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WINCHESTER, Massachusetts – The difficulty of Winchester Country Club lived up to the hype for U.S. Amateur Qualifying on Wednesday. Windy conditions combined with firm and fast greens put the field to the test, with only one player breaking par in the 36-hole USGA Qualifier.
Passing the test with flying colors was Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) who made 9 birdies over an 11 hole stretch in his afternoon round. Parziale finished with a 140 total (-2) to earn Medalist Honors. Christian Emmerich (Kernwood CC) shot a bogey-free 67 in the afternoon to finish at 143 (+1) and grab the second and final spot in the U.S. Amateur Championship.
Sometimes in golf it’s the bogey saves that make the difference. For Matt Parziale, that was certainly the case on Wednesday. Frustration was setting in as he was finishing his morning round on the difficult 18th hole.
“Yeah, I was pretty frustrated. Nothing went my way in the morning and then I putt it off the green on 18. All the way down and thank God I hit a chip from 40 yards to two inches. If I don’t hit that chip there and I make double I think that’s a whole different mindset going into the afternoon. So that’s probably the shot that was most key part of the day was to just escape there with the bogey.”
After swiping home the two inch putt for bogey, Parziale signed for 74 (+3) and was well outside the projected cut line. During his short lunch break, Parziale sat in silence at a table with his father (and caddie). A silence that didn’t scream anger, but intensity. After a couple of quick bogeys to start his final round, Parziale put together a stretch of golf that will be talked about for years at Winchester CC. A birdie on hole 12 was the first of 5 in a row, capped off by a long bender on 16.
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After a par on 17, Parziale tacked on birdies at 18, 2, 3 and 4 to pull him well ahead of the rest of the field.
“I got to those two par fives, same thing, two-putted them. So I still really didn’t have any momentum, but just hitting good shots and two-putting and then I made some (more birdies) over the next three holes hitting them close. And then I made two nice long putts that really got it going there.”
Parziale will be making his fifth trip the U.S. Amateur, which will be played at The Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. next month.
For Christian Emmerich, the story was quite similar. A disappointing 76 (+5) in the morning had Emmerich well back of any qualifying spot. Like Parziale, Emmerich found a little something during his lunch break, but rather than silence, he found the hot dog stand.
“I double 16, make bogey at 18, and then had two hotdogs for lunch. That was probably the key. And then I made the turn here in my afternoon round at one under and I said to my caddie Pete, ‘That was easy.'”
Emmerich’s first nine (the back nine) of the afternoon round was as steady as it gets. Eight pars and one birdie, with some scoring opportunities on the horizon had him in good spirits.
“I hit driver on one, stuck it (approach shot) to a foot. Two-putted for birdie on two, hit it to four feet on three. And then made a bunch of pars coming in. I actually had great looks for birdie. I was trying to get it to even or under but of them dropped.”
Emmerich finished his round with six straight pars to earn him his second trip to the U.S. Amateur. This time around, he’s excited about the event being held a little further north than his 2019 trip to Pinehurst.
“Thankfully, this time it’s in New Jersey and it’s not on Bermuda, which was a big issue for me. I think it’s gonna be grass that I know and I think I’m gonna prepare a lot smarter than I did last time.”
Parziale and Emmerich will now await tee times for their appearance in the 122nd U.S. Amateur Championship. The event will be held at The Ridgewood Country Club and Arcola Country Club, both in Paramus, N.J. Notable past champions of the U.S. Amateur include Francis Ouimet, Bob Jones, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and this year’s U.S. Open Champion, Matthew Fitzpatrick.
QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Matt Parziale (Brockton, MA); (-2) 140
Christian Emmerich (Swampscott, MA); (+1) 143
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Ethan Whitney (Westminster, MA); (+2) 144
Alex Landry (Andover MA); (+3) 145
Winchester Country Club boasts a strong history of hosting notable amateur events. The club has hosted seven Massachusetts Amateur Championships, seven Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championships and two Massachusetts Opens. The most recent amateur event to be held at Winchester was the 2014 New England Amateur, won by Connecticut’s John VanDerLaan. VanDerLaan is currently 35th on the Korn Ferry Tour’s “The 25” list, which issues PGA TOUR cards to the top 25 players at the end of the season.
Winchester Country Club’s course opened in 1903 with a nine-hole layout by Alexander Findlay. Six years later, the club consulted with Donald Ross to add bunkers, and thus began a relationship that would last into the 1930s, spanning the height of Ross’ prolific career as a golf course architect.
President of Mass Golf and longtime member of Winchester CC, Alan Macdonald was excited for the competitors to get a look at Winchester, which features views of Boston’s skyline.
“The course is in great shape. We had the Club Championship last weekend we had the Member-Guest the weekend before that. The crew has been working like crazy. And so they’re thrilled to have the players for the qualifier come here and try it out while it’s in good shape.”
Due to the overwhelming popularity of golf in Massachusetts, players from the Bay State have been forced to tee it up at USGA qualifiers in different states across New England. For the 2022 U.S. Amateur, Massachusetts players helped sell out the Qualifier at Winchester CC in less than 30 minutes. It was the second U.S. Amateur Qualifier to sell out across the country.
“Winchester being the second site to sell out in the U.S. is exciting but not surprising given the facility, location (proximity to Boston), and the demand that we see for all events in New England. The depth of talent in Massachusetts is on display with over 200 Massachusetts players vying for one of the few coveted spots available in New England.” said Greg Howell, Manager of NEGA Operations & USGA Qualifying for Mass Golf.
This year, two U.S. Amateur Qualifiers are being held in Massachusetts (Berkshire Hills CC, Winchester CC) with three others being held across New England (CT, RI, ME). The field for the two Massachusetts Qualifiers was mostly filled with in-state talent. Massachusetts players also accounted for 46 percent of the spots available in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine.
The U.S. Amateur was first contested in 1895, making it the oldest USGA championship. The championship was formed after two clubs, Newport Golf Club in Rhode Island and St. Andrew’s Golf Club in New York, each held their own tournament to determine a national amateur champion — leading to two different champions and widespread calls for a unified contest.
Representatives from both clubs, as well as The Country Club, Chicago Golf Club and New York’s Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, met soon thereafter to form a new association for golf in the United States. The USGA was founded in December of 1894 with the intent to serve as the governing body of all U.S. golf clubs, which included running national championships and establishing universal rules.
Charles Blair Macdonald became the first U.S. Amateur Champion the following year. Other notable champions include Bob Jones, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods.
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