Before the first ball was hit on Friday, both finalists at the 105th Massachusetts Amateur Championship knew that the outcome would come down to the Longmeadow Country Club back nine.
In the end, it was defending and now two-time champion Mike Calef (Brockton CC) who churned out par after par on the back nine to build a 4-up lead through 18 holes. He never looked back en route to his 8 and 7 victory over Ian Thimble (George Wright GC).
“It feels amazing,” said Calef, who capped off his victory with a par on the 29th hole. “It hasn’t settled in but it’s awesome. It is completely awesome and a dream week again.”
With his victory, Calef becomes only the 10th person to win The Massachusetts Cup two straight years. He joins fine company that includes Arthur G. Lockwood (1904-1905), Francis D. Ouimet (1913-1915), Frederick J. Wright, Jr. (1928-1931), Bill Mallon (1973-1974), Bruce Douglass (1975-1976), James Hallet (1982-1983), Kevin Johnson (1987-1988), Jim Salinetti (1999-2000) and Frank Vana, Jr. (2004-2005).
“I was afraid to take a peak earlier in the week to see who has done it,” said Calef. “I know that Frank was the last to do it and like I said yesterday anything that I do that Frank Vana does is fine by me. If I can copy what his career has been I will be a lucky man. I am over the moon.”
Calef’s dominance over a par-70 course that the starting field of 142 golfers averaged a score of 77 on during the stroke-play portion of the event was nothing short of impressive.
Beginning with the 10th hole of his round of 16 match, Calef played 65 holes and recorded 13 birdies and just three bogies. He finished off his match against Thimble on the 11th hole where he made an easy par. He was 3-under par on that hole this week.
“[My caddie Eric McPhail] said that I should bend down and kiss the green,” said Calef with a laugh. “Today the match turned around on this hole and it was kind of weird to end it on this hole. This hole and I have had a cool relationship this week.”
For Thimble – who was making only his second-ever appearance in match play – it was a turn of events that he most likely did not expect. After all, he entered the final match as a dominating force on the back nine.
Not only did he register seven birdies and just four bogies on that stretch through his first four matches, he also used that back nine to execute exciting come backs against formidable opponents such as past champion and LCC member Flynt Lincoln (Longmeadow CC) in the round of 16, Peter French (Maplegate CC) in the quarterfinals and Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) in the semifinals.
“This whole week I have been able to capitalize on those holes and have made a lot of birdies on that stretch of holes,” said Thimble. “Today I just couldn’t get to them. There were tough pins and tougher wind than we had all week. I gave it my best effort. We have played so much golf this week that I just wore down.”
Unfortunately for Thimble, he was unable to relive that type of comeback-kid magic against Calef who showed no signs of fatigue – mental of physical – during the final match.
“I felt like I hit a wall emotionally and physically this morning” said Thimble. “It showed in my game. I was running on adrenaline all week and woke up without it this morning. I couldn’t get my game together and my mechanics broke down. Mike is a great player so you can’t do that against him. I learned that pretty quickly. If you make any sort of mistake he is going to capitalize on it.”
Thimble – who never led in this match – evened the match with a par on the 8th hole. Just when it looked like Thimble was going to make a move, Calef delivered one of those seemingly impossible shots.
With Thimble sitting nicely in the fairway, Calef found his drive in the right rough with an obstructed view of the green. He muscled his second shot around the hanging branches and used the contours of the surrounding land to ease his ball onto the green. Thimble then sailed his second shot over the green and could not get up and down to halve the hole. All of a sudden, Thimble found himself 1 down when it had looked – just moments earlier – that he would take his first lead.
Calef went to make four straight pars and then drain a 15-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole to build up what proved to be an insurmountable 5-up lead.
“He is just consistent,” said Thimble. “He is not someone who you are going to get into his head. He is not going to beat himself; you have to beat him. I wasn’t able to stick any shots tight today. I made one bomb on 18 to close out the morning match, but I really wasn’t able to have any momentum and I couldn’t put any pressure on him so he was free wheeling all day.”
Despite falling in the final match, Thimble did become the first 32nd seed (as determined by his finish in stroke play) in recent memory to advance to the finals.
The recent graduate of Monmouth University is the pride and joy of Boston College High School has much to look forward to in the future. After all, he is planning to move to Florida this winter to begin a professional golf career.
