Massachusetts State Am: Burgess wins 1-up

CONCORD Mass. (July 13, 2007)-- In one of the most grueling tests of golf skill and endurance, Burgess Houston (Wellesley - Maplegate CC) prevailed over eight-time Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year Frank Vana , Jr. (Boylston – Marlborough CC) by a score of 1-up on Friday in the finals of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship. As a result of his performance, Houston can now lay claim to the prestigious Commonwealth Cup.

The two finalists played a combined 272 holes of golf over a five-day period at Concord Country Club. The week featured two rounds of 18-hole stroke play and three days of match play. The final test was a 36-hole match that lasted more than eight hours. It ended when Houston drained a four-foot par putt on the 18th hole. It was just one year ago when Houston knocked off Vana in the quarterfinals only to be defeated by Ben Spitz in the championship match. This marks the first time in the 24-year-old’s career that he has won an MGA Championship event.

In what can only be called a true back-and-forth battle, Houston – with the match all square – made his final move on the 528-yard, par-5 17th hole where he made a critical birdie. It was the 35th hole of the match. Vana was in perfect position as his second shot landed just on the front edge of the green. His eagle putt was left five feet short and that proved to be the difference. Vana missed his five-foot birdie putt and lost the hole. Both players made par on the final hole as the epic battle came to an end.

As the match wore on, the players began to show signs of fatigue and the wind picked up to make conditions even more challenging. Vana held his last lead of the match on the 30th hole when he salvaged par to win the hole and take a 1-up lead.

It appeared that the momentum was switching at that point as he had made birdie on the previous hole to square the match. Houston, showing veteran poise, took advantage of a Vana double bogey on the 31st hole to square the match. After a three putt on the par-3 33rd hole cost him the lead once again, Vana rebounded to square the match by making a three-foot par putt on the 34 th hole. Then came the Houston birdie – his first and only birdie of the afternoon – on the 35th hole that proved to be the difference.

The first 18 holes was a similar affair. During that morning match, both players had chances to break open the match but just couldn’t capitalize. Houston broke out to an early 1-up lead after sending his 7-iron approach shot on the 482-yard, par-5 1st hole to seven feet. Much like he has done all week, Houston drained that eagle putt to go 1 Up. Vana stole a brief lead following his second birdie of the day – on the 388-yard, par-4 7th hole.

Houston responded by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the 150-yard, par-3 9th hole to even the match at the turn. On the back nine, Vana scrambled and despite hitting only three greens in regulation on the side he posted nine pars. That proved to be enough to stay even with Houston who made one bogey and one birdie to cap off the morning match.

This year marked the fourth time that Vana has made it to the finals of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship. He lost in 2003 to Andy Drohen at The Country Club and then returned to capture the Commonwealth Cup in 2004 and 2005 at Taconic Golf Club and Essex County Club, respectively.

--Story courtesy MGA

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