailed what would’ve been a stellar under-par round Tuesday, Cadigan got some revenge Wednesday with an eagle to get to 1-over total. On the final hole (9th, Bay), pulled his drive wide right and decided to play up the neighboring 1st fairway. His third shot managed to clear the trees and land on the front of the green and he was able to two-putt to escape with only a bogey.

“Yesterday was a bit of a mental error after nothing really went wrong all day,” Cadigan said of Tuesday’s round. “I hit it probably as well as I’ve ever had in my life and tried to force a layup. And then today, I had a couple of quick tugs and I was down well to the right. I could chip it out to about 190 or play down the fairway. I just figured if I get a wedge in my hand, and I get a clear look over there, I would try and mitigate the damage a little bit.”

Cadigan missed the cut for this event in 2019 and 2020 but this year entered with a new-found confidence. He said the biggest difference in his game this year is playing a fade as opposed to the draw he’d been accustomed to most of his life. “It’s really helped a lot with the driving,” Cadigan said. “I pretty much know where my misses are going, and it makes it a lot easier to score.”

With those thoughts in mind, Cadigan will do his best to stay with the leaders in the final round.

“I think it’ll be fun,” he said. “Obviously the course is setting up pretty tough. I’ve got to hit fairways and hit greens to get around here. Today it was a little bit of a mixed bag, but the game feels pretty good. I haven’t had much success in some of these in the past, so it’s good to have a go at it tomorrow.”

Brad Cadigan finished Round 2 in a tie for third place overall. (David Colt)

Watch: Round 2 Video Highlights

Round 2 News & Notes

◊ 2024 Exemptions: The 15 lowest scorers and ties at the end of Thursday’s final round will earn an exemption for the 2024 Mass Mid-Amateur. The location of the championship is still to be announced.

◊ Ace Alert: Two minutes after making the first hole-in-one of his life, Jake Ruder said he can now die in peace. That’s hopefully a long way off for the 40-year-old member of Wachusett Country Club and Manchester Country Club (CT), still Wednesday’s shot is one he’ll remember for a lifetime. Playing the 5th hole on Willowbend’s Bog Course, a downhill par-3 (188 yards), Ruder hit a pure 6-iron that took one hop and dropped into the cup. “It looked good the whole way,” Ruder said. Getting a hole-in-one is awesome, but to do it where you strike it pure is just awesome.”

◊ Second Round Serges: Michael Souliotis (Haverhill Golf & Country Club) was one of the final players to get into the field this week, and despite opening with an 86, he nearly made the cut. Souliotis carded a 2-under 68 with three birdies and just one bogey to miss the line by just two strokes. The best round of the day went to Damon Lusk (Meadow Brook Golf Club), who shot 67 to improve by 12 strokes from the previous day and land inside the top 10.

Great Shot: Aside from the ace, another spectacular hole-out came from Christopher Poli (Sacconnesset Golf Club) on the 17th. With a saucy wedge into the short par-4, he hit just above the hole and spun in right back in the cup to move him into the top 10 at the time. He finished the day T11.

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