SPRINGFIELD, MA (August 11, 2009)--There was a feeling in the air that this was his moment. After being in the mix at MGA championship events for so many years, the time came for Ryan Riley (Norton CC) to stand atop the podium all alone.
On this day, the 28-year-old from Norton was finally able to call himself the 2009 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Champion after capturing the title at Franconia Golf Course in Springfield in dominating fashion. Holding a slim one-stroke lead heading into the final round of play, Riley separated himself from the rest of the talented, 99-player field by tying the course record score of 8-under par 63 for a two-day total of 13-under par 129.
"I hit the ball well yesterday, but I hit more shots close today," said Riley who registered 13 birdies and zero bogies through two days. "It plays a lot like my course in that it plays short and is all about wedge play. I brought two putters down with me not knowing which one I would use, but I was sure happy that I picked the one I did."
It has been an interesting year for Riley. Back in May, he partnered with Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC) to win the rain-shortened Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship. He then went on to uncharacteristically fail to qualify for both the Massachusetts Open and Massachusetts Amateur Championships. Funny things can happen in golf as Riley – at the last minute – earned a spot at both Championship Propers and went on to make the cut at the Massachusetts Open Championship and advance to the Round of 16 at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
"I have been playing well this year, but I definitely got a lot out of playing with Bill Drohen and Matt Pariziale in the Ouimet [two weeks ago]," said Riley. "I felt like I was hitting it similar to them, but I wasn't making any putts. I happened to make some putts today which makes everything else so much easier."
This layout was especially fitting to Riley's game as it allowed him to take advantage of his strength and consistency off the tee, something that he focused on this past off season. In total, Riley used his driver on all but three holes. It also didn't hurt that he made key putts when needed… like on the 360-yard, par 4 15th hole when he made a 15-foot "curler" for birdie.
"After yesterday I was able to put myself into position and that's what you want to do in order to give yourself a chance to win," said Riley, who will next set his sights on the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship. "There are certainly other goals that I have set for myself for later on this year, but this is just fantastic."
The road to this championship victory was far from easy as Riley could not let up as a charging Bobby Loguidice (Franconia GC) was valiantly defending his home turf. The Springfield resident and Franconia Golf Course member made a serious charge for the title by firing a final-round score of 7-under par 64. Loguidice, who much like Riley is usually in the mix at MGA events (he advanced to Match Play at the 2008 Massachusetts Amateur Championship), made four birdies on the front nine and actually drew within one stroke of Riley through 15 holes following his seventh and final birdie of the day on the 360-yard, par 4 15th hole.
"It came at a great time," said Loguidice of his career best round on his home course. "There are no nooks and crannies that I don't know at this place. It was nice to have a short drive to the course in the morning and to sleep in my own bed. There was definitely a high level of comfort."
The 28-year-old finance manager made three straight pars to cap off his impressive round that would have no doubt led to a championship title on any other day.
"My qualifying round for this event was my most nerve-wracking round of the year," said Loguidice, who finished with a two-day total of 9-under par 133. "Truth be told, I don't play a lot of rounds here when it matters. I play with my weekend group and in tournaments run by the golf shop, but the pressure there is nothing like in the MGA events."
One small consolation prize for Loguidice was the large gallery of loyal friends and club members who greeted him with boisterous applause on the 18th green.
"It was great," said Loguidice. "I am so happy that everyone came out here in the heat to follow me when they could have been doing a lot of other things… I can't express how much it means to me."
View results for Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Golf Championship