Massachusetts Amateur: John Kelly, others ready for semifinals
Salem, Mass. (July 17, 2014) — The weather may have disrupted the original schedule of play, but Mother Nature was on the side of the 106th Massachusetts Amateur Championship on Thursday.

Under perfect conditions at Kernwood Country Club, the final round of 32 match as well as the round of 16 and quarterfinal matches were all completed as scheduled.

Following a full day of competition, the semifinals are now set and will be contested beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Friday.

The first semifinal match will feature John Kelly (Twin Hills CC) against Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC), while the second match will see Jake Shuman (Blue Hill CC) take on Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich GC).

The final 36-hole match will now – due to the delays caused by inclement weather on Wednesday afternoon – be contested on Friday morning beginning at 7:00 a.m. The second 18 holes will begin no later than 11:30 a.m.

This marks the first time since 2006 that weather has forced the Massachusetts Amateur Championship to continue past its scheduled five-day period.

“We can’t thank the staff and membership of Kernwood Country Club enough for accommodating these changes,” said Kevin Eldridge, the MGA’s director of rules & competitions. “It was in the best interest of the competitors to extend the event into Saturday instead of trying to complete nearly four rounds of match play in just one day.”

Here are highlights from today's action.

John Kelly, Twin Hills CC def. Ryan Harris, The International, 4 and 2

When a competitor plays 5-under par golf through 16 holes, it is hard to beat him. That was exactly what happened when John Kelly (Twin Hills CC) faced off against Ryan Harris (The International) in the first quarterfinal match of the day.

After defeating Christopher Gentle (Mount Pleasant GC) by a score of 2 and 1 in the round of 16, Kelly came out firing against Harris who had bested Jackson Lang (Nashawtuc CC).

Both players made birdie on the first hole before Kelly took his first lead of the match when Harris carded bogey on the 420-yard, par 4 2nd hole. The two competitors would match each other shot for shot and Harris pulled even with a birdie on the 340-yard, par 4 8th hole. Two straight bogies by Harris on the next two holes allowed Kelly to extend his lead to 2 up. It would be a lead that he would not give up, but it wasn’t without intense pressure put on by Harris.

On the 404-yard, par 4 11th hole, Harris had his birdie putt conceded and was looking to draw within one of Kelly who had missed the green just right and was chipping from the fringe. Kelly not only chipped in to halve the hole, but he also drained a 20-foot slider on the very next hole for par to halve that hole. He then found the green on the 525-yard, par 5 13th hole in two and won the hole with a birdie.

“I think that he had three birdies inside a foot and a half today,” said Kelly. “The chip in on 11 was huge and the 20-foot slider on 12 was huge and then I had the birdie on 13… I think that I was 5 under today so that was a good round.”

The final window of opportunity for Harris came on the 377-yard, par 4 15th hole when Kelly’s approach landed short in the bunker and Harris was comfortably on the green. Much like he has done all week long, Kelly calmly hit his bunker shot to makeable range to halve the hole. Kelly put the finishing touches on his 4 and 2 victory with a birdie – his fifth of the day – on the 16th hole.

“My caddie told me that I was like 80 percent on up and downs so the short game is going well,” said Kelly. “The first two rounds I think that I hit 32 greens and was hitting it unbelievable but my putting was a little crummy because I was getting used to the speed of the greens which is faster than I am used to. But everytime I was in a little trouble, I was able to hit a little pitch shot and get out of trouble.”

This represents a breakthrough for the former University of Rhode Island standout at this event. For the past two years, Kelly has advanced to match play but was defeated both times in the first round.

“Two years ago I got beat by Frank Vana and then last year by Brian Higgins,” said Kelly. “Those guys are legends in Mass golf, so I learned a lot from those matches.”

However, at this particular time Kelly is just trying to figure out where to stay tonight.

“Now we have to find a new hotel to stay in,” said Kelly with a laugh. “We have been bouncing around all week and I actually shared a queen bed with [my caddy] last night so it has been a crazy week, but I am happy to be here and happy to be in the semis.”

