Great Barrington, MA — Ten months ago Dan Falcucci (Cyprian Keyes GC) was celebrating his first MGA Championship victory. One month ago he was preparing for his first Match at a USGA Championship.
This week, the 25 year old from Worcester is hoping to reach other milestone at the 103rd Massachusetts Amateur Championship, which is being held at Wyantenuck Country Club.
Following the first day of play, Falcucci finds himself in a strong position as he was one of five competitors to post a day-low score of 2-under par 68 to lead the field of 144 amateurs in Great Barrington. Included in that list of first-round leaders are Ryan Riley (Norton CC), Bradford Tufts (Tedesco CC), Colin Brennan (Indian Ridge CC) and Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough CC).
Although much golf still remains (this marathon of golf includes two rounds of stroke play and three days of Match Play), Falcucci is confident about his chances this year.
"I am definitely happy with a good round to start the tournament," said Falcucci, who made six birdies on the day. "After the practice round [on Saturday], I felt that it was a course where I feel comfortable and a course that suited my game nicely."
And who could blame him for feeling relaxed here in Great Barrington.
After all, Falcucci - after a string of second-place finishes in 2008 and 2009 - broke through to capture his first major title at the 2010 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship. This past June, he qualified for Match Play at the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Bandon Dunes Golf Course in Oregon. It marked the second straight year that he qualified for the Championship Proper and the first time he advanced to Match Play.
"It gives you a lot of confidence playing well at a USGA event," said Falcucci, who fell in the first round of Match Play in Bandon Dunes to eventual quarterfinalist Daniel Miernicki. "Just making it to the Championship is great, but to get to Match Play against that kind of field is special and gives you an added pep in your step."
That "pep" was noticeable today.
Falcucci began his round by making birdie on the 324-yard, par 4 10th and 164-yard, par 3 11th holes. In fact, on the first hole of the day Falcucci sent a huge drive down the fairway which ran 20 feet onto the green for a two putt birdie. He then drained a 12-foot birdie putt to go 2-under through two holes. A key point in his round came four holes later, when he carded back-to-back bogies on the 435-yard, par 4 16th and 401-yard, par 4 17th holes.
Before his round could spiral in the wrong direction, Falcucci one hopped a sand wedge off the flagstick on the 349-yard, par 4 18th hole (he made the putt) to make the turn at 1-under par 34. He then hit a wedge shot to six feet and made a curling birdie putt on the 1st hole, drained an eight-foot slider for par on the 2nd hole and sent his 9-iron approach on the 3rd hole to six feet for another birdie.
"It was key to make that birdie on 18 to get it back together," said Falcucci. "After those loose bogies on 17 and 18, it definitely helped to get me back on track. Making the turn at 1 under felt a lot better than even par going into that front nine."
And the game plan for tomorrow?
"...to not get too far ahead of myself and go out and play a good round and hope that I'll put myself in a good place for Wednesday," said Falcucci. "If I can keep playing like I have been playing, match play is one of those things where you never know. You just want to give yourself a chance in Match Play and see what can happen."
Spoken like a true champion... and USGA Match Play competitor.
Schedule of Play
Tuesday, July 12, 2011Second Round, 18 Holes Stroke Play— Morning Tee Times Begin at 7:30 a.m.— Afternoon Tee Times Begin at 12:00 p.m.(The low 32 scorers continue on to Match Play Competition. In the event of a tie, a sudden-death playoff will be used to determine the final Match Play competitors.)