Notebook: Inside The Ropes At The 67th U.S. Senior Amateur - MASSGOLF

Notes From Around The Course At The 67th U.S. Senior Amateur championship

By: Steve Derderian
sderderian@massgolf.org

MARION, Massachusetts – In the summertime, you’re likely to find me by the water or on the golf course. Taking place at the seaside gem that is Kittansett, a Native American word that translates into “by the sea”, this year’s U.S. Senior Amateur Championship offers the best of both worlds.

Clear, sunny skies provided a picture perfect atmosphere Sunday at The Kittansett Club for the second round of stroke play at this year’s championship. The wind was shockingly calm when I arrived in mid-morning, but it gradually picked up throughout the day.

Though this wasn’t my first time covering a USGA championship, I still have my own first-tee jitters, so to speak, as it’s difficult to know how the day’s going to go upon arrival. But those nerves quickly faded as the facility, the competition, and, ultimately, the people, provided a worthwhile experience the entire day.

Follow along on my journey inside the ropes at the 67th U.S. Senior Amateur.

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Sunday was a perfect day to be at The Kittansett Club for the U.S. Senior Amateur. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)

Getting There

You never quite know what to expect when getting to the course requires a shuttle. However, the process couldn’t have been more efficient. Everything was well marked as I pulled off Route 6 to Creek Rd., and then a right on Point Rd., where I saw a message board telling me to take a quick right into A&J Boatyard for parking. Instead of driving all the way down as in years past, this time only players and certain personnel have passes to park on-site all week. The boatyard is about a 10-minute ride from the clubhouse, and there was a school bus waiting out front as I was directed to a spot on the side of the building.

Gathering my things, I walked around the corner to find that bus had taken off. But unlike the U.S. Open, there was no half-hour wait as another bus  pulled around about 5 minutes later. I can’t remember the last time I was on a school bus (high school, maybe), but we were there in no time. The bus made two stops, one at the halfway house between the 9th green and 10th tee, while the other took us to the front gate by the 18th green and clubhouse.

By the way, all of it is free — admission and parking — whether you’re a spectator, volunteer, media member, etc.

Picture Time At Hole 3

“Man, how pretty is this?” one golfer said after getting the distance from his rangefinder.

I wanted to start my day alongside the course’s signature hole — the par-3 3rd hole, a peninsula green that is completely encircled in sand, with waves crashing along the starboard side and gulls cawing up ahead. While I expected the awe to have faded a bit after the players played their practice round(s) and Saturday’s opening round, there were no shortage of those on site taking selfies and pictures by one of golf’s unique holes.

Playing at 142-yards, I saw shots land left, a little long, and many, many came up short. However, credit to Kenneth Bakst, who missed short and to the right but got up-and-down after hitting his second to about 5 feet and making the putt. That shot, in part, helped him get into match play.

Michigan’s David Levan took a selfie with his wife to document their first-ever trip to Massachusetts. (Mass Golf)

Foberg, Foxes & Family

From hole 3, I dashed over to the 16th, where one of Massachusetts’ top senior amateurs Don Foberg (Plymouth Country Club) was awaiting his approach shot from the left side of the fairway. As they paused, a scraggly-looking fox came dashing across the fairway and into the thick grass between 16-17. Rest assured, the fox wasn’t a danger to anybody and went about it’s meandering.

But back to Foberg, he started the day within the top 25 after shooting 3-over 74 in the opening round. However, Sunday was not his day has he couldn’t manage a birdie, found one-to-many bunkers and was unable to make the cut after shooting an 81. However, the 68-year-old received applause from his gallery, a collection of relatives and friends, after finishing out each hole.

“We had about 15 family members show up today, and some guys from Plymouth were here yesterday, so that was fantastic,” said Foberg, after getting to play in his first USGA championship. “I wish I could’ve done better for them, but I’m happy they got to be out here. I couldn’t have had more fun.”

Beating The Odds

Thanks to a tip from a Kittansett member Rob Sudduth earlier in the day, I doubled back down 18 to follow in somebody who overcame overwhelming odds to play in the U.S. Senior Amateur for the first time. Meet Kirk Rose, an Orange Country, California, native who in 2018 was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, which had metastasized to his liver, suddenly making him a Stage IV cancer patient. Doctors told him he had a 14% chance to make it to the end of the year.

Rose wasn’t ready to give up — in life or in golf. The former professional golfer may have lost much of the feeling in his feet and hands after rounds of chemotherapy, but it didn’t deter him from playing. Now a proud cancer survivor, Rose managed to qualify with 10 birdies (and a shank on his opening tee shot) back in California to earn this opportunity.

“Playing here the last few days, I had no stress,” Rose said after his second round. “No matter what, I just would not give in to cancer. If it takes me, it takes me, just not today.”

