Hyde Park, MA — Four years of blood, sweat and tears may finally culminate in another MGA Championship title for Andy Drohen (Crestview CC).
The 43 year old from Granville who underwent a major swing change and then elbow and shoulder surgery in 2010 fired a 5-under par 65 at George Wright Golf Course on Tuesday and currently holds sole possession of the lead at the 2012 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship
“It has been a long time,” said Drohen, who won the 2003 Massachusetts Amateur Championship and the 2004 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship. “I haven’t been feeling like this since the 2005 season, so I am starting to battle back and I am feeling good again.”
He currently stands two shots ahead of Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC) and Curtis Collopy (Hyannis GC) heading into the second and final round of play.
Today’s round caps off what has been a memorable stretch of good play over the past three days. With friends in tow, Drohen posted identical scores of 66 first on Sunday at The Hartford Club (CT) and then yesterday at Plymouth Country Club. Prior to that, Drohen finished sixth at the 2012 Ouimet Memorial Invitational and advanced to match play at the 2012 Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
Playing a George Wright Golf Course that can cause problems if the fairway is missed off the tee, Drohen was nearly flawless from start to finish. Over the course of 18 holes, he missed just one fairway and hit nearly every green in regulation. His final tally was six birdies and one bogey.
"I hit everything pretty good today," said Drohen. "My tee ball was solid, and I made some putts and hit it close."
It started early and often for Drohen as he made birdie on four of his first six holes. He hit his approach to 12 feet on the 321-yard, par 4 2nd hole and then made six- and eight-foot putts, respectively, on the 3rd and 4th holes. He drained another eight-foot birdie putt on the 395-yard, par 4 6th hole and then chipped in from the bunker on the 9th hole to make the turn at 5-under par 30.
His play today did a lot to erase the golf agony from the past four years. In addition to his physical woes, Drohen attempted to better his game through a major swing change. It was a plan that derailed his momentum and set the stage for several years of damage control on the practice range and on the course.
"When I went through that swing change demon type of period, I could not hit a tee ball," said Drohen. "I finally have that figured out, and I can tell you that being in the fairway is a lot easier than having to hit out of the trees."
Drohen finished off his round on the back side with one bogey and one birdie (on the 17th hole). Interestingly, his lone miscue on the 16th hole came after his approach landed on the green and rolled off. It was his only missed fairway of the day.
"I haven’t felt this good phsycailly in a long time," said Drohen. "I am peaking, and it is feeling good again. It feels like I can do it again tomorrow."
And if he does that, he will be able to call himself an MGA Champion... again.
A Sweet Homecoming for Ian Thimble
For as long as he can remember, Ian Thimble (George Wright GC) has strapped on his golf bag and headed to his home course of George Wright Golf Course. On this day, he made a special trip in hopes that this latest journey would deliver him an MGA Championship.
Thimble, a 22 year old who is entering his senior season at Monmouth University, is still very much in the hunt at the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship after posting a 2-under par 68.
"I used to bike here with my bag on my back," said Thimble who has lived in Hyde Park – just two miles from the course – his whole life. "I play it almost everyday, and I have the course record. It’s like my second home."
That course record – a 63 posted in 2008 during a men’s league competition – was no doubt something Thimble had in the back of his mind as he made his way around the familiar layout. It looked like he may have had a shot at that number through his first nine holes as he made three birdies – on the 11th, 13th and 18th holes – to make the turn at 3-under par 32. He carded his fourth birdie on the 4th hole (his 13th hole of the day) and was 4-under par with five holes left.
"I stuck it pretty much close all day," said Thimble, who last spring was named to the NEC Men’s Golf All-Conference First Team. "It is starting to peak. I have been working hard all summer so it feels good to get a good round in."
His accuracy off the tee and his pinpoint approach shots have led to much success over the years for Thimble. This past season, the 5-foot-10 Thimble finished second at the 2012 Northeast Conference Championship, which marked his 11th collegiate career top-five finish. He also played in all 12 events and 22 rounds for the Hawks on the season and finished the year with an average per round score of 75.1.
This past weekend, Thimble was dominating once again as he posted two 73s to win the club championship at George Wright Golf Course.
"I didn’t play my best, but I think that it played harder this weekend than it did today," said Thimble. "The scores were a lot higher, but it was good to get a nice win before I came in."
He continued his strong play on Tuesday despite making bogies on the 7th and 9th holes to finish at 2-under par 68 and stand T4 heading into the final round of play.
"I started off good, and missed a lot of opportunities early on my second side," said Thimble. "I could have gone real deep today."
He still has a chance to do just that on Wednesday when he looks to capture his second title on his home course in five days.
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