“I have a lot more game than I thought I might have especially on a course like this,” said Thimble when asked what he took away from the week. “During the practice rounds, I thought that I would struggle because it is a longer course. But I held it together great and I competed great which is the main thing for me. I showed that I can hang in there even when you play 46 holes in a day.”
For Calef, this is a continuation of strong play for a guy who was once in Thimble’s shoes. After all, Calef was born and bred in the Bay State and decided to give the pro life a try after graduating from West Bridgewater High School and then Murray State University. He eventually decided to regain his amateur status and has been enjoying success being just a working guy who simply loves the game of golf.
“My expectations for this week were the same as they are every year which is to just try to make match play and then from there pretty much anything can happen,” said Calef, who also won the 2012 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship. “I knew that I was playing OK coming into the week, but I played a couple of practice rounds with some of my buddies and it was a little shaky. But I found it while we were out here playing and it lined up perfectly.”
Final Match Notes of Interest
Calef’s confidence his game and his management of the Longmeadow Country Club layout was on full display during the morning hours. After he took the early 1-up through two holes, Calef watched his drive on the 601-yard, par 5 3rd hole sail left and into the rough. Without a clear shot to the green and facing the prospect of hitting into the crossing water hazard ahead, Calef hit his 3 wood over the trees and onto the 4th-hole green. Although he was unable to reach the 3rd-hole green with his third shot and ended up losing the hole, his second shot will be part of a tale that is told for years to come. In fact, longtime LCC members on site could not recall anyone trying to make that shot before.
When Calef took his next lead in the match – on the 5th hole – he made it memorable. With the tees set up at the front of the tee box and the hole playing just 280 yards, Calef drove the green to set himself up for eagle. Thimble was unable to find the green with his drive and lost the hole with a par.
After the inclement weather that plagued the championship earlier in the week, many found it amazing that the final match ended on Friday. On Wednesday, the Longmeadow Country Club’s Thor Guard Lightning Prediction System went off three times and caused three suspensions of play. The competitors had to return to Longmeadow on Thursday to finish the round of 16 and complete the regularly-scheduled quarterfinal and semifinal matches. Thimble played the most holes that day – 46 – as the championship was able to get back on schedule. The final match began – as originally scheduled – at 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning.
Several match play competitors from this year’s Championship returned to Longmeadow Country Club to take in some of the action. Andy Drohen and Brian Higgins – two MGA Champions – walked several holes to support their fellow golfers. Drohen won this event in 2003, while Higgins was the 2008 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year.
MGA staff members spent most of Thursday and Friday on the course with their cell phones. They were not violating club rules, however, because they were bringing all of the action – shot-for-shot – to those unable to make it to Longmeadow this week. The MGA has nearly 650 followers on Twitter and recorded a record number of “favorites” and “retweets” this week.
Final Matches - Hole-by-Hole Descriptions
Hole 1 – Thimble began the 105th playing of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship final with a drive that sailed into the right fairway bunker. Calef followed with a drive that settled into the left rough. Thimble’s second shot landed 110 yards short of the green, and he was unable to get up and down to save par. Calef found the green in two and two putted for par. Calef 4, Thimble 5 – Calef, 1 up
Hole 2 – Both players find the green with their drives, but Calef sits 75 yards ahead of Thimble. With a hybrid in hand, Thimble found the front right of the green. With just 150 yards to the flagstick, Calef sent his 7-iron approach hole high. The birdie putts are missed and the par putts are conceded. Calef 4, Thimble 4 – Calef, 1 up
Hole 3 - On the 601-yard, par 5 3rd hole, Calef’s drive sails into the left trees. Thimble finds the short grass with his first two shots. With branches in his way and a crossing water hazard ahead, Calef decides to hit 3 wood over the trees and onto the 4th-hole green. He is successful and takes a drop on the collar of the 4th green. Calef’s third shot comes up short and he can not get up and down to save par. Although Thimble’s third shot comes up short of the green, he is able to two putt for par to win the hole. Thimble 5, Calef 6 – All Square
Hole 4 – The downhill par-3 4th hole is playing into the wind with a tough front hole location. Both players find the green off the tee and two putt from about 20 feet for par. Thimble 3, Calef 3 – All Square
