NORTON, Mass. (Nov. 20, 2011) -- Following a season in which he was the only competitor to capture two major MGA Championships, Ryan Riley (Norton CC) was named the 2011 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year.
The 30-year-old Riley earned 732 points and becomes the 21st golfer to win this prestigious honor since it was introduced in 1976.
"Starting out the year, I made a concerted effort to put less pressure on myself," said Riley. "I am getting to the point in my life with work and kids that my game may not be as sharp as years past because I don't have the time to put into practicing. After a few events, I noticed that my results and my game were still holding up under the pressure."
The MGA Player of the Year Point System recognizes competitors who perform well in MGA, NEGA, USGA and other selected regional events during the course of the season.
The highlight of Riley's season no doubt came in July when he captured the 2011 Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Wyantenuck Country Club. It was a magical week that featured a finish that will not soon be forgotten. Riley defeated nine-time Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough CC) by a score of 4 & 3 during a final match where Riley carded 10 birdies in 33 holes. In fact, he ended the match by holing out for birdie from the front right bunker on the 33rd hole.
"The thought of actually winning the Massachusetts Amateur Championship never crossed my mind," said Riley, who was joined in Great Barrington all week long by his wife, mother, stepfather and two young children. "During the week at Wyantenuck my game was in great shape. And as the week progressed I was putting as well as I ever had. The week was extra enjoyable given the fact that my family was there with me all week long."
Although a welcome surprise to Riley, there were few who doubted his chances at that major MGA Championship. After all, it had been less than two months since Riley partnered with Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC) to capture a record third straight Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship. The momentum continued to build from there as Riley went on to finish second at the 2011 Worcester County Amateur which set the stage for his dramatic Massachusetts Amateur Championship victory.
He did not stop there, however.
Riley was simply unflappable during the months of July and August. He advanced to a four-player playoff at the 2011 Francis Ouimet Memorial Tournament (he finished T2 after John Gilmartin (Indian Ridge CC) drained two straight birdie putts to capture his second title) and then came up just short - he finished T3 - at the 2011 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship where he was looking to claim his second career title.
The following month, Riley finished an impressive T3 at the 2011 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, which all but secured Riley the honor of being named the 2011 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year.
Over the course of his amateur career, the former standout at Sacred Heart University has won five career MGA Championships. He has captured three straight Massachusetts Four-Ball Championships (2009, 2010, 2011) one Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship (2009) and one Massachusetts Amateur Championship (2011). He has also represented Team Massachusetts at the Tri-State Matches the past three seasons.
"I have so much respect for the quality of players in Massachusetts," said Riley. "It is an honor and something that has been a culmination of a lot of hard work and perseverance since I took the game up late in high school."
In what was another tight Player of the Year battle, Riley finished just 71 points ahead of Aikens, who was the only Bay State competitor to qualify for and compete at three USGA Championships. Aikens, a three-time MGA Champion, competed at the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship and 2011 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Vana finished in third place with 510 points, while the two-time and defending Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year Brian Higgins (Franklin CC) was fourth with 458 points.
SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Andy Congdon (Wyantenuck CC)
Andy Congdon (Wyantenuck CC) enjoyed success on the local, regional and national levels and his strong performances earned him 540 points and the title of 2011 George M. Cohen MGA Senior Player of the Year.
Congdon, who turned 57 years old in July, was the most dominating and consistent senior amateur in the Bay State this past season especially down the stretch during the months of August and September.
One of his crowning moments came at the 2011 USGA Senior Amateur Championship at Kinloch Golf Club in Manakin-Sabot, Virginia. After finishing the stroke-play portion of the event T8 (he fired a two-round score of even par 144), Congdon won two matches before falling in the Round of 16 to Phil Pleat.
Days later, Congdon traveled to Race Brook Country Club in Orange, Connecticut and held the day-one lead at the 2011 New England Senior Amateur Championship. Although he was unable to maintain that lead on day two, Congdon was still the top Bay State finisher at that event as he finished second overall.
The 22-time club champion at Wyantenuck Country Club also finished second at the Berkshire Singles Invitational held at Berkshire Hills Country Club and completed an Allied Tour triple crown by winning his eighth Allied Championship at Taconic Golf Club.
He capped off his tremendous season by representing Team Massachusetts - which was victorious for the eighth straight year - at the 2011 Tri-State Matches at Lake of Isles Golf Course in North Stonington, Connecticut.
In this year's standings, Congdon finished 205 points ahead of four-time George M. Cohen MGA Senior Player of the Year Jim Ruschioni (Monoosnock CC), who collected his record 13th MGA Championship title when he won the 2011 Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship.
JUNIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Chelso Barrett (Winchendon School)
Despite competing against one of the strongest crops of junior amateur golfers that this region has seen in many years, Chelso Barrett (Winchendon School) established himself as one of the most dominant by winning the 2011 Christopher Cutler Rich MGA Junior Player of the Year award by 232 points over two-time Massachusetts Junior Amateur Champion Nick McLaughlin (Far Corner GC).
Barrett finished the season with 607 points and received national attention when he advanced to the final match of the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship where he was defeated by two-time champion Jordan Spieth.
During that memorable week at the Olympic Course at Gold Mountain Golf Course in Bremerton, Washington, the 16-year-old Barrett made his way through the match play bracket by defeating some of the nation's top talent including defending champion Jim Liu (in the second round) and second-seeded Will Starke (in the quarterfinals).
In total, Barrett made an appearance at two USGA Championships Proper in 2011. In July, he qualified for and competed in the 2011 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship and then - as a result of his finish - received entry into the 2011 U.S. Amateur Championship.
Upon his return home to New England, Barrett continued his stellar play. He won the 2011 New England Junior PGA Championship and thus qualified for the 36th Junior PGA Championship. He also competed in a four-way playoff at the 44th Francis Ouimet Memorial Tournament at Woodland Golf Club and finished fifth at the 2011 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship held at Renaissace Golf Club.
McLaughlin finished with 375 points during a season in which he captured his second career Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship (2009, 2011). It was also recently announced that McLaughlin - a senior at St. John's Prep (Danvers) - was named a second-team Rolex Junior All-American by the American Junior Golf Association.