- Golfer Benefits
TYNGSBOROUGH, Massachusetts – Doug Clapp and Brendan Hester have a long track record of playing in big-time championships.
Back in 2004, they qualified together for the U.S. Amateur. They’ve also played in a British Amateur together. Two decades later, they found themselves paired up in Wednesday’s U.S. Senior Open Qualifying competition at the vibrant Vesper Country Club (par-72, 6,500 yards). The result: both men fed off each other all afternoon with each ultimately securing a spot in a national championship once more.
Clapp, the 56-year-old amateur standout from Old Sandwich Golf Club, shot 4-under 68 with four birdies on over the first 10 holes to advance to the U.S. Senior Open for the second time in three years. This marks the 20th USGA event overall dating back to 1998 for the Walpole native now living in Plymouth.
Hester, 53, a longtime Pleasant Valley Country Club member from Northbridge, secured the second and final guaranteed spot with a 2-under 70. While he’s appeared in more than a dozen USGA events, this will be his U.S. Senior Open debut and first USGA event since 2006.
“What I learned last time was how cool it is to be able to play in this event,” Clapp said. “I’m looking forward to it. These were the guys I grew up watching on television. It’s nice to be able to compete, and it’ll be great having a good friend out there like Brendan.”
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As has been the case in his previous triumphs, Clapp placed a premium on accuracy, as he hit almost every fairway and green throughout the round. He made birdie on the par-4 2nd and both par-5s on the front (5 and 7) to get to 3-under and added another after the turn.
But knowing that Hester was also playing well, Clapp said he wasn’t about to sit back.
“I didn’t know whether we needed to be 5-under, so I said to [my caddie] Jimbo, let’s get one more,” Clapp said. Despite a bogey on the 16th, Clapp hit two stellar shots on the par-5 18th setting up a two-putt birdie and a score of 68.
“For me if I’m driving it well and in the fairway, I’m going to have a bunch of chances, and I don’t need to make every single putt,” Clapp said. “But that two-putt birdie was great way to finish.”
Ask about his 20th USGA appearance, “I’m old,” Clapp said with a smile. “This is what I do. I have a blast playing competitive golf. A beautiful day that with a course in great shape, that’s what you remember and makes it all worth while.”
Reminiscing on 2021, Clapp said he enjoyed the opportunity to play a practice round with Fran Quinn, who last year incredibly qualified for the U.S. Open at age 57. Asked if he was itching to play with anybody he grew up watching particular, he said, “We’ll see what happens this year. Any of those guys if I could jump out there with them for nine holes or more, it would be a blast.”
For Hester, this week and this season has been a case of letting the good times roll. After qualifying for the Mass Open at his home club Tuesday, Hester followed up with another standout performance Wednesday to get back into a national event.
But his return to the USGA stage followed a much different journey. His last appearance was the 2006 U.S. Mid-Amateur, and a year later he launched a startup company in Human Capital Management, dialing back some of his competitive golf. Hester sold his business this past fall, enabling some more time to focus on his game.
“Obviously with family and business that was the focus,” Hester said. “I had a great family, and having the businesses ended that chapter and now being able to focus on golf is fun.”
Family helped carry Hester through on Wednesday as he had his oldest son Jack on the bag. Though he was 1-over through 7, Hester stayed the course. He made birdies on holes 8, 10 and 11, to turn things around. On the eighth, he hit his approach to 2-feet and knocked down a couple putts on the 10th and 11th to get to 2-under.
“That was a key stretch because I was scratchy early on, so to turn it around then was huge,” Hester said.
While a bogey on the 12th set him back to 1-under and in a tie for second, Hester sank one last birdie on the 16th, and was able to knock down to clutch pars to avoid a playoff.
“I was an alternate two years ago, so I definitely wanted to get into one,” Hester said. “It was great to get it done, and have Jack on the bag, he was great all day.”
