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NATICK, Massachusetts – The game of golf is filled with impressive young talent and that was apparent on Monday at the Young Golfers’ Amateur Championship at Sassamon Trace Golf Course. Tucker Cullinan (Youth on Course/Mass Golf) rose above the rest of the field to win the 7th Young Golfers’ Championship.
Ben Chisholm (Ipswich Country Club) earned the runner-up medalist finishing one point behind Cullinan. The Championship Proper was conducted using the Modified Stableford scoring format where each competitor received four points for an eagle, three points for a birdie, two points for a par, one point for a bogey, and no points for a double bogey or worse.
Cullinan totaled 36 Stableford points, while Chisholm had 35. This years field included 40 competitors playing from 4,700 yards on the par-32, 9-hole-track at Sassamon. The event is limited to competitors who will not reach their 14th birthday by midnight of August 9, 2021.
Tucker Cullinan may be just 12-years-old, but he played a complete and mature round of golf on Monday. Cullinan, who spends part of the year in Boynton Beach, Florida, had four birdies in his round. He showed some composure bouncing back from a double bogey on the 7th hole and responding with birdies on the 9th (par-4, 286 yards), 11th (par-4, 326 yards), and 13th (par-5, 498 yards) holes.
“I haven’t been playing my best lately,” Cullinan said. “It feels good to finally play well. I made some putts out there and I want to give a big thank you to Mass Golf for hosting the event and to Sassamon Trace for letting us use their course.”
Cullinan was playing Sassamon Trace for the first time ever, but he acclimated to the course quickly. Much of his practice efforts recently have been focused around putting and Cullinan was pleased to see the hard work he has been putting in pay off in the form of a victory.
“I’ve been working hard,” Cullinan said. “All around, but recently I’ve definitely been focusing on my putting. Then, I putted really well today which helped me a lot. I had a couple errant shots, but I was otherwise happy with how I hit it. I just said to myself play well, don’t have a score number in your head, and just play your own game.”
The result of his approach was an even mark of 32 on his first nine holes and a 1-over 33 on his second nine. That brought him to a 64 overall and his mark of 36 points in the Stableford format.
Cullinan certainly needed every big putt and shot he knocked in as he finished just one point ahead of medalist Ben Chisholm (Ipswich Country Club). In fact, just one point separated the top six finishers on the leaderboard.
Cullinan enjoyed his first experience at Sassamon and also wanted to give a big thank you to the grounds crew. “The wind started to pick up a little bit later on in the round and it made it more of a challenge, but the course was in great shape,” Cullinan said. “It’s a big thank you to the Superintendent and his crew for getting it ready.”
As mentioned, Chisholm grabbed medalist honors. He shot 2-over 34 on the first nine and then heated up going 1-under 31 on his back nine. Chisholm had four birdies. Finishing in 3rd place with 34 Stableford points was Jack Carew (Ipswhich Country Club) who shot 32-34-66 with 1 birdie.
One of the great things about the game of golf is how playable the sport is for people of all ages. The Young Golfers’ Amateur Championship is a great example of just how much kids can succeed in the game from an early age.
Kurt McDowell is the General Manager at Sassamon Trace Golf Course and is also a PGA Professional. He’s been around the game of golf his entire life and he says that the benefits of playing the game from an early age are obvious.
“I think it’s huge,” McDowell said. “With the way we’re laid out I get a lot of senior golfers and a lot of beginner senior golfers. The ones that did it as a kid, even if they took some time off for family or something else, when they come back it’s a huge difference in how they’re able to perform and pick it up later on in life.”
By starting golf early, kids can build up their skill level and ability, which also allows them to continue playing the game over the course of their adult life.
“It’s also huge for the ones that can play throughout their life because it’s a game that can be played by anyone,” McDowell said. “We got 100-year-olds out here, it’s like what else can you do at 100. Not a lot of sports and not a lot competitive, but it’s fun. It’s just a great game to get kids into and enjoy.”
