Massachusetts Mid-Am: Higgins in playoff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. (Sept. 17, 2008) – It took one extra hole, but Brian Higgins (Franklin CC) made sure that he ended his 2008 MGA Championship season with a title.

The Bellingham resident defeated defending champion Philip Smith (Vesper CC) in a one-hole playoff at Berkshire Hills Country Club this afternoon to capture the 25th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship title.

It was a fitting bookmark to his season as Higgins began the year back in May by winning the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship at his home course in Franklin. With the victory, Higgins assures himself of being named the 2008 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year. Other feathers in his cap this season were a title win at the New England Invitational and qualifying spots at the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur Championships.

On this day, Higgins posted an even par 72 to cap off the regulation portion of the event. He actually found himself 2-over for the day until he made a key eagle on the 474-yard, par 5 15th hole. He went on to make three straight pars to pull even for the day and earn a spot in the two-man playoff.

When it came to extra holes, Higgins was resilient and strong. While Smith struggled off the tee and scrambled for a bogey on the 531-yard, par 5 10th hole, Higgins went about his business and made a par to capture the title. He capped off the tournament with a two-putt.

Higgins, who turns 34 years old on September 30, was forced to stave off an impressive run by Smith, who posted a day-low score of 2-under par 70 to pull even with Higgins following 54 holes of play. One year ago, Smith played 6-under par golf through his final 36 holes to capture his first MGA Championship.

This time around, it took a mind-boggling 4-under par run through his final five holes to force extra holes. Smith appeared to be out of the mix as he was 2-over par for his round heading into the 14th hole. It is then when he began his impressive stretch of golf. He made back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th holes and then added an eagle on the 494-yard, par 5 18th hole. Unfortunately for Smith, he was unable to continue that stellar play in the playoff as he settled for second place overall.

Smith is not without his own personal highlights from this past season. The Tyngsboro resident was tops at the 2008 Norfolk County Classic and third at the Hornblower Invitational.

Joe Cunningham (Brookline GC) finished in third place with a final score of 1-over par 217, while seven-time champion of this event Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough CC) used an impressive 2-under par 70 final-round score to move into a tie for fourth place with Phil Miceli (Sagamore Spring GC). Those two players finished with scores of 2-over par 218.

--Courtesy MGA

ABOUT THE Massachusetts Mid-Amateur

Entries are open to amateur golfers who have reached their 25th birthday by the first day of the tournament, who hold membership in an MGA member club and have an up-to-date MGA/USGA GHIN Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4, or who have completed their handicap certification as defined on the Entry Form. Competition will be in two (2) stages at Stroke Play: 18 hole qualifier; Championship Proper - 54 Holes.

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