Mass. Senior Am: Ruschioni, Houghton get the job done

HINGHAM, Mass. (Sept. 28, 2011) -- It's an unlucky number to some, but to Jim Ruschioni (Monoosnock CC) No. 13 could not be any sweeter.

Under near perfect conditions at Black Rock Country Club on Wednesday, the 63-year-old Ruschioni won the 2011 Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship which represents his 13th career MGA Championship title. That is a mark matched by no one else in Massachusetts golf history.

Over the years he has won the following MGA Championships - Mid-Amateur (3), Father & Son (2), Four-Ball (2), Senior Four-Ball (4) and Senior Amateur (2). He also - among many other accomplishments - was an 18-time club champion while a member at Oak Hill Country Club and won the 1987 New England Amateur Championship.

"This was completely unexpected," said Ruschioni who won his first Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship title in 2006. "I will cherish this one. I figured that my time was done."

The story of this tale began on Tuesday when Ruschioni put together a memorable round that featured six birdies (five of them coming in a row on the back nine) and one double bogey to jump out to a three-stroke lead over the talented field. He protected that lead on day two by carding a 3-over par 74 .

"I didn't hit a lot of solid shots, but I was able to manage it around out there," said Ruschioni. "It was nothing like yesterday when I was hitting it at the flagstick, but I shot 74 today and was comfortable with that knowing that I had a lead coming in."

No. 13 didn't always look so inevitable for Ruschioni. After all, he began his second round by making double bogey on the 396-yard, par 4 1st hole. That miscue reduced his three-stroke lead to just one stroke as James Drohen (Crystal Lake GC) - the 2003 winner of this event who was in second place following Tuesday's round - made par on his first two holes.

Ruschioni did not fold under the pressure as he sharpened his game from that point on and played even par golf through his next 16 holes.

"One of the keys was actually on the 5th hole," said Ruschioni. "I hit my tee shot right and had to hit a provisional. I found my first shot and was able to make 3 out of the rough from there, so instead of being four over I was one over."

Just when Drohen fell back, the next challenge for Ruschioni came from Don Reycroft (LeBaron Hills CC) who was two groups back and making a charge. Through 14 holes, Reycroft was 2-under par for the day and had drawn within one stroke of the lead after he had made birdie on the 12th hole and Ruschioni made bogey on the 13th hole.

"I had no idea what was happening," said Ruschioni who was told his status for the first time just before hitting his third shot on the 18th hole. "I didn't want to know. These holes are hard enough. I just wanted to make pars, and I figured that I should be fine if I could do that."

Although Reycroft was not successful in winning today (he made a costly double bogey on the 18th hole), he has enjoyed a strong summer of golf. He was a first alternate at 2011 U.S. Senior Amateur Qualifying and finished second to former amateur Matt Parziale at the Brockton City Open held earlier this month.

But on this day, it was Ruschioni who stole the show with his sensational two-day performance. In the face of the ever-changing challenges - whether it was from fellow competitors, the tough layout or the wind gusts that increased as the afternoon wore on - Ruschioni was clearly not to be denied No. 13.

"I had no expectations and had not played much competitive golf this summer," said Ruschioni. "I lost a lot of the fire this year... when you are 63 years old you don't win many championships. You usually leave that to the young 55 year olds."

Maybe so, but that was not the case today. This championship was clearly meant to be Ruschioni's sweet 13th.

Super Star Senior

Capturing the Super Senior Division title with a score of 4-over par 146 was Dave Houghton (Captains GC). The 67-year-old from Orleans found himself in the final pairing and was in the running for the overall title after posting a day-one score of 1-over par 72.

On Wednesday, Houghton maintained his Super Senior Division lead and enjoyed a eight-stroke victory over James Irving (Segregansett CC), who finished with a two-day score of 8-over par 150. Houghton is a five-time club champion at Captains Golf Course.

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