In terms of actually learning the game, McDowell pointed out that the concepts and intricacies of golf are much easier to understand and grasp at a young age. He pointed to an example with his own family for how receptive young children are to learning, especially when it comes to something new.
“It’s easier to learn things as a kid,” McDowell said. “That’s true with anything in life. I’ve got two little kids and we’re looking at learning other languages and I did some of it in high school, but they pick it up so much faster than me and they’re five and seven. I did some of this before and I can’t keep up with them, so it’s the same thing in golf and other sport. Getting in at an early age, you just learn so much easier and it makes it fun for their whole life.”
Because of his support for having young kids learn the game, McDowell was happy to have Sassamon Trace host the Young Golfers’ Amateur event.
“I think it’s great to get the younger golfers playing a lot and in a competitive situation,” he said. “We don’t offer a lot of competitive events here. We do a fun junior program, so to be able to offer something more on a championship type level is really great to have here.”
In addition to the kids enjoying themselves out on the course and posting some impressive low numbers for their age, they can also learn camaraderie through the game and perhaps build some lasting relationships along the way.
“It’s so fun to watch,” McDowell said of the golfers. “I always say if I had your swing when I was your age, I would have loved it a lot more than I already did. I do think it’s a great game for honesty and character. It’s a character building game.”
The field for the Young Golfers’ Amateur is only 40 players, but some of the young kids already have some impressive golf achievements on their resumes. Check out what some of the players in the field have already accomplished before hitting their 14th birthday:
One of the calling cards of the nine-hole Sassamon Trace track is the fact that the course was designed with beginner level golfers in mind. The front half of the course was built on an old landfill and the course was designed to fit the natural landscape of the area. Sassamon plays to a par-32 and the yardage ranges from 1,744 (red tees) to 2,383 yards (blue tees).
“I think it’s a good mix of almost a links-style on the top portion of holes 1-3,” said Eric Fontaine, the course Superintendent. “It’s a good mix for younger people of shorter par-3’s with the one long par-5. I think it’s a good mix of fours and threes for the younger kids for sure. They can hit all their clubs and then on the backside, it’s more of a tree-lined traditional type of course around here. You definitely don’t want to miss right.”
Sassamon primarily draws young players and senior players, and in both cases many of the players are just picking up the game. Still, Fontaine and his crew work to make sure that the golf course provides a challenge to the players.
“We don’t get the greens going too, too fast,” Fontaine said. “We don’t want to make it too hard for kids learning or anything like that, but with the greens, we can make it challenging with certain pin positions and stuff like that. We have a couple par threes where we can mix it up in terms of making it more challenging distance wise. Also, on our seventh hole we can move the tees to the left or right to make it more or less over the water, depending on what sort of events we got going on.”
Despite being inviting to a less-experienced player, make no mistake, when a player comes to Sassamon Trace they need to bring their best game with them.
“We are a par-32, so some of the high school kids think it must be easier,” Fontaine said. “I would describe this course as if you’re playing really well and keeping it in play, it’s not the hardest, but if you get in the wrong spots you can definitely make some big numbers out here.”
McDowell agreed with the assessment.
“I think we’ve got a lot of undulating greens, which really challenges the short game,” he said. “We get a lot of junior players here that do really well in the drive, chip, and putt because chipping and putting here isn’t easy. When you practice here, you can take it other places and it really works out well. The hazards here tend to be at least a little bit off play, but still enough in play that they have to learn to hit it somewhat straight.”
Sassamon presents the perfect place for an event such as the Young Golfers’ Amateur. While challenging, the course is not over whelming and it’s a playable track for the competitors as they continue to hone their skills in the game.
“I always think it’s fun setting up for any tournament,” Fontaine said. “Especially, like I said a lot of young kids come and play here. I think it’s a good distance for young kids while also being nine holes. It’s always fun to host any sort of tournament and and it’s exciting getting ready for it.”