- Golfer Benefits
NORTON, Massachusetts – Following another remarkable year of competitive golf, Mass Golf is proud to announce this year’s recipients of the Player of the Year Award presented by Delta Air Lines.
This year’s award winners include a handful of first-timers, including Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year Award winner Megan Buck, of Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton. For the third time in four years, Matt Parziale, also of Thorny Lea GC, has earned the Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year Award giving him eight total. He is now one shy of the record held by Frank Vana, Jr.
Since 1976, Mass Golf has recognized more than 70 different individuals as Players of the Year Award winners for their stellar seasonal performances in Mass Golf Championships as well as select regional and United States Golf Association (USGA) events. The winners are based on the final tallies of the respective Mass Golf Player of the Year point systems. With the addition of the Super Senior Player of the Year Award (players 65 and older), Mass Golf will recognize eight different awards for the 2022 season.
Earlier this year, Mass Golf proudly announced Delta as the official airline of Mass Golf and the first-ever presenting sponsor for the Player of the Year Award. Delta is the No. 1 global airline out of Boston, and with its commitment to delivering customers a best-in-class flying experience, each recipient of the Player of the Year Award will receive the opportunity to see the world via the official airline partner of Mass Golf.
MEGAN BUCK (Home Club: Thorny Lea Golf Club, Brockton; Hometown: North Easton)
MATT PARZIALE (Home Club: Thorny Lea Golf Club, Brockton; Hometown: Brockton)
MORGAN SMITH (Home Club: Vesper Country Club, Tyngsborough & Mt. Pleasant Golf Club, Lowell; Hometown: Westford)
RYAN DOWNES (Home Club: GreatHorse, Hampden; Hometown: Longmeadow)
PAMELA KUONG (Home Club: Charles River Country Club, Newton; Hometown: Wellesley)
FRANK VANA, JR. (Home Club: Marlborough Country Club, Marlborough; Hometown: Boxford)
DON FOBERG (Home Club: Plymouth Country Club; Hometown: Pembroke)
MEGAN BUCK (Home Club: Thorny Lea Golf Club, Brockton; Hometown: North Easton)
When Megan Buck moved to Massachusetts a decade ago, she found herself far from her home state of Arizona unsure whether or not to continue playing golf competitively. (Buck played four seasons at Northern Arizona University).
With the full embrace of the golf community in Massachusetts, Buck has developed into one of the best female amateurs ever to compete in Massachusetts. She is part of a growing number of women from Massachusetts who have won championships and have represented the Bay State at USGA and select regional and national events. She first broke through with a quarterfinal appearance in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and winning the 2020 New England Women’s Amateur.
In 2022, after two straight years of finishing second place in the race for the Anne Marie Tobin Women’s Player of the Year Award, Buck broke through again to win the award for the first time. Her first-ever victory in the Mass Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, plus a match play appearance in this year’s U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur, carried her across the line.
“I feel honored to be added to this list of women who have won this before me,” Buck said. “We are very lucky to have a large group of amazing female golfers here in Massachusetts. In any given year there are many girls who can play well enough to win this award, and that depth is rare in the women’s game. Now I can only hope to continue to play well and add another year next to my name like those ladies have done.”
Buck said she had high expectations going into this year but was frustrated with early results. She managed to turn things around, not just with her swing and scores, but with her mindset as well. She took that approach into the Women’s Mid-Am, where she was able to control the nerves and execute good shots down the stretch.
“I think the largest change was my attitude,” Buck said. “Even after rounds where I may have played well, I would get down on myself if I wasn’t where I wanted to be on the leaderboard. The last few events of the year I went in with a happier attitude and was kinder to myself. I play much better when I have fun and don’t get upset about things I cannot control.”
In addition to her T2 finish in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, she teamed with Shannon Johnson to win the Mass Women’s Four-Ball Championship for the third consecutive year. Buck credited Johnson, the previous award winner, for helping push her to perform her best.
