DEDHAM, MA (Sept. 29, 2010) -- There was just no question that Daniel Falcucci (Cyprian Keyes GC) was going to do everything in his power to finish first.
After all, a second-place finish at the 27th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship would mean that the 27 year old from Worcester would have finished second for the third time in his career.
Not this time... not on this day!
"With all of the second place finishes that I have had, I was wondering when my time was going to come," said Falcucci, who finished second at the 2008 and 2010 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship. "To finish on top is unbelievable. Words can't describe it."
Falcucci entered the third and final round of play at Dedham Country & Polo Club with a share of the lead and held on with a round of 3-over par 72 on Wednesday to claim the Ted Bishop Cup by one stroke over Philip Smith (Vesper CC) and John Hadges (Thorny Lea GC). He finished with a three-round score of 5-over par 212.
The turning point came on the 372-yard, par 4 16th hole when Falcucci made a par while Smith - whom he was tied with through most of the final round - made a costly double bogey. That two-shot swing made the difference as Falcucci went on to keep his composure and play 1-over par golf through his final two holes to claim his first MGA Championship title.
"The first two days I putted great and today I putted ok," said Falcucci, who finished with 12 birdies. "I didn't putt as well as I did the first day, but I made the putts I had to make and that was the difference for me."
For Falcucci, an All-Region selection while at Bryant University, this victory also caps off a season of two major firsts. Earlier this season, Falcucci was unable to play in the Massachusetts Amateur Championship because he had qualified for the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship which was being held that same week. It was the first time in his career that he represented the Bay State at a USGA Championship Proper.
"The year started off great by qualifying for the U.S. Pub Links but to finish like this is unbelievable," said Falcucci.
This past week, Falcucci was challenged by everything from a tough layout in Dedham to unpredictable weather that brought driving rains and heavy winds on Monday and Tuesday. Despite the adversity, Falcucci managed his game to perfection. Perhaps most astonishing is the fact that he began his final round by making three straight bogies.
"Even though I made three bogies I didn't feel like I had hit bad shots," said Falcucci. "I misjudged the wind and had a couple of unlucky breaks and was three over through three. My dad showed up on the fourth hole and I guess he was the missing link."
Once his father took over the role as caddie, Falcucci's putter lit fire. He made an eight-foot birdie putt on the 6th hole, drained a 25 footer on the 7th hole and then sunk a 15-foot birdie putt to match Smith's birdie from just two feet.
"I hit my driver and then a lob wedge to 15 feet," said Falcucci. "[Smith] and I were tied at that point and hit his shot to two feet, so I didn't want to let him get ahead of me. I made a good putt there."
Those critical three birdies - on the 6th, 7th and 9th holes - gave Falcucci a second life as he made the turn at even par 35 and regained a piece of the lead. While Falcucci was making his personal comeback, Smith succumbed to his first double bogey of the day on the 549-yard, par 4 10th hole.
"This is an unbelievable way to end the year," said Falcucci. "There is nothing quite like that feeling of being under the gun coming in and knowing that you're grinding it out for the win. To pull it off with the pressure... gratifying would be an understatement."
Hadges, the 2010 Massachusetts Amateur Championship, was playing ahead of the lead group but came one stroke short after a final round score of 3-over par 73.
Mike Calef... Miles Away in New York
While many of his friends and fellow competitors were in Dedham, Mike Calef (Brockton CC) was taking on the nation's top players in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Calef, who was one of two low amateurs at the 2010 Massachusetts Open Championship, was forced to withdraw from the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship on Sunday evening after he qualified for Match Play at the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship being held at Atlantic Country Club in Bridgehampton, New York.
Calef won his first two matches (including an incredible comeback during the Round of 32 where - facing a 1 Down deficit with one hole remaining - he had to return to the course on Wednesday morning to pull out the victory in 21 Holes), but fell in the Round of 16 to perennial standout Sean Knapp (Oakmont, PA).
Round 2... Highlights and "Rain"-lights
The second round of this year's event was marred by heavy rain which began falling in Dedham on Tuesday afternoon. With just under half of the 120-player field on the golf course when play was suspended at 4:05 p.m., tournament administrators made the decision to suspend play for the day and finish play on Wednesday.
At that time, the leader in the clubhouse was Mike Walker (Oyster Harbors Club), who posted a 3-over par 141 during the morning round. Walker - unlike the afternoon half of the field - was able to enjoy an uneventful ride home to the Cape following his 2-under par 67 round on Tuesday morning.
"We got so lucky with our tee times," said Walker who had a late tee time on Monday. "The forecast for my group on both days was the absolute worst when I looked this weekend. It was supposed to rain hard yesterday afternoon and this morning, but the only hole that I have played in the rain was my last one today. It was windy on my last six holes, but I could not have lucked out more with my times."
Walker used his good fortune to his advantage as he began his round by making birdie on 549-yard, par 5 10th and 420-yard, par 4 11th holes. He went on to make six pars and a third birdie on the 372-yard, par 16th hole to make the turn at 3-under par 31.
"I got off to a good start by making birdie on the first two holes," said Walker, who earlier this year won the club championship at Oyster Harbors Club. "The difference today was putting. I was putting really good today."
Walker made an eight-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole and then sent his approach on the 11th hole to four feet. His birdie putt on the 16th hole was 12 feet and from that point on he used his solid putting to make key par saves on a challenging Dedham layout. His only miscue on the day came on the 354-yard, par 4 2nd hole.
"All of the challenges here are at the green," said Walker. "There are certain places where you can't hit it. If you end up there you have to abandon any thoughts of getting up and down and go with a safe shot. I did not do that yesterday which led to a triple and double bogey when I was trying to be a hero."
This past weekend, Walker partnered with Kevin Queally (Charles River CC) to win the McCracken Cup at Charles River Country Club. As luck would have it, Walker was paired with Queally this week in Dedham and the comfort level played out well for Walker, a reinstated amateur who served as an assistant golf professional for a short time before returning to the amateur fold.
"I hit it pretty consistently," said Walker. "It's not great, but it's not bad. it's about the same. It's really just how I putt. If I get my putting going, I can do well."
View results for Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Golf Championship