Marshfield, MA — For a record ninth time, Frank Vana, Jr. (Andover CC) can call himself a Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Champion.
Under perfect conditions at Marshfield Country Club, the nine-time Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year carded a tournament-low score of 5-under par 65 on Wednesday to post a remarkable six-stroke comeback. He finished with a three-round score of 1-under par 209.
It marks his ninth Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship victory and his 14th MGA Championship title. No other golfer in history has equaled those two marks.
Over the course of his career he has won nine Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championships (1999-2003, 2005-06, 2012-13), two Massachusetts Amateur Championships (2004-05), two Massachusetts Four-Ball Championships (2002-03) and one Massachusetts Father & Son Championship (2003).
“I honestly don’t think about it,” said Vana about his history-making performance. “I just wanted to come out here today and put together a good round and see what could happen. I am just happy to have posted a good score after what has been a season where I have felt like I played well but just didn’t post good numbers.”
While Vana may consider a season in which he won two titles – the 2013 Worcester County Amateur and 2013 Western Mass Amateur – a disappointment, he has continued with each passing season to set new MGA records and establish himself as the most dominant golfer in the Bay State over the past two decades. In fact, he was named the MGA Player of the Decades for the 1990s and 2000s.
On this day, it took a herculean effort to not only catch two-day leader John Hadges (Thorny Lea GC) but also Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich GC) who entered the final round four strokes back. Clapp, who currently leads this year’s Player of the Year standings, posted a solid 2-under par 68 on Wednesday but suffered a bogey on the 18th hole which dropped him one shot back of Vana and denied him a chance at his first career MGA Championship title.
“I really felt good the last two days, but didn’t post good numbers again,” said Vana, who began the championship with a 4-over par 74 on Monday. “I woke up today and felt good and was more focused. I made two bad swings that resulted in bogies but otherwise I was making good swings and making some putts which is important.”
Word quickly spread across the Marshfield layout that Vana was making a charge. He was 2-under par through his first six holes, but it was on the 7th hole where he began a stretch of golf that secured him another title.
On the 304-yard, par 4 7th hole, Vana sent his approach to 18 feet and drained the putt. He then made birdie on the 8th and 9th holes, which he had played at 3-over par through the first two days.
“I bogeyed that 8th hole the first two days, but I hit a 5 iron to about 20 feet and made it right in the middle,” said Vana. “I had not played the 9th hole well all week, but I hit a nice 7 iron that released to five feet.”
He followed that up by hitting a perfect drive on the 405-yard, par 4 10th hole and then a sand wedge approach to a foot. He reached the green on the 514-yard, par 5 11th hole in two and missed his eagle putt by three inches.
“It is what they always say when you get into a zone and I almost can’t describe it,” said Vana. “I just floated through those holes. I felt good and didn’t feel any pressure. I was hitting it close and making some putts. Some putts were fairly long and some were close, but it was just happening for me which was nice.”
For the third straight day, Vana missed the green and suffered bogey on the 12th hole but that would be his final miscue of the day. He capped off his 5-under par 65 round by making five straight pars, including a critical par on the 409-yard, par 4 18th hole.
It was an especially sweet finish for Vana, who had made bogey on that same hole just one day earlier en route to his second-round score of even par 70. It was also that hole where Clapp made bogey on Wednesday afternoon and thus opened the door for Vana’s record 14th MGA Championship victory.
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