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MARSHFIELD, Massachusetts – On what was a comfortable day for golf, nine players earned their way into national championships. For some, it was another chapter in a storied career. While for others, it was a dream come true.
In the morning, U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifying took place with Daniel Harding (Wellesley CC) and Keith Smith (Franklin CC) splitting medalist honors. The final two spots were decided in a 3-for-2 playoff with Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough CC) and Darin Eddy (Marshfield CC) earning the last two spots into the field. The four will now play in the championship proper at the Country Club of Detroit later this month.
In the afternoon, U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Qualifying was held with Tracy Welch (Winchester CC) taking medalist honors. Sue Curtin (Boston GC), Danielle Lee (Renaissance) , Anna Morales (Peru), and Kris Henderson (Bedrock GC) also played their way into the field. All five women will head to The Lakewood Club (Alabama) in September to compete for the championship.
For Daniel Harding, the two-hour wait was worth it. Being one of the first players to finish play, Harding posted a 72, and looked to be in the mix for one of the four qualifying spots up for grabs. Group after group came through and Harding continued to dodge lower scores. Playing in one of the last groups, Keith Smith finished birdie-par to match Harding’s 72. And at 2:52 p.m. the final trio of players signed their cards, all higher than 72, leaving Harding and Smith as Co-Medalists.
Shooting 73 and finishing just one shot back of the co-medalists were Darin Eddy, Frank Vana Jr., and Joe Walker (Dennis Pines GC). And since there were just four qualifying spots available, a 3-for-2 playoff was needed for the last two spots.
On the first playoff hole, Eddy led things off, pulling one left into the trees. The other two stayed out of trouble off the tee. And while the players all tied the hole, it wasn’t without a miraculous shot from Eddy. Leaning up against a tree, Eddy played a low running draw up onto the green to keep himself in the hole.
“I had to lean against a tree” said Eddy who had his son Wil on the bag for him. “We were kind of trying to figure out if I should just pitch out. But I had a window, and I knew I could turn it over and move the ball right-to-left…and I happened to hit a really good shot.”
That shot essentially forced a second playoff hole where Vana and Eddy hit their tee shots from 172 yards onto the green safely. Walker came up just a yard short, and once his ball finished bounding down the hill, he was faced with a near impossible up-and-down. When Walker’s par putt came to rest just a few revolutions short of the hole, it was official. Vana and Eddy were into the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship.
Having survived the first playoff with a bogey, Vana added “It was a perfect example of the golf gods being with you.” Vana along with Harding, Smith and Eddy will head to Detroit in just a few weeks to play on the national stage.
Afternoon play was dominated by Tracy Welch, who shot 3-under-par (70) to easily capture medalist honors. Welch played a near flawless round of golf with four birdies against just one bogey. Welch, who is no stranger to USGA Championships, will compete in a national championship for the 21st time in her decorated career.
“It’s hard not to think about those things (medalist honors, qualifying) so I tried very hard to just keep focusing on each individual shot, and not the results.” said Welch. “I played really steady. I tried using a conservative strategy, and just hoped I’d make some putts. For example, I was on 11, a short par 5 with the road on the left. I had a chance to go for it (in two), but rather than go for it, I laid up. With a full wedge in, I left myself a short putt, and made it for a (birdie) four.”
Fresh off their appearance at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open in Connecticut, Sue Curtin and Danielle Lee continued their fine play. Curtin shot 76 and Lee 79 to advance to yet another USGA Championship this season.
Curtin’s length was key in qualifying on Tuesday. On the par-5 18th hole, Curtin hit her drive much farther down the fairway than any of the groups around her. She followed that drive up with a majestic, high-towering shot to easily reach the green in two. Those two shots set up a stress-free 2-putt for birdie, and showed just how much of an asset her distance is.
Playing the 18th much differently than Curtin, was Anna Morales. After signing for an 80, and advancing to the championship proper, Morales joked that she had her husband (who was watching as a spectator) sweating on the final hole. Three birdies earlier in her round gave Morales a big cushion coming into the closer, which she needed as she struggled with the tricky green-complex. However, when push came to shove, she buried a 7-footer to avoid a playoff and advance to Alabama.
The 5th and final spot came down to a playoff. And a regular in Mass Golf events, Kris Henderson, made quick work of her competition. Playing the 18th hole as their first playoff hole, Henderson threw a dart with her third shot, setting up a short birdie putt for the playoff win and a spot in the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) August 3, 2021
U.S. SENIOR AMATEUR QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Daniel Harding (Wellesley, MA); (+2); 72
Keith Smith (Franklin, MA); (+2); 72
Darin Eddy (Marshfield, MA); (+3); 73*
Frank Vana, Jr. (Boxford, MA); (+3); 73*
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Joseph Walker II (Dennis, MA); (+3); 73
Jeffrey Supko (Newton, MA); (+4); 74**
*Won in playoff; 2nd playoff hole
**Won in a playoff; 1st playoff hole
U.S. SENIOR WOMEN’S AMATEUR QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
Tracy Welch (Winchester, MA); (-3); 70
Susan Curtin (Westwood, MA); (+3); 76
Danielle Lee (Concord, MA); (+6); 79
Anna Morales (Peru); (+7); 80
Kristen Henderson (Auburn, MA); (+8); 81*
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Carrie Langevin (Henderson, NV); (+8); 81
Natalie Galligan (Cataumet, MA); (+9); 82
*Won in playoff; 1st playoff hole
The U.S. Senior Amateur Championship was first contested in 1955 for players 55 and older. The event was created thanks to the growth of senior golf, as seen by the many senior golf associations that continued to pop up across the country. Last year (2020) was the first year the event was not held, as it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, the championship proper will be held at the Country Club of Detroit from August 28-September 2. With 2,565 entries accepted for this championship, a new record was set, surpassing the 2,498 that entered in 2005.
U.S. Senior Amateur Eligibility: Open to any golfer who is 55 years of age as of August 28 whose Handicap Index does not exceed 7.4.
The U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship was inaugurated in 1962 due to the flourishing demand of golf amongst those over 50. While the championship is now like all other USGA amateur competitions (consisting of stroke play and match play) the event was originally a 54-hole stroke-play competition.
The 2021 version of the event is the 59th edition and will be played at The Lakewood Club in Point Clear, Alabama. It will be played from September 10-15 and will have 132 players in the field.
U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Eligibility: Open to any female golfer who is 50 years of age as of September 12 whose Handicap Index does not exceed 14.4.
Located in the southeastern part of the state, Marshfield CC has played host to many Mass Golf and USGA events over the years. In 2013 the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship was contested at Marshfield and as you may have guessed, Frank Vana, Jr. took the title. He shot a final round 65 to edge out Doug Clapp by 1 stroke. It was the 9th of Vana’s impressive 10 Mid-Am victories. One year prior, the (now) Massachusetts Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship was won by Tara Joy Connelly. It was the second of Connelly’s 5-straight Women’s Mid-Am Championships.
Next year Marshfield CC (and Duxbury YC) will host the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship. The entire course was designed by Wayne Stiles and stretches to 6,295 yards, playing to a par of 70. For women’s qualifying the course played as a par 73. The first nine holes opened in 1922 with the second nine opening in 1931. Much of the original design remains the same today. Stiles is most widely known for his design, along with John Van Kleek, of Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, MA.
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