NORTON, Mass. (July 15, 2014) — The pursuit of the 106th Massachusetts Amateur Championship title became even more real today after the field of more than 130 competitors was trimmed to just 32 following two rounds of stroke play held on Monday and Tuesday.
Only those competitors will return to Kernwood Country Club on Wednesday to take part in match play, which will begin at 7:30 a.m.
This year's cut line fell at 8-over par 148 with the final one spot being decided in a four-for-one sudden-death playoff on Tuesday evening.
Weather permitting, the first two rounds of match play - round of 32 and round of 16 - will be contested on Wednesday in Salem. The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place on Thursday with the finale coming on Friday when the last two competitors standing will compete in a 36-hole final match.
Finishing as medalist with a two-round score of 2-under par 138 was Anthony Vecchiarelli (Crestview CC), who will be a senior at the University of Hartford in the fall. On this day, Vecchiarelli no doubt made his collegiate coaches happy as he pieced together two stellar rounds of 1-under par 69. He was the only golfer in the field to post two under-par rounds this week.
“I putted really well,” said Vecchiarelli. “I didn’t have any three putts all week, and I hit a lot of greens. I am putting well and I kept it in play.”
Despite a rough start to his round – he made bogey on two of his first three holes – Vecchiarelli changed the complexion of his round when he sent his 6-iron approach on the 194-yard, par 4 12th hole to a foot and then proceeded to make birdie on that hole as well as the 525-yard, par 5 13th hole. From that point on, he made one more birdie – on the 1st hole – and 11 pars.
“I made every five footer I had,” said Vecchiarelli. “I made everything today. Hopefully I can make some more tomorrow and the next day.”
Despite his lack of match-play experience, he is looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
“I have only played [match play] a couple of times,” said Vecchiarelli, who noted that his only match play experience – outside of his club championship – was in 2011 when he advanced to the round of 64 at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. “It’s a new experience, but hopefully I can get it done.”
Vecchiarelli does not have to look too far back to see when the last time a medalist went on to win this title. In 2012, Mike Calef finished as co-medalist and captured what would be his first of two such titles.
An Accomplished Field of 32 Awaits Match Play
Finishing T2 and just one stroke back of Vecchiarelli with scores of 1-under par 139 were two of the three first-round leaders – John Hadges (Thorny Lea GC) and Jake Shuman (Blue Hill CC).
Shuman, a two-time Massachusetts Division 1 boys’ golf individual champion from Needham High School who will be heading to Duke University in the fall, is no stranger to match play.
Despite this being his first appearance at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship, Shuman has twice qualified for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and just last year advanced to match play at that Championship Proper. He is also the reigning Christopher Cutler Rich MGA Junior Player of the Year.
While everything this week will be novel for Shuman, the experience is nothing new for Hadges, who won this event in 2008 and 2010 and is a perennial threat, especially in the match-play format.
“Tomorrow is another day,” said Hadges, who won this championship in 2008 and 2010. “It’s a cliché, but it is a brand new ball game and all 32 guys are even. I am just glad today is over. Today I was a little tired. I played pretty well but I scrambled.”
Another past champion – Ben Spitz (George Wright GC) – carded a 2-under par 68 to comfortably advance to Wednesday.
“You just play the course and what it gives you,” said Spitz, who was helped along on Tuesday by a chip-in on the 138-yard, par 3 9th hole. “You have to be on the right spots on the greens and par is a good score on every green. You can’t get too aggressive. I just played the course and what it gave me and I got in. That was all I cared about.”
The 2006 champion, Spitz was unable to play in this event last year at Longmeadow Country Club due to the impending birth of his twin girls. The year prior – in 2012 – Spitz advanced to the semifinals where he was defeated by Mark Souliotis.
“I need to keep making par and keep the ball in play,” said Spitz when asked what the key will be in match play. “Mike Calef won the last two years because all he does is make par. It’s hard to beat you on any course and in any match play tournament . It wears on you, so you need to make as many pars as possible and take the birdies as they come.”
Other notable MGA Champions to advance to match play include reigning Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich GC), two-time Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Champion Brian Higgins (Franklin CC) and two-time Massachusetts Junior Amateur Champion Nick McLaughlin (Far Corner GC).
"I have been striking the ball a lot better than I have all year long," said Higgins. "It was nice to come into this event actually thinking that I could hit a golf ball... I feel like I have a chance to win this event the way I am playing right now. I am hitting the ball pretty straight and not afraid to attack the pins. I am just going to play the golf course and go from there."
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