Hole 5 – With the tees set up at the front of the tee box, the hole is playing a driveable 280 yards on the final day. Both players pull out driver and go for the green. Thimble tugs his drive left and it lands under a birth tree grove. Calef launches his driver and his ball lands inches off the green. He is on the green in one. Thimble hits the overhanging branches with his second shot. Calef drains his eagle putt to win the hole. Calef 2, Thimble 4 – Calef, 1 up
Hole 6 - From the center of the fairway after a strong drive, Thimble finesses his approach onto the center of the green from 173 yards out. Calef finds the left rough off the tee, but leaves his approach just 14 feet below the hole. Both players two putt for par. Calef 4, Thimble 4 – Calef, 1 up
Hole 7 – Off the elevated tee, Calef and Thimble come up sort of the green but chip to par territory to halve the hole. Calef 3, Thimble 3 – Calef, 1 up
Hole 8 – Calef’s drive off the 8th tee hugs the tree line down the left-hand side and leaves him without a direct shot at the green. From the fairway and 184 yards out, Thimble hits his approach shot hole high and 17 feet to the left of the hole. From the left rough, Calef hits a knuckle ball that comes up just short of the green. Thimble’s birdie attempt sails by the hole, but he makes the come-back par putt. Calef misses his par putt to lose the hole. Thimble 4, Calef 4 – All Square
Hole 9 – Calef’s drive off the 9th tee strays right and lands behind a tree. Thimble finds the short grass with his drive, but his approach from 200 yards out sails over the green. From a very tough lie, Calef uses the contours of the ground surrounding the green and somehow manages to get his ball to the front of the green. Thimble is unable to get up and down and Calef two putts for par. Calef 4, Thimble 5 – Calef, 1 up
Hole 10 - Off the 10th tee, Thimble finds the lateral water hazard on the right and has to take relief. He skys his third shot over the trees and lies three. Calef finds the left rough off the 10th tee and puts his second shot just on the front edge of the green with another eagle opportunity. Calef’s eagle attempt from 47 feet comes up six feet short. Thimble makes an 11-foot par putt and Calef misses his birdie attempt. Calef 5, Thimble 5 – Calef, 1 up
Hole 11 - Thimble is in the fairway off the 11th tee and has 157 yards left to the hole. Calef peppers one down the left but ends up in the rough with 138 yards to the hole. Thimble tugs his approach shot with an 8 iron left into the left green-side bunker. Calef throws up a great shot that lands15 feet left of the hole. Thimble pitches out of a tough lie in the bunker but can not make the 15-foot par putt. Calef is able to two putt for par to win the hole. Calef 4, Thimble 5 – Calef, 2 up
Hole 12 - Both players rip driver off the 12th tee. Thimble’s drive finds the right fairway bunker, while Calef’s ball sits in the right rough just in front of a bunker. Thimble’s shot out of the bunker catches the lip but advances a good amount down the fairway. Calef’s second shot from 181 yards out finds the upper tier of the green. Thimble sticks his third shot close but misses his par putt. Calef two putts for par. Calef 4, Thimble 5 – Calef, 3 up
Hole 13 - On the long par 3, 13th hole, Calef plays his shot to the middle of the green with a 20 footer from left to right for birdie. Thimble mishits his tee shot and comes up 45 yards short of the hole but plays a good chip to 12 feet. Calef misses his birdie putt on the high side, but Thimble misses his par attempt. Calef 4, Thimble 5 – Calef 4 up
Hole 14 – Both players hit excellent tee shots that leave them 131 yards to the green. Thimble’s approach lands in the face of the green-side bunker, while Calef’s second shot sits hole high. Calef drains his birdie putt to win the hole. Calef 3, Thimble 4 – Calef, 5 up
Hole 15 – Thimble rips a drive down the left side of the 15th fairway and only has 135 yards left. Calef sends his tee shot out to the right and is 150 yard out in the right rough. Calef catches his approach fat and it comes up short of the green. Thimble flushes his approach hole high but it catches the slope and funnels away from the hole. Calef’s putt from the fringe just misses to the left and his par is conceded by Thimble who runs his birdie putt five feet past the hole. He makes that putt to halve the hole. Calef 4, Thimble 4 – Calef, 5 up
Hole 16 – Calef’s tee shot on 16 leaves him with a delicate chip that he leaves three feet short. He makes his par putt, but Thimble sinks his 8-foot birdie putt to win the hole. Calef 3, Thimble 2 – Calef, 4 up
Hole 17 - Off the 17th tee, Calef hits iron and has 200 yards left. Thimble hits driver and has 180 left to the green. Calef ponders his club selection and chooses a 5 iron which he leaves out to the right of the green for a tough up and down. Thimble tugs his approach a little left and misses the green hole high and in the thick rough. Both players face long par putts; Calef makes his 15-foot par putt to win the hole. Calef 3, Thimble 4 – Calef, 5 up.