Matt Parziale, Thorny Lea GC def. Victor Galvani, Framingham CC, 19 holes

For a long walk up a fairway and an extended period time on the green, Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) believed that his experience at this year’s championship had come to an end. After all, he had watched his 2-up lead through 12 holes evaporate and then he missed a short putt for birdie on the 17th hole which would have squared the match heading into the 18th hole.

Noticeably irritated about the miss on the 17th hole, Parziale was able to send a strong drive down the 18th fairway but he came up short with his approach. His opponent – Victor Galvani (Framingham CC) – meanwhile was in cruise control as he landed his approach in a perfect spot, 18 feet just left of the center hole location.

What happened next is something that no prognosticator could have foretold. Parziale left his chip short and missed his par butt for bogey. Galvani left his birdie putt well short and then three putted to lose the hole and send the match to the 19th hole.

“That was a pretty crazy ending,” said Parziale, who last year advanced to the semifinals of this event. “I felt like my ball wasn’t going in the hole and then on 18 everyone saw what happened. I was lucky enough just to get it to the 19th hole.”

That 19th hole – otherwise known as the 490-yard, par 5 1st hole at Kernwood – has been a special place for Parziale this week. Through two rounds of stroke play and three matches, Parziale has made five birdies and one par.

One of those birdies came at the most important moment. After his drive sailed right into the rough, Parziale found a way to shape his 5-iron approach over the trees and into the right bunker. Galvani’s chip came up short, while Parziale rolled his third shot to eight feet. Galvani could not make his birdie putt, and had to watch as Parziale did what Galvani could not just minutes earlier.

“The greens have been fast so it’s tough to get aggressive,” said Parziale. “He played a good match all day and it was back and forth. It was definitely a fun day but a crazy ending.”

It was a much different experience for Parziale who had seemingly been in cruise control through the first two matches.

In the round of 32, Parziale needed just 12 holes to defeat Matthew Naumec (CC of Wilbraham) and then he capped off a 5 and 4 win over Ben Bridgeo (Far Corner GC) in 14 holes on Thursday morning.

He made a quick birdie on that 1st hole to jump out to a 1-up lead against Galvani, but it took him 11 holes to gain a 2-up advantage.

“From 15 through 18 I didn’t’ play well,” said Parziale. “I had putts for par and birdie on every hole par and just couldn’t get it, But I got the one that mattered today so I was lucky to do that.”

That putt on the 19th hole more than made up for the missed putt on 17, which looked – for a few short moments – to be a hole in one as it sailed towards the flagstick.

“I thought that I hit a good putt but obviously it didn’t go in,” said Parziale. “I have been putting well all day but sometimes it doesn’t go in.”

The fleeting feeling of defeat was quickly erased with the euphoria of vicory, but Parziale – who has yet to win a major MGA championship title – realizes that his road is far from over.

“I thought I was done three or four times just on that one hole,” said Parziale. “I was lucky to get to 19 but I was happy with the way I played that hole and I made a good putt. Now I can look forward to tomorrow… but we have a long way to go.”

Jake Shuman, Blue Hill CC def. Jason Short, Marlborough CC, 5 and 3

Since the first day of stroke play, Jake Shuman (Blue Hill CC) has looked like a man on a mission. Despite his young age – he is just 18 years old and a recent graduate of Needham High School – Shuman has methodically made his way around the Kernwood Country Club layout like a veteran.

After finishing T2 during the stroke-play portion of the event, Shuman advanced to match play in what has been his first-ever Massachusetts Amateur Championship experience.

Rookie nerves were nowhere to be found during his round of 32 match where he defeated mid-amateur talent DJ Hynes (Framingham CC) by a score of 3 and 2. He even weathered a tough storm in his round of 16 match against Cody Booska (Crumpin-Fox Club). It was a testing match where Shuman trailed on 12 of the 18 holes. He finally prevailed by a score of 2 up thanks to a stretch of golf where he made birdie on three of his final six holes.

"I woke up this morning and was 2 down [after suspension of play on Wednesday]," said Shuman. "I won the first hole and got it to 1 down but it's not good going to bed knowing that you are two down. I was two down for a while and then birdied 13 and 14 and got it all square and then birdied 16."