“I owe most of my success in golf over the past several years to Shannon,” Buck said. “When I moved to Massachusetts, I hadn’t really played since college, but seeing her success encouraged me to start playing competitively again. Being able to play and practice with a player as talented and experienced as Shannon has made me a better player than I ever thought I could be.”
For the second straight year, Buck also took home the Women’s Mid-Amateur Award, presented to the female competitor – age of 25 & over – who tallies the lowest combined gross score in the 36-hole stroke play portion of the Women’s Amateur Championship and the Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship for the Keyes Cup. Buck earned the 8th seed in the Mass Women’s Amateur with scores of 81-75, and she shot 71-75 to win the Women’s Mid-Amateur.
>>RICHARD D. HASKELL PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 715 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)
Matt Parziale doesn’t spend much time looking in the rear view. Rather than reflecting on past performances or his amateur golf legacy that now features eight Mass Golf Player of the Year titles, he’s always looking toward what’s ahead.
Sporting a new bearded look this year, Parziale brought the same intensity as in years past. Despite sluggish starts at some events, he had stretches that made him look unstoppable. A prime example was earning medalist honors at this year’s 36-hole U.S. Amateur qualifier at Winchester Country Club. After shooting 3-over in the first 18-hole round morning, Parziale got himself refocused and sank nine birdies over an 11-hole stretch, including five consecutive birdies on holes 12-16 culminating with a long bending putt on the 16th.
Parziale also rallied to a second-place finish in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, shooting 7-under-par over his final 27 holes in the event. In addition to a runner-up finish at the Norfolk County Classic, Parziale nearly defended his Mass Mid-Amateur title. Despite leading most of the final round, Parziale had an unfortunate lapse on the 17th hole in the final round and ended up finishing T2.
“I’m proud of how I responded this year,” Parziale said. “I was happy leaving all those events because I rebounded well, and I’m happy with the amount of effort that I put in to give myself the best chance this year.”
In addition to qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, Parziale also qualified for match play in the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Erin Hills on the strength of three consecutive birdies on his final three holes of stroke play. He then made par on four playoff holes to get into the 64-player bracket.
Other national appearances included the Terra Cotta Invitational and George Coleman Invitational in Florida and the prestigious Crump Cup at Pine Valley in New Jersey.
With the U.S. Open in Brookline this year, Parziale also got to make some TV appearances on NBC Sports Boston, both as a commentator and on-course segments, including a closest-to-the-pin contest named the ‘Parz-3 Challenge.’
“It means you’re putting the time in to be ready,” Parziale said. “If you stay sharp and your results are somewhere where you’re getting some recognition, you get asked to do things like this.”
He also credited his continued work with nationally recognized golf instructor Shawn Hester during the season for keeping his game sharp.
“We didn’t always have a plan, but the ideas that go back and forth are very helpful,” Parziale said. “Not only did I feel like my game was getting better, but I really just enjoyed spending time with him, and you learn a lot even if it doesn’t translate into results. Even if I didn’t win Player of the Year, it was a successful year with the amount of time and effort that I put in. I just texted him that I want to do the same next year.”
The Mass Golf Girls’ Junior Amateur Player of the Year Award is staying in the Smith household. One year after her younger sister Molly Smith earned the award, Morgan Smith emerged victorious in several high-profile events and took her game to new heights.
When reflecting on 2021, Smith said her season was a letdown. But she took action by implementing a training regimen of two hours a day for six days a week through the winter. By the time the 2022 season began, Smith was hitting the ball farther than ever, and it added to her already tremendous ball-striking and accuracy.
“This year has been the most special golf season of all of them,” said Smith, who currently attends Phillips Exeter Academy but has verbally committed to Georgetown University. “It was personal this year, and I feel like I worked harder than ever before. I finally got myself in a position where I was hitting at the yardage I had to, and that’s been a game changer.”