Hole 18 - Off the 18th tee, Thimble nearly avoids the fairway bunkers on the right and has 135 yards left up the hill. Calef is in the fairway on 18 with 120 yards left to a back right hole location. Both players hit the green with their second shots. Calef is short and well below the hole while Thimble is just past hole high on the left. Calef leaves his putt from 30 feet below the hole. Calef two putts for par; Thimble sinks his 20-foot birdie putt. Calef 4, Thimble 3 – Calef , 4 up
Hole 19 (1st) – Thimble’s tee shot lands just to the right of the fairway, leaving him with 185 yards to the hole. Calef is about 20 yards in front of him. Thimble leaves himself a long putt for birdie from the center of the green. Calef is out on the right fringe, but much closer to the hole. Both player leave their birdie putts short. Calef 4, Thimble 4 – Calef , 4 up
Hole 20 (2nd) – Calef rips his driver down the middle, while Thimble’s shot lands in the left rough about 155 yards. Both players executive a par. Calef 4, Thimble 4 – Calef , 4 up
Hole 21 (3rd) – Calef’s drive sails right this time and into the rough. Thimble finds the fairway with his drive, but his second shot goes 20 yards further than Calef’s second shot. Both players find the green in three and two putt for par. Calef 5, Thimble 5 – Calef , 4 up
Hole 22 (4th) – Both players leave their tee shots short of the green and then leave their birdie putts inches short. Calef 3, Thimble 3– Calef , 4 up
Hole 23 (5th) – Calef switches to a 3 wood this time around and finds the greenside banker. Thimble leaves his chip from the front of the green short. Thimble misreads his putt and Calef capitalizes and sinks his short putt. Calef 3, Thimble 4– Calef , 5 up
Hole 24 (6th) - Calef crushes his tee shot nearly 300 yards down the fairway. Thimble hits his way right but avoids the trees lining the 6th-hole fairway. Both miss the green with their second shots, but Thimble makes a great par save to halve the hole. Calef 4, Thimble 4– Calef , 5 up
Hole 25 (7th) - With a breeze in his face on the 7th tee Calef fires his tee shot hole high and 19 feet left of the hole. Thimble catches a big breeze while hitting his tee shot and comes up short in the front right green side bunker. Thimble blasts his bunker shot up and onto the green but misses his 8-foot par putt. Calef two putts for par. Calef 3, Thimble 4– Calef , 6 up
Hole 26 (8th) - Thimble finds the thick rough to the right of the 8th fairway and hits his second shot hole high just on the fringe of the green. Calef sends his drive off the 8th tee through the fairway and into the rough. He comes up short of the green from 150 yards with a 7 iron. Calef’s putt from just on the fringe comes up a few inches short. Thimble’s birdie putt flies six feet past and he is unable to convert. Calef 4, Thimble 5 – Calef, 7 up
Hole 27 (9th) - On the 27th hole both players find the fairway with their tee shots. Thimble’s approach from 200 yards snuggles up tightly to eight feet on the undulating and difficult 9th green. Calef - from just 145 yards - comes up short and his ball rolls backwards down the slope in front of the green. Calef’s chip shot from in front of the green checks up nicely and comes to rest three feet from the hole. Thimble misses his birdie putt. Calef 4, Thimble 4 – Calef, 7 up
Hole 28 (10th) - After two great tee shots on, Thimble finds the rough to right of the green and then misses the green (into the right bunker). Calef gets on the green in two, hole high. Both players make 4 to halve the hole. Calef 4, Thimble 4 – Calef, 7 up
Hole 29 (11th) – Calef pushes his tee shot a little right into the rough and Ian tugs his tee ball just into the left rough. Calef finds the green with his approach, while Thimble’s second shot is left and off the green. Thimble concedes the match after Calef just misses his birdie putt. Calef 4, Thimble 5 – Calef wins 9 and 7.
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