IPSWICH, MA (September 12, 2016) -- Eight months ago, Dick King (Hyannis GC) never would have imagined that he would be leading the 2016 Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship by three strokes following the first round of play.
On Monday, King fired a day-one score of 2-under par 70 at the Golf Club of Turner Hill and currently stands atop the leaderboard with 18 holes of regulation remaining.
Heading into the second and final round of play, King is three shots ahead of Rick Marcos (Poquoy Brook GC), Paul Lacamera (Plymouth CC), Dan Reagan (Olde Barnstable), and Keith Smith (Franklin CC), who all carded scores of 1-over par 73.
The journey to this moment is one that King never could have imagined or thought was even possible. It is also a journey that probably many know nothing about.
On February 3rd, King suffered a major heart attack. He learned afterwards that he was lucky to be alive as his major aorta and the second largest artery were 100 percent blocked.
Upon reflection, King – who also has diabetes– realized that the signs of what were to come had begun many years before.
“I came off six tournaments in a row where I couldn’t break 80,” said King. “I had no energy. I felt really horrible and was making double bogeys all over the place, which I never did a lot. It was embarrassing. I think that I shot 87 at the Super Senior and didn’t make the cut and then didn’t make the cut and didn’t make the cut. My whole game was gone, and I didn’t know why.”
Surviving the heart attack on February 3rd began a new life and new set of challenges for King both on and off the golf course.
Recovery has led to months of education.
"I have been living with this for so long, and now I am pretty educated about the link between diabetes and the heart," said King. "It is a deadly combo."
On this day, King found his old game and managed to dominate a course that delivered an average score of 80.202 on Monday.
“I three putted one, and then I started to hit it close,” said King.
Following that bogey to start his round, King played 4-under par golf through his next 16 holes.
On the front nine, he drained a five footer on the 388-yard, par 4 5th hole and then followed that up with a birdie from 30 feet on the 124-yard, par 3 6th hole. He went on to make birdie on the 9th and 12th holes.
And even when he was in trouble, he managed to escape thanks to solid approach shots and solid putting from start to finish. That was indeed the case on the 146-yard, par 3 18th hole.
King found the water hazard with his tee shot on that finishing hole but still managed to make bogey and card a score of 3-under par for the day.
“I think that I have learned more from watching women players than from the guys because they swing so smooth,” said King. “Lydia Ko is a great example. They don’t look like they have much of a swing speed, so what I try to do is mimic them. I have slowed down my swing speed and figured out that it’s about turn, torque and timing. Now I am hitting the ball the way I was eight and nine years ago.”
While his game has returned to top form, the daily grind is like nothing he had experienced before. He now must travel with his “heart bag” and manages his diet down to each calorie. He also never knows what to expect with each passing day.
“My chances of another heart attack are like 80 percent, so I still have to get things under control,” said King. “Literally yesterday I couldn’t play golf. I played on Saturday and played pretty well and then lost it on the 18th hole. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t pull it together.”
King hopes to find his game again on Tuesday, but regardless of the outcome he will enjoy the moment, appreciate the journey and treasure each shot
“Every day is a blessing,” said King. “That is it.”
Babson Coach Jeff Page Enjoys Role Reversal
Most of the time, Jeff Page (Wellesley CC) is the one watching from the sidelines and taking notes as the head golf coach for Babson College.
On Monday, however, Page was the one who was being scrutinized by his young team as he competed at the Golf Club at Turner Hill.
After posting a score of 2-over par 74 on a very challenging Ipswich layout, Page is getting a clear “thumbs up” from his squad as he stands T7 and still very much in contention for the state’s top senior amateur title. “I played well,” said Page. “I had two doubles. They sneak up on you like they always do. I actually hit the ball pretty well and putted well, but I had two bad holes and it caught up with me. Still it was fun.”
Page began his round with a birdie on the 471-yard, par 5 9th hole by reaching the green in two. He would give two back on the very next hole after finding the water hazard with his tee shot.
Despite competing on a course that delivered just one under-par round on Monday, Page found a way to play 2-under par golf through his next 10 holes.
“The greens are fabulous and in great shape,” said Page. “The greens are the fastest that I have seen all summer.”
Although he could not keep up that sizzling pace down the stretch, Page capped off his round with a solid birdie putt on the 359-yard, par 4 8th hole.
“I hit the ball well except for a couple of shots, and I putted well,” said Page, who is enjoying his fourth season as head coach of the Babson golf program.
