IPSWICH, MA (September 13, 2016) -- Keith Smith (Franklin CC) has been in this position before, but there was something extra satisfying about his latest triumph.
Competing against some of the state’s - and even region’s - best senior talent, Smith captured his second career Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship crown.
He claimed the Frederick J. Wright, Jr. award on Tuesday afternoon at the Golf Club at Turner Hill after posting a two-round score of even par 144.
His latest victory comes three years after he won this title in 2013 during what was his first year of eligibility for senior amateur events.
“The first time was more unexpected because I had just started playing and it was my first senior event,” said Smith, who is 58 years old. “It was an unexpected surprise – a nice one. This one I knew that if I played my game and I played well that I would at least be there at the end and then who knows what happens.”
It was only after signing his scorecard on Tuesday – a 1-under par 71 – that Smith realized that he had prevailed and finished just one stroke ahead of Kevin Carey (Dennis Pines GC).
It was a welcome relief for Smith after competing on what was an extremely challenging layout that allowed just three scores under par over two days.
“These greens are really fast,” said Smith, who carded nine birdies over 36 holes. “You get above the hole and down grain it is all you can do to make sure the ball stops where you can make par. You can’t really run it, so it makes the birdies that much more special because they are difficult to get.”
Entering the final day of competition three strokes off the lead but tied for second overall, Smith took advantage of a fast start and was 2-under par at the turn. He first made a 12-foot birdie putt on the 361-yard, par 4 3rd hole and then sent his tee shot to seven feet on the 144-yard, par 3 6th hole. A third birdie on the 461-yard, par 4 11th hole put Smith at 3-under par for the day.
“I didn’t even make a bogey or come close to a bogey,” said Smith of that 11-hole stretch. “I hit every fairway and every green, and it was easy. The back, it was not so easy.”
What Smith alluded to with a shake of the head was a final seven holes where he made three birdies, two pars, two bogeys and one double bogey. In fact, he nearly sent his final tee shot of the day – on the 169-yard, par 3 18th hole – into the water hazard, but managed to dodge that bullet and salvage bogey to finish even par for the championship.
“I made a swing on 12 that cost me two and made a swing on 15 that cost me one,” said Smith. “I had it at 3 under and then gave it back. And then I made a couple of birdies and then gave it back. That is very frustrating, but when you are close to the end you just have to keep grinding and hope it’s enough.”
In the end, his score of even par 144 was enough to secure him a second title and a sense of satisfaction that he was able to best a challenging layout – crafted by the same architects that designed Erin Hills, site of the 2017 U.S. Open – and an ever growing field of top competitors.
“It is difficult, and there are a lot of good senior players out there,” said Smith. “I wasn’t sure until the very end where we stood, and I knew somebody was going to out there and shoot a number so you had to grind away. You were going to make some bad swings, and you had to just try and make up for them. It is hard to win, and it makes you appreciate it even more.”
Making his victory even sweeter was the realization that Smith made as he was walking back towards the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoon.
His victory on this day guaranteed him an exemption into several MGA Championships in 2017, the most important being that into the 2017 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, which is being held at his home course of Franklin Country Club.
“This is great,” said Smith. “I was going to have to go through qualifying, and now I can play in that event at my home course.”
So after two long and grueling days, Smith finally enjoyed a moment of pure and thoroughly deserved satisfaction.
View results for Massachusetts Senior Amateur Golf Championship