Marblehead, MA — It was five years ago when Colin Brennan (Indian Ridge CC) advanced to match play at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship for the first time in his career. He was only 18 at the time, but he clearly remembers being beaten soundly by two-time champion of the event Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough CC).
On this day and under perfect conditions at Tedesco Country Club, it was Brennan who came out on top and provided one of the many highlights of the 104th Massachusetts Amateur Championship by defeating the perennial champion Vana by a score of 1 up in the Round of 16.
"Eventually you have to beat the best players in this thing so I thought that it was a good opportunity today to give it my best shot," said Brennan, who earlier in the day outlasted Matt Bianchini (Mount Pleasant CC) in 19 holes. "We both played well and it was a great match."
In one of the most exciting matches of the afternoon, neither player was able to gain more than a 1-up advantage from start to finish. In fact, both players were 2-under par for the round but it all came down to the 439-yard, par 4 18th hole where Brennan was able to convert his par while Vana suffered what was his second bogey of the day and the second in three holes.
Prior to the 16th hole where Vana sent his approach to the back of the green and was unable to get up and down, the nine-time Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year was enjoying a 1-up lead that he earned the hole prior when Brennan made his only bogey of the day.
"I made one bogey on 15, and I lost the hole," said Brennan. "You have to keep hitting good shots because if you keep giving him opportunities he'll beat you. I was just trying to match what he did and hopefully make the last putt."
When it counted, Brennan came through on that 18th hole as he found the fairway and green and watched as Vana's approach landed short and he was unable to convert his 7-foot par putt to extend the match.
"I said to my dad on the tee that I would like a putt for the win so we were focusing on getting the ball in the fairway and on the green," said Brennan, who is 23 years old and will be finishing his final year at Johnson & Wales University (FL) this fall. "And then I thought that I made [my par putt] and he had a tricky putt. It was a tough way to lose but he was making those all day long."
Taking on Brennan will be Ben Spitz (George Wright GC), the 2006 champion of this event, who had to play 25 holes in the afternoon to defeat Andy Drohen (Crestview CC). The final putt for Spitz dropped in three hours after Brennan shook hands with Vana on the 18th hole.
"I am a little physically tired," said Spitz, who defeated Brett Siekierski (Dudley Hill GC) by a score of 5 and 4 in the round of 32. "It was an easy round because I was playing with Andy who is a friend. It wasn't as mentally draining as some other grinds I guess you could say."
Leading up the exciting finale, Drohen held a 1-up lead through 14 holes, but Spitz stormed back and erased that deficit through the next two holes with pars to claim a 1-up advantage heading into the final two holes. A bogey by Spitz on the 17th hole squared the match and set the stage for extra holes. Both players matched each other shot for shot for the next six holes until Spitz won the 25th hole by draining a 6-foot birdie putt.
"I was just lagging it down there because Andy was already making bogey so I was like 'tap it down there, two putt and get out of here'," said Spitz. "I was happy to make match play and happy to win two matches. You always want more, but I am happy to be here."
Helping his cause has been the addition of a trusty 2 iron club that has been aiding Spitz throughout the past three days.
"On a lot of these holes on the back side, you want to hit a punch 2 iron and get it in the fairway because it doesn't get me into any trouble," said Spitz. "I am hitting the driver well too. As long as I can keep that within the tree lines, I am in good shape."
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