This summer, Smith pulled off a rare feat of capturing the Mass Women’s Amateur Championship and the New England Women’s Amateur Championship titles in the same season. In the New England Women’s Amateur in Vermont, Smith not only led the entire way, she shot 7-under-par overall for a commanding 12-stroke victory over the field.
Her most emotional victory came in the Mass Women’s Amateur at The Orchards Golf Club. After earning the No. 1 seed in match play, Smith breezed into the final match for the first time, knocking off reigning champion Catie Schernecker in the semifinals, 3&2. In the final, Smith found herself 2-down to University of Virginia standout Rebecca Skoler through 15 holes. Still, she tied the match, thanks in part to an incredible near ace on the par-3 17th that left her an easy tap-in. A two-putt par on the 18th secured the win.
“That shot on 17 was awesome,” Smith said. “Honestly, there’s nothing like hitting that shot in such important moment. That was a massive momentum shift, and I think that gave me the advantage going into 18.”
Smith also appeared in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur for the second straight year, showing poise to make match play by making a clutch par in the playoff. In the Round of 64, Smith fell to eventual champion Yana Wilson, of Nevada, but Smith tied the match on the 15th hole, before Wilson closed it out with a pair of pars.
In addition to top-3 finishes in the Mass Girls’ Junior Amateur and New England Junior Amateur, Smith also made history by becoming the first known female to compete in the Mass Four-Ball Championship. She teamed with Westford Academy teammate Maxwell Johnson and finished T32.
“Playing with the guys is a lot of fun,” Smith said. “It really does challenge your abilities because you have to be more accurate. When you’re playing with people who hit it almost 300 yards, you’re trying to do your best to stay with them. Being in that environment forces you to swing hard at the ball. I struggled a lot with trying to put a safe swing on it, instead of just attacking it, but when you’re playing at 6,500-6,700-yards, if you’re not swinging at it, you’re not going to be able to play.”
With this season complete, Smith said she hopes to inspire others to work hard to improve their game and ultimately chase their dreams.
“I hope the main takeaway from people is to always believe in yourself,” Smith said. “If you work at something, you can make it happen. I hope that extends to other people, too.”
>>CHRISTOPHER CUTLER RICH JUNIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 785 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)
When his sophomore year of high school ended in June, Ryan Downes came into the summer golf season with a point to prove: He was Division I material.
With several standout performances, including his first Mass Golf Championship victory at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament and a runner-up finish in the Mass Amateur, Downes captured the Christopher Cutler Rich Junior Player of the Year for the first time. On top of that, he verbally committed to Vanderbilt University, where the 2020 Junior Player of the Year John Broderick currently attends.
“It’s a great end result for my season,” said Downes, a 17-year-old standout who recently won the 2022 MIAA Division 1 individual state title at Longmeadow High School. “I know Weston [Jones] and John [Broderick] have won it the past two years so to have my name etched with them for this award is pretty cool.”
Before Downes went on to become both the youngest finalist in Mass Amateur history and the youngest winner of the Ouimet Tournament, he said he found something in his swing during the North & South Junior Amateur at Pinehurst, which was pivotal to his success this season.
“I hadn’t been hitting the ball well in the spring months and I was struggling a bit,” Downes said. “I hit it well down there, and one thought I had was shortening my back swing. After that I don’t recall a tournament where I hit the ball poorly.”
Entering as the youngest player in the field at the Mass Amateur, Downes snuck into match play via a playoff but then proceeded to take leads of 3-up or more in his four matches leading to the final. In the quarterfinals, he knocked off fellow GreatHorse member Matt Naumec, followed by a semifinal victory over Will Frodigh. Though he fell to Conner Willett in the final, Downes held a 1-up lead through 20 holes, but ultimately Willett carried the rest of the match to cap off an emotional event following his father’s passing.
“I didn’t really sit back and think what I could’ve done better, I just took away the positives for the week,” Downes said. “To fight through that final round was definitely one of the best memories, and it gave me a lot of good learning experiences.”