Additional feedback will no doubt be delivered to Page’s phone this evening as his talented young team enjoys an opportunity for a role reversal.
It is a team that knows a lot of about success. Under Page’s guidance, the Beavers secured a second consecutive New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) title and NCAA Division III Championship appearance last season.
“They are online and will be checking up on me,” said Page. “It is added pressure, but it makes me play better actually. It makes me play better because I know that they will be checking up on me.”
Although coaching may not allow him to practice as much as he would like, he has found that his time on “the other side” has helped him elevate his game to the point where he is 18 holes from his first-career state title.
“We were just at Trinity over the weekend for a tournament, and I was talking to one of the other coaches about that,” said Page. “It really does help me play smarter because I am seeing what they are doing and seeing it from a different angle. I think that I play smarter because of it.”
This past summer he did carve out some personal time to play alongside another great talent in Wellesley’s Pam Kuong, who will be one of the premier competitors at the 2016 U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, which will be held at Page’s home course of Wellesley Country Club on September 15-22.
“The course is in good shape and it will be fun to see how Pam does,” said Page, who is an 18-time club champion at Wellesley CC, with his most recent victory coming in 2014. “I had a chance to play with her a couple of times this summer, so that she could see the course. She is great, and I would love to see her get into the finals and win it this year.”
Page was instrumental in arranging for his golf team to serve as caddies this coming weekend for what will be a historic event. After all, this marks the first time in USGA history that a Bay State course has hosted this Championship
“Overall [the club] feels good about it and is looking forward to it,” said Page.
But before he welcomes in a field of future USGA Champions next week at his home club, Page will focus on capturing a title of his own at the GC at Turner Hill.
“I need to avoid those couple of shots that really cost me today,” said Page. “There are birdies to be had out there. I need to keep it below the hole and just putt like I did today.”
A Homecoming for Ned Yetten
Hitting a tee shot on the 8th hole is nothing new for Ned Yetten (GC at Turner Hill), but the feeling he had when his club hit the ball on Monday morning was something he won’t soon forget.
Although he has been a member at this week’s host site for nearly 10 years, today marked the first time that Yetten has played a competitive state-wide event on his beloved Ipswich layout.
It was an experience that he enjoyed tremendously on Monday, but it was one that he almost missed out on.
“I never play much in these events,” said Yetten. “A few of my friends play, and they told me that my club was hosting this in the fall. I wasn’t paying attention, but when they said that I decided to put my name in to try and qualify.”
Yetten’s journey back home began on August 8 when he was one of 11 qualifiers to advance at Bellevue Golf Club. He posted a 6-over par 76 on that day which was one shot above the qualifying mark. It wasn’t medalist material, but it was enough to earn him a spot in the Championship Proper.
“I don’t play a lot of medal tournaments,” said Yetten. “It was nice to get a few holes under my belt today, and then it went pretty well. The only thing that I lack is talent.”
Quick with a laugh and blessed with a sweet self-deprecating humor, Yetten epitomizes the warmth and hospitality of his host club which has opened its doors to numerous MGA championships and qualifiers over the years.
“I am so glad that our club had the foresight to host this event,” said Yetten. “Our club does that a lot and many of the high school teams play here. It’s pretty accessible to state tournaments and qualifiers as well.”
Competing for a state title on a layout that is challenging on any day, Yetten was 5-over par through his first nine holes before making birdie on his 10th hole of the day – the 146-yard, par 3 18th hole.
“I hit an 8 iron pretty good and got lucky,” said Yetten. “I had a 10 or 12 foot downhill putt that luckily hit the hole.”
He would score his second birdie of the day on his final hole of the day where he sent his 9-iron approach to 10 feet on the 359-yard, par 4 8th hole.
“That is always a good way to finish especially since I usually finish with a three putt,” said Yetten. “I had four three putts today, and I know the greens pretty well. If you don’t get the right speed, the greens can be very challenging here. You don’t see the big slopes, but the greens are very subtle and devious.”
To Yetten’s point, the scoring average for the entire field was 8-over par. “I don’t know how much it helped me,” said Yetten of his home-course knowledge. “I know where to hit it, but it’s still hard to get it on line and the greens are a little quicker and firmer than in the past.”
Although Yetten doesn't yet have any plans to play in future Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championships, he is making sure to take full advantage of the opportunity before him this week.
"This is just a unique piece of property," said Yetten. "It is peaceful and a nice and fair layout. I really think that it is well built and well designed, and I love it here."
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