Rose was hoping to make it to final match on September 1, which is when his next round of chemotherapy is scheduled. But though he came up short of making match play, he said he’ll remember this experience forever.

“I would love to come back here and try this again because it’s just phenomenal, a really fun golf course,” Rose said.

Moving On To Match Play…

In the afternoon, I wanted to watch Mass Golf Hall of Famer Frank Vana finish up his round as he was right on pace to make match play. Only problem was he was finishing on the 9th, located literally a mile away on the other side of the course. With no bus or shuttle in sight, I decided to speed walk like a patron at The Masters, making it to the 9th green just as his group was in the fairway. Whew.

Vana, who hit the opening tee shot of the championship on Saturday, only finished one stroke better than the day before (76-75–151). However, he had a much better ball-striking day, making birdies on holes 13, 18 and 7, to secure a spot in match play for the first time since 2019, when he advanced to the Round of 32 at Old Chatham Golf Club in North Carolina.

“Today I hit way more quality shots, and I still came out only one better, so it’s kind of a crazy game,” said Vana, who will play Curtis Skinner, of Illinois, in his opening match.

Also in match play is Roger Hoit, the 20-time club champion at Eastward Ho! in Chatham, who qualified a month prior at Charles River Country Club. Hoit made three birdies on Sunday, including on the 18th, to finish 2-over 73. He’ll take on Rick Cloninger of South Carolina. Scott Copeland, also a Mass summer resident and member of Old Sandwich Golf Club, has drawn Rusty Strawn of Georgia, after finishing with matching 76s in stroke play.

Michael Boden (Sandwich Hallows Golf Club) gave it everything over his final nine holes, shooting 34 over his final nine (holes 1-9) and making a birdie on the 9th to find himself on the cutline at 11-over 153. He’ll compete in a 14-for-5 playoff at 7:35 Monday for the final spots into match play. 

Former Red Sox hurler Erik Hanson of Washington State also breezed into match play, shooting a 2-over 73 on Sunday that included a pair of birdies on holes 13 and 15.

Roger Hoit hits his tee shot on the third hole during the second round of stroke play at the U.S. Senior Amateur at The Kittansett Club. (Kathryn Riley/USGA)

Shag Bag

A few other notes from Sunday:

  • While I was making my jaunt out to the course I ran into siblings Maya and Dylan Lamphere, a pair of First Tee Massachusetts members from Braintree, helping out on the range and the short game area. The youngsters swept up practice balls with a green rake, raked the bunkers and made sure everything was set for the next wave coming through.
  • Mr. Fred Ridley, the Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club, was kind enough to grant Mass Golf an on-camera interview on Friday. Ridley, the last U.S. Amateur champion (1975) to remain an amateur, came up shy of missing the cut this weekend but still reminisced on playing golf in the Bay State for the first time in about a quarter-century. “I think this golf course is spectacular,” he said. “It required a lot of thinking and precession. I had a great time here. One thing I remember from playing in the Northeast Amateur is how nice the people are, and it’s the same here.”

  • Tara Joy-Connelly knows a thing or two about USGA championships, having competed in more than 30 of them. After being inducted into the Mass Golf Hall of Fame last year, Joy-Connelly is recovering from a shoulder injury. But she has spent months of planning alongside her husband J.P. Connelly, the head golf professional at Kittansett, to pull off the first national championship here since the 1953 Walker Cup. In the afternoon, Joy Connelly was in the pro shop helping customers, but in the morning she was on the bag for Jim Muething, a Cincinnati native who got in as an alternate. And because he got in so late, the Connellys are hosting Muething for as long as he’s in the championship. “It’s been neat to see the duo in action, and I’m glad Jim had a good day,” J.P. Connelly said. Special thanks to J.P. for the ice cream sandwich on the way out.
  • Famous actor and comedian Bill Murray was on-site at Kittansett on Sunday. Murray, who owns a home on Martha’s Vineyard, followed a group of players that included Andrew Whitacre, who caddied for Murray in more than 20 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am events.
  • ICYMI: Before the championship began, I had the privilege of interviewing Muffy Marlio, the 22-time Ladies Club Champion at Kittansett. Marlio is the event’s honorary chairperson, a fitting role for an accomplished golfer who not only has been a heralded member of Kittansett, but an accomplished amateur golfer around the world. (Story link below)

I Had To Do It…

Before I got back on the bus from Kittansett, there was one thing I had to do. During these events, I’m almost always the guy behind, not in front of, the camera. But with such a gorgeous day at The Kittansett Club, I wanted to get at least one picture of myself on the course. Like many who attended the championship Sunday, I’ll have a shot of me smiling on the golf course. One day I’m sure I’ll smile back remembering this day.

The sea + the golf course = one happy guy.

STAY INFORMED

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