Undeterred by the defeat, Downes flew to Texas where he finished T4 in the Jordan Spieth Invitational. He then returned the following week and led wire-to-wire to win the Ouimet Memorial Tournament by five strokes. He was the only player to shoot under-par in all three rounds.
In addition to winning the Connecticut Junior PGA Championship, Downes also played in the PGA Junior Championship in Illinois. A pair of T2 finishes in the U.S. Challenge Cup Invitational and the AJGA Killington Junior Championship rounded out a successful summer, and a state individual title capped off his best season to date.
In the offseason, Downes said he’s planning to work on his strength and swing speed to add length to his game. With the support of his father, GreatHorse’s head golf professional Billy Downes, he said he feels confident about the future.
“The membership is fantastic,” Downes said. “My dad’s always there when I need help. He keeps my golf swing together when I’m struggling. Without him I wouldn’t have been able to do it.”
Pamela Kuong wasn’t sure how this season was going to play out. Coming off major knee surgery last winter, she was doubtful she’d be back in time for the start of championship season in early May.
As the Mass Mixed Four-Ball approached, she even reached out to her playing partner Doug Clapp imploring him to find a replacement. But Clapp stuck with his partner, motivating Kuong to be prepared for the May 9 event.
“Doug was too kind to stick with me,” said Kuong, who advanced to a playoff in the Mixed Four-Ball Championship with Clapp. “Knowing this motivated me to set an aggressive goal to prepare myself both mentally and physically to be ready to compete in early May. Starting a new job at the same time made it challenging to find time to prepare, but I quickly learned to become more efficient with my practice and physical training.”
That event was the start of another successful season for Kuong, who maintained her status as the only winner of the Women’s Senior Player of the Year Award (introduced in 2020).
In addition to her Player of the Year three-peat, Kuong also won her third consecutive Mass Senior Women’s Amateur, capping off the win with a steady final round of 1-over 73 at Shaker Hills Country Club.
Kuong also made the long trip to Alaska to compete in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, the first USGA championship held in the state. Kuong qualified for match play after finishing T26 in stroke play. Though she lost her opening round match, Kuong said sharing an Airbnb with her fellow Massachusetts competitors in the tournament and exploring the state for the first time made it all worth it.
“Alaska has always been on my bucket list,” Kuong said. “To be able to compete in a USGA golf tournament and sightsee in the beautiful state of Alaska was special. The course was beautiful, and the volunteers and staff made you feel so welcome at their club. It’s a USGA event I will always cherish.”
Once again, Kuong relied on a top-10 finish at the Women’s Eastern Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship to earn enough points for the award. Kuong finished 8th overall with consistent rounds of 77, 76 and 78 (in order).
It was a strong finish to a season that was much in doubt several months prior.
“I want to thank Michelle Milos, my physical therapist at Train Boston, and Shawn Hester for figuring out a swing that worked for me post-surgery,” Kuong said. “I also appreciate the membership at Charles River Country Club who were so supportive during my rehab.”
>>GEORGE M. COHEN SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 712 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)
Frank Vana, Jr. is already in the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame, but each year he seems to do something remarkable that reminds us why he’s one of the select few to earn that distinction.
By winning the Mass Senior Amateur for the second time, good for his 24th Mass Golf Championship victory, Vana captured enough points to secure his 5th Mass Golf George M. Cohen Senior Player of the Year Award. This 5th senior award ties him with inaugural winner Ed Fletcher for the most of all time.
Though he missed out on some major events, such as the Mass Open and Mass Amateur this year, Vana entered every competition he did play with a sense of purpose. He finished third in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament (Lowery Division) following a 5-under-par 66 in the final round at Woodland Golf Club. He also finished T5 in the New England Senior Amateur at Black Rock Country Club and teamed with Jack Kearney to finish T2 in the Mass Senior Four-Ball.
