Salem, Mass. (July 18, 2014) -- It was a tale of two very different semifinal matches at the 106th Massachusetts Amateur Championship, but both paths have led to the same place for John Kelly (Twin Hills CC) and Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich GC).
Following two days of stroke play and four matches held over three days, Kelly and Clapp have earned a spot in the finals of the most prestigious MGA championship. Both competitors will be making their finals debut and one will become the 73rd individual to have won this title which dates back to 1903.
The final 36-hole match will be contested on Saturday morning beginning at 7:00 a.m. at Kernwood Country Club.
Here is a summary of action from today.
John Kelly, Twin Hills CC def. Matt Parziale, Thorny Lea GC, 6 and 5
For Kelly, his semifinal match represented a continuation of simply outstanding and error-free golf.
Beginning on the 17th hole in his round of 16 match against Christopher Gentle (Mount Pleasant GC), Kelly has played 11-under par golf through his last 30 holes.
“I have been hitting it great,” said Kelly, a salesman for Springfield-based Kellco Products. “The first two days the putter wasn’t great but now I feel that I finally have a hang for the greens and the speeds have been a lot better and the speed has been good.”
On Thursday afternoon, he was 5-under par during his quarterfinal match which ended on the 16th hole. On this day, it took him just 13 holes to defeat Parziale. Kelly carded five birdies and eight pars during that impeccable round.
“I know how good Matt is,” said Kelly. “I was thinking that I needed to just play my game and keep doing what I have been doing and that’s what I did.”
For Parziale, the disappointment was evident. After all, the 27-year-old from Brockton is having a memorable season. Not only did he win the 2014 Norfolk County Classic, but he also finished T2 and as low amateur at the 2014 Massachusetts Open Championship.
“It was a good week,” said Parziale. “It was fun, but it was disappointing for sure but that is what match play is about.”
Parziale got off to a fine start by making birdie – his sixth such birdie of the week on the Kernwood Country Club’s 1st hole – to take an early 1-up lead. The lead would be short-lived, however, as a fairway bunker stymied Parziale’s route to the 2nd green and Kelly would capitalize and square the match.
The players would stay even through the next two holes, but it was on the 390-yard, par 4 5th hole where Kelly would unleash his first major blow when he drained an 18-foot uphill putt.
He would extend his lead on the next two holes. He first took advantage of a Parziale third shot that was clipped by a tree to the right of the 6th green and then he sunk another 18-footer on the 7th hole to go 3 up (click here to view a video of that birdie putt).“He played good all day and made a lot of putts,” said Parziale. “I didn’t play that well and the score showed it.”
Even when he was in trouble, Kelly was able to make key putts. Perhaps a key turning point came on the 8th hole when Kelly converted on a difficult 5-foot par putt and then stuck his tee shot on the 138-yard, par 3 9th hole to three feet. Kelly made his putt, while Parziale would miss his 6-foot birdie attempt.
“I never got ahead of myself because I know how good he is,” said Kelly. “I just kept trying to hit greens and give myself birdie looks and hoped to make an occasional putt.”
A wild drive by Parziale into the hazard on the 10th hole all but secured the victory for Kelly, who put an explanation point on his victory with his fifth birdie of the day on the 13th hole for the 6 and 5 victory.
Only twice before has Kelly advanced to match play and on both occasions he was eliminated in the first round. More “first” moments will come on Saturday for Kelly when he tees it up in his first-career Massachusetts Amateur Championship final.
“When I play my best I can play with these guys,” said Kelly. “It is a little surprising to win four matches. It’s match play golf and it’s hard to win. You have to have it for 18 holes, and so I guess I am a little surprised.”
Doug Clapp, Old Sandwich def. Jake Shuman, Blue Hill CC, 2 and 1
Standing on that 1st tee on Saturday will be Clapp, who – despite his veteran age of 47 and impressive amateur golf record that includes being named the 2013 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year – will too be making his first finals appearance.
Dating back to 1995, Clapp has advanced to match play every year except for three. Two times he advanced to the semifinals… and now he finally has secured a first-ever finals berth.
“Just trying enough times,” said Clapp when asked what the difference was this year. “Eventually if you come out and play solidly things break for you and you end up there. I still didn’t think that I did anything phenomenally today, but I hit some shots when I needed to and maybe made one less mistake than him.”
Standing in his way on Friday was a formidable foe in Shuman, who will be heading to Duke University in the fall. The two opponents are familiar to each other as they were paired together – for two rounds – at this year’s Massachusetts Open Championship.
“I meant what I said yesterday that he is the last person I wanted to see out here,” said Clapp. “He is a phenomenal talent and there is something about him that doesn’t seem headed to be a freshman in college. He is going to be a tremendous player.”
From the start, it was a back-and-forth battle with neither player able to secure more than a 1-up advantage. In fact, the match was all square on 10 of the first 14 holes.
Shuman struck first with a textbook birdie on the reachable 490-yard, par 5 1st hole to go 1 up. He would give one back on the very next hole when he flew his approach over the green to allow Clapp to even the match.
Indeed, there were no flurries of birdies or highlight-reel shot making. Rather it was steady par golf from start to finish.
“From 4:30 on this morning after I woke up I was thinking about how this match would go,” said Clapp. “It never goes like you think it’s going to go. With maybe the exception of him hitting a solid drive and knocking an iron on the green and two putting on the first hole which is what I had in my mind he was going to do, it unfolded in a much different way.”
Both players kept pace with the other as the match remained all square from the 10th through the 14th hole. It was on the 525-yard, par 5 13th hole, however, where the momentum of the match shifted.
With Clapp in trouble off the tee and forced to chip back into the fairway, Shuman’s approach found the back fringe of the green. He chipped within birdie range, but lipped out the putt.
“I could have two putted from the back fringe for the win to go 1 up and I hit the lip on the putt to halve the hole,” said Shuman. “It was the turning point in my morning match yesterday so go figure it was the one that hurt me today.”
Meanwhile, Clapp sent his fourth shot close and converted on the par putt to halve the hole.
“I played that hole as badly as you can play,” said Clapp. “I hit one good shot and that is golf. I hit one good shot and he just misses the putt. I didn’t see that from him in the Open where he was very solid from that distance. He just didn’t have it today, which is too bad but that’s the way it goes.”
Despite tweaking his wrist on his approach on the 15th hole, Shuman had a chance to halve that hole but he watched yet another putt lip out to give Clapp a 1-up advantage with just two holes remaining.
“I still had a putt to halve the hole and just didn’t make it and then had another putt [on the 17th green] and didn’t make that,” said Shuman. “I played fine today but I didn’t play great. I didn’t make enough putts and he made a few more.”
On that 17th green, Clapp was able to covert his par. Shuman’s tee shot fell short and he was unable to make a tricky downhill par putt to continue the match.
“He left the door open and I was able to par my way through it,” said Clapp.
For Clapp, it represented yet another grinding match for the clear veteran in this year’s unusually young match-play field.
“I had hoped that we would be standing here and still not having to play the 18th hole,” said Clapp when asked about his expectations for the day. “I guess I will have to play it at least once [tomorrow].”
Clapp and Kelly will play the first 18 holes beginning at 7:00 a.m. The second 18 holes will begin no later than 11:30 a.m.
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