For the second straight year, two-time Mass Open champion Andy Morse (West Roxbury) found himself right in the mix only to be edged out by a stroke and earning an alternate spot. Morse had one of the highlights of the day with a long putt from the back on the 18th green that put him at 1-under and gave him the clubhouse lead until Clapp and Hester turned in their scorecards.
Robert Tramonti (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) edged out Rhode Island native Joseph Iaciofano in a playoff for the second alternate spot. Both men shot even-par.
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QUALIFIERS (Names; Cities)
*a-Doug Clapp (Manomet, MA); (-4) 68
*a-Brendan Hester (Northbridge, MA); (-2) 70
ALTERNATES (In Order)
Andy Morse (West Roxbury, MA); (-1) 71
+*a-Joseph Iaciofano (Jupiter, FL); (E) 72
*a- denotes amateur player
+won playoff for second alternate spot
Venue: SentryWorld Golf Course, Stevens Point, Wis.
Architect: Robert Trent Jones Jr. (renovation in 2014 by Robert Trent Jones Jr., Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi; renovation in 2021 by Jones Jr. and Charlton)
Dates of Championship: June 27-July 2
Field Size: 156 competitors
Yardage/Par: 7,218 yards/Par 71 (Yardages and par subject to change)
Tickets: For ticket information and packages, click here
Eligibility: Open to any professional and amateur golfer who is 50 years of age as of June 23 and whose Handicap Index does not exceed 3.4.
2021 Championship: Padraig Harrington held off a late Sunday charge from 2019 champion Steve Stricker to post a one-stroke victory at Saucon Valley Country Club’s Old Course in Bethlehem, Pa. Harrington, who posted a 72-hole total of 10-under-par 274, became the first player from the Republic of Ireland to claim a USGA championship. U.S. Open champions Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell are both from Northern Ireland.
Fast Fact: Up to 30,000 flowers are used on the 16th hole at SentryWorld, which is dubbed the Flower Hole. For the 2019 U.S. Girls’ Junior, the maintenance staff was able to arrange the flowers in such a way that it spelled out USGA. It is one of the most photographed holes in the game.
What Champion Receives: A gold medal, custody of the Francis D. Ouimet Memorial Trophy for ensuing year, exemption into 2024 U.S. Open at Pinehurst Country Club, and exemptions into the next 10 U.S. Senior Opens.
Future Sites: Newport Country Club, Newport, R.I./June 27-30, 2024; The Broadmoor (East Course), Colorado Springs, Colo./June 26-29; 2030: Spyglass Hills, Pebble Beach, Calif./TBD; 2032: Saucon Valley Country Club (Old Course), Bethlehem, Pa./TBD.
Vesper Country Club’s origins can be traced back to 1875 when a group of prominent gentlemen from Lowell sought to establish a private club for social and sporting activities. They named it Vesper, inspired by the evening chorus of songbirds known as “vespers.” The club’s original location was in Lowell, where it initially focused on activities such as rowing and social gatherings.
In 1901, Vesper Country Club relocated to its current site in Tyngsborough, where it embarked on an exciting new chapter. Under the guidance of renowned golf course architect Donald Ross, the club developed a championship golf course that would become the centerpiece of its offerings. Vesper Country Club’s golf course quickly gained a reputation for its pristine conditions and strategic design. In fact, the very first Massachusetts Open Golf Championship was held at Vesper in 1905 and was won by Ross.
The golf course has hosted numerous major golf events, including a total of five Mass Open championships (most recently 2019) and several Mass Amateur championships.
In 2008, the membership voted to completely rebuild all 18 greens to U.S.G.A. specifications and to restore the bunkers on the course. The rebuilding of the greens and the restoration of the bunkers was overseen by architect Brian Silva, who was faithful to the original design and plans of Donald Ross. This rebuilding project was completed at the end of 2009. In 2022, the club also replaced the narrow bridge that carries vehicles across the Merrimack River onto the clubhouse side of the property. The former bridge was believed to have been erected in 1937.
Vesper also earned a reputation for its turfgrass, named Vesper Velvet, which at one point became the standard in the industry in New England.
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