When it came to the quarterfinals, Shuman found a way to keep pace with Jason Short (Marlborough CC), one of the remarkable stories that came out of this event.

The 17-year-old from Marlborough became the youngest club champion in Marlborough Country Club history when he captured the title last year at the age of 16. Short plays as the No. 1 player on the Marlborough High School golf team and had been dominating during what was his first-ever Massachusetts Amateur Championship.

On this day, however, Shuman was able to battle through a tough start – he was 1-over through two holes – and then take advantage of a bogey by Short on the 377-yard, par 6th hole to break the stalemate and gain a 1-up advantage. He then extended his lead by making birdie on the 390-yard, par 4 7th hole, and went 3 up on the next hole after Short suffered what was his second bogey in three holes.

Short had a chance to close the gap on the 404-yard par 4 11th hole but his short putt lipped out and the two competitors halved the hole. That turned out to be the turning point of the match, as Shuman cruised through the remainder of the back 9. He closed definitively by winning both the 14th and 15th holes, and will face Doug Clapp tomorrow in the semifinals.

"My experiences up to this point all help especially with this week and match play," Shuman said. "Playing and making it to match play at two U.S. Juniors is the best scene you can get on, so dealing with the match play there was great. I am going to be here tomorrow in the semis so I am happy with that and, hopefully two more wins."

Doug Clapp, Old Sandwich def. John Lazor, Dedham C&PC, 2 and 1

Sometimes experience pays off, and that was exactly what was going through the mind of Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich GC) when he walked off the 17th green following a 2 and 1 victory over 18-year-old John Lazor (Dedham C&PC).

It marked his third straight 2 and 1 victory in this event.

“The experience moved on,” said Clapp. “I am getting there. It took a rain delay, but I got to Friday. That was the goal of the beginning of the week so I guess I achieved it.”

Only once before – in 2010 when the event was held at Myopia Hunt Club – has Clapp advanced to the semifinals of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship. Despite being the reigning Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year, the 47-year-old from Walpole has still yet to win an MGA Championship title.

During both his round of 16 and quarterfinal match, Clapp faced opponents who were both 29 years his junior. Despite the age difference, Clapp managed to keep pace with both up-and-coming stars to carve out close victories.

“To be honest, I wasn’t hitting the ball well coming in here but you start to get comfort with your swing,” said Clapp. “I said to my wife that the good thing about an aging amateur is that one day is bad then the next is bound to be great. It can click in at anytime, but I still have not putted my best, so I am sure that tomorrow I will need to make more putts.”

Clapp found a way to make key shots when it matttered most. During his round of 16 match, he made birdie on the 194-yard, par 3 12th hole to gain a 2-up advantage over Mccloskey.

In his next match, Clapp was 2 down to Lazor after the youngster stuck his approach on the 377-yard, par 4 6th hole to five feet. Clapp would make five straight pars, however, before making a move with birdies on the 12th and 13th holes to square the match. He put the final nail in the coffin by carding birdie on the 15th and 17th holes.

“That’s me,” said Clapp. “I am not going to go out there necessarily and birdie seven of the first 12. You can do that out here, but it’s really not my game. I am much more likely to make a bunch of pars, stay in it and then birdie 15 and16 like I did in the first match… I just stay in there and trust that finally 20 years of playing in this tournament will pay off with the experience.”

The experience indeed paid off and it earned him a semifinal matchup against Shuman, who is a familiar foe as the two competitors were paired together in May at the 2014 Massachusetts Open Championship.

“When the tournament started I said that there was really only one guy that I wanted to try and avoid and that was him. I played two days of the Mass Open with him and he makes it look so easy.

“But it’s a good golf course to get him on, so we will just do the same thing. I can’t stop birdie, birdie, birdie, birdie so if that happens it happens. I am certainly going to give it my best.”

ABOUT THE Massachusetts Amateur

Qualifying - 18 Holes at Stroke Play to determine 32 Qualifiers for Match Play. Entries are open to amateur golfers who have an active MGA/GHIN Handicap Index at any public, private, semi-private, municipal or non-real estate MGA member course/club not exceeding 4.4.

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