“I looked forward to the events I was in this year a lot,” Vana said. “I was little more focused on my practice time leading into them, whereas in years past you can get sucked up into the whole of the season. The week before each event, I felt a bit more excitement and was focused about what I was doing.”
Vana has now played in 33 total USGA Championships, but this year’s U.S. Senior Amateur was the first time he got to enjoy it in his home state — at The Kittansett Club in Marion. What’s more, he had the distinct honor of hitting the opening tee shot off hole 1, as recognition for his success both in the state and on the national stage.
With his good friend Dean Burpee on the bag, Vana shot rounds of 76 and 75 to secure a spot in match play. In the first round, he knocked off Curtis Skinner, of Illinois. In the Round of 32, he went back and forth with Paul Simson, of North Carolina. Despite making a match-tying birdie on the 16th, Vana lost the next hole and ultimately the match on the 18th, but it was still a valiant effort for the Hall of Famer.
“That was the one you wanted to do well at,” Vana said. “There was a lot of local support which was great every day so that means a lot. You just wanted to stay as long as you could. The atmosphere was perfect. The weather was perfect. It just couldn’t have been any better.”
Aside from the national appearance, Vana also said he appreciated playing in the Mass Mid-Amateur (finished T13) at his home course of Marlborough Country Club, where he played growing up. The Senior Amateur at Framingham Country Club was also special as it’s where he played for Marion High School back in the day.
In addition to his award, Vana also said he’s thrilled about the state of the game here at home. “Massachusetts has just been rolling along. We have a lot of good players. The U.S. Open being here this year brought a lot of extra excitement to everything that was taking place. But the past five years or so, everything has just been so great, and I hope it continues.”
>>SUPER SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – 538 POINTS (STANDINGS + RESULTS)
Golf just keeps getting better for Don Foberg.
Since turning 65, the longtime Plymouth Country Club member has won three Mass Golf Championships and this past year qualified for his first USGA Championship. Now 68, Foberg is adding a Player of the Year award to that list as he becomes the first person to earn the Mass Golf Super Senior Player of the Year Award.
“That was satisfying to win a player of the year award at this age and to know you’re the best really old golfer in the state,” Foberg said with a chuckle.
Fittingly, Foberg secured the inaugural Super Senior Award by rallying from five strokes down in the final round to win this year’s Mass Super Senior Amateur Championship at Taconic Golf Club. The night before the final round was the first time he knew he was in contention. Despite a lack of sleep, he came primed to win, making four birdies on the front nine en route to a 4-under-par 67 and a four-stroke victory.
“My wife said, ‘the problem is you think too much; you play your best when you just pick your line and hit the ball,'” Foberg said on his mindset heading into the final round.
The end to the season may have been rewarding, but Foberg’s start to 2022 was anything but. He sprained both wrists back in January and struggled in his first round back in early April at New England Country Club. Slowly, his swing came back, but then in June he injured both hip bones and spent nearly a month recovering from both. However, he was back in time for the U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifier, and with a trip to The Kittansett Club on the line, Foberg nearly breezed in by shooting 3-under through 17 holes. However, a double-bogey on the 18th forced him into a playoff, but he ultimately prevailed with a 12-foot birdie putt to lock up his first berth into a USGA Championship.
Played at The Kittansett Club in Marion, a short ride from his home in Pembroke, Foberg shot a respectable 3-over 74 in the opening round but was unable to keep up the pace in the second round and missed match play.
“The environment at Kittansett was fantastic,” Foberg said. “It was nice to see people you knew at a different venue. I had a tough second day, but the whole experience playing in a USGA event was fantastic.”
Foberg also picked up some points with his T6 finish in the Mass Senior Amateur at Framingham Country Club for being the low super senior finisher.
While it didn’t count for points, Foberg also pulled off a historic achievement being the first known person at Plymouth Country Club to win both the club championship and senior club championship in the same year.
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