Massachusetts Mid-Amateur: Herbie Aikens defends title with one-shot win
Canton, Mass. (Sept. 17, 2014) — Under blue skies at Blue Hill Country Club, Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC) capped off a sensational three days of golf by winning the 2014 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship. It marks his second career and second straight MGA Championship victory.

“I am just really excited,” said Aikens, who last month won the 2014 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship. “To be able to back it up with another one is just unbelievable. It has been such an amazing year. I feel really lucky and that all of the hard work is starting to pay off.”

“This one was really nerve wracking,” said Aikens. “I haven’t won a lot of individual titles so I had never been in a situation where I had a three shot lead. I tried to make sure that I didn’t play differently, but I did and I got a little nervous and my putting left me for a while… and Ben was playing awesome and putting on the pressure on top of it, so it was definitely a mental battle out there.”

Aikens won the battle of the minds down the stretch.

Spitz missed the green on the 16th hole to the left and then pushed his six-foot par putt past the hole. Aikens then made his third birdie of the day on the 17th hole thanks to a wedge approach that landed three feet from the hole.

“I knew we were even and I had been feeling like oil was leaking all over the place and the wheels were falling off,” said Aikens. “I pulled my focus together and hit a really good shot off the tee and then felt really good about the wedge. Even though it was in between yardage for whatever reason it felt good.”

Nerves returned on the 18th tee as Aikens hooked his drive into a native area. His punch-out shot rolled into the heavy rough, which opened the door of opportunity for Spitz who found the middle of the fairway with his drive.

Spitz was unable to capitalize. His approach landed in the greenside bunker and his third shot rolled 20 feet past the hole. Aikens, meanwhile, hit a phenomenal approach to 30 feet right of the hole.

“I almost made a big mistake on 18 but that was probably one of the best 5s I have ever made in my life,” said Aikens, who secured the victory after both players two putted for par. “I was in some real, real bad stuff and I was lucky to get a club on it. Then I got buried in the rough and to even get it on the green was pretty good, so I was happy with how I finished.”

The journey to his latest title began more than a month ago at the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship. As one of the most talented golfers to have never won an MGA Championship title, Aikens broke through that barrier with a come-from-behind win that he secured on the final hole at Cranberry Valley Golf Course.

“I feel a lot different,” said Aikens. “They day after I played the Pub Links I was telling a friend that the fairways seemed wider and the greens seemed bigger. It was a monkey off my back. It was definitely really bothering me that I hadn’t done it. I put so much pressure on myself and then that made it so much harder to do it. When I finally did, I felt like now I could relax and just play golf.”

His relaxed demeanor was evident from Monday morning through Tuesday afternoon. He calmly delivered an opening round of 5-under par 67 that was matched by just Spitz. Despite what he called a “sloppy” round on Tuesday, Aikens posted a 3-under par 67 which gave him a three-stroke cushion with just 18 holes remaining.

In the end, it turned out that he needed every last bit of advantage as he derailed a come-back attempt from Spitz, the 2006 Massachusetts Amateur Championship champion.

“We had a blast,” said Spitz. “We were both playing well and both striping it and playing good golf. It was an easy-going round. It was like going out on Sunday and having a little match together.”

And in the end, it was advantage Aikens.

“I am just going to work even harder and hope that I can keep doing this,” said Aikens.

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