Seemingly every team will have a chance in the final round
HARVARD, MA (May 22, 2017) - It is safe to say that the 45-minute trek from Shaker Hills Country Club to their home club in Franklin Country Club for Daniel Seigenberg (Franklin CC) and Jim Gerrish (Franklin CC) will be a lot more memorable on Monday evening than it was on the way up earlier that morning.
That’s because the duo, who reside in Wrentham and Walpole, respectively, are the co-leaders in the clubhouse at the halfway point of the 2017 Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball Championship.
With 18 holes remaining, Seigenberg and Gerrish stand tied with the team of Stephen Mihalek (Oak Ridge GC) and James Mihalek (Charter Oak CC) with scores of 5-under 67.
The 21st edition of this MGA Championship is being held this week at Shaker Hills Country Club and Red Tail Golf Club.
“We were just playing one hole at a time and we weren’t thinking if we’d be leading or not,” said Gerrish. “I birdied the first hole and just didn’t make any bogeys after that.”
It was a statement that was simply put, but for the 69-year old Gerrish, who will be turning 70 on Tuesday, there’s not much else to say when you card five birdies and 13 pars to carry a 1-stroke lead in a field of 156 teams into the second round of play.
The duo, who finished as high as eighth in previous MGA Senior Four Ball Championships, kicked off Monday’s afternoon round by making birdie on the par-4 1st and 7th holes to make the turn at 2-under par. After carding back-to-back even par scores on Holes 10 and 11, the Franklin CC squad turned up the heat on an otherwise cold and dreary day by carding two-straight one-under marks to push their scores to 4-under with five holes remaining.
In the final span, the two added four more pars to their scorecard plus a 1-under mark on the par-4 17th, a 315-yard dogleg right to capture a share of the lead after 18-holes of play.
Tapping into a chemistry that was in full force out on the course, Seigenberg and Gerrish used their experience of playing together in previous MGA Championship Propers like the Massachusetts Four Ball and Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball to lead them on Monday.
“We rely a lot on each other, and we talk about shots and what to hit,” said Gerrish. “We’ve been playing a lot of years together. He made the par putts and I made the birdie putts.”
MIHALEK BROTHERS FOR STRONG FINISH
Standing tied with Seigenberg and Gerrish is a formidable brother team in Stephen and James Mihalek who also posted that leading score of 5-under par 67 at Shaker Hills CC. This year marks the second year that the Mihalek team has competed in this event.
“We have no expectations,” said Steve, who will turn 57 in August. “We go out and play as hard as we can play and whatever happens, happens.”
While this may be only the second time that this duo has competed in this MGA Championship Proper, they have been playing side by side for nearly four decades and most recently posted a round-one score of 4-under par 66 to be well in the mix at the 2017 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship.
“We played pretty good two weeks ago at the State Four-Ball and we were in the middle of the pack,” said Steve, who ended up with a T41 finish at that event. “It’s funny because we have been doing this for 35 years and we know what to expect."
On this day in Harvard, the Mihaleks were perfect as they carded five birdies and zero bogies. Despite facing chilly temperatures, they ran into trouble just once through 18 holes.
“We only had one chance for a bogey and that was on the first hole which was our 10th hole,” said Steve, whose team played the Shaker Hills CC back nine first. “I managed to squeeze in a seven footer, and we were off to the races.”
They made the turn at 2-under par 34 and were 3-under par through 16 holes before they capped off their round with two straight birdies.
First – on the 353-yard, par 4 8th hole – James hit his approach to a foot. On the final hole of the day, Steve watched his 25-foot downhill putt that had four feet of break find the bottom of the cup.
“I was trying to two putt,” said Steve. “If I had made a two putt there, I would have grabbed my clubs and run straight to my car.”
With 18 holes at Red Tail GC standing in the way of the duo’s first MGA Championship title, the Mihaleks are taking everything in stride.
“I have never played Red Tail, but my brother lives in Hudson and lived in Acton for 25 years and has played Red Tail a bunch of times so I am looking forward to his coaching tomorrow,” said Steve. “No matter what we will just go out there and play as hard as we can.”
DEFENDING CHAMPIONS IN THE MIX
After posting a 9-under par 63 on Day 1 at The Captains Golf Course, Marc Forbes (Norton CC) and Bill Vine (Foxborough CC) overcame chilly weather and a slow start on Day 2 at Cranberry Valley Golf Course to win the 2016 Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball title with a winning score of 11-under par 133.
Fast forward nearly one year to the day and the pair faced almost identical conditions as they began their championship defense at Shaker Hills CC. Forbes and Vine, who missed out on Championship aspirations by a mere two strokes in 2015, turned in a 4-under par 68 on Monday’s opening round and currently stand T2 with 18-holes remaining.
With the desire to repeat on the top of their minds, their focus was getting off to a good start. With a combination of four birdies and 14 pars, it’s safe to say they put themselves in a good position to do just that.
“It was just a question of getting out to a good start and then just trying to get both balls in every hole,” said Vine on what the team mindset was heading into the week. “[Our focus] was to just try and get as many birdie putts as we could out there.”
After teeing off at the 9:15 a.m. slot off the 1st tee, the seventh of 10 pairings in the morning half of competition, the duo made par on each of the first two holes before making birdie on the course’s first par-3, a 134-yard dogleg left that borders one of the course's three ponds.
From there, the tandem made par on the 4th, 5th and 6th holes before carding bogey the par-4 7th hole. The made the turn at 2-under par. During the latter stages of their round, they carded bogey on the par-4 13th hole and the par-5 18th hole, the longest on the course, to complement their seven pars on the back half to finish round one at 4-under par 68.
His playing partner, Forbes, who is six years his elder, added, “We had a good back side. We may have left a shot or two out there but on the other hand, we got some fortunate breaks so it kind of evened out for us. To open up for a nice round like today in this weather, we’re very happy.”
The pair has relied on a team chemistry that they’ve developed to guide them out on the course.
“We just team up so well together that we feel very confident even though one of us is out of it that the other is going to take care the situation,” said Forbes. “That’s what we did the back side. Then we started to get some good looks on the back side. Our foursome started to play good on the backside and you feed off one another so it worked out really well.”
Forbes and Vine currently are among 11 groups who shot opening rounds 68 on Monday.
SUPER SENIORS HAVING THEIR DAY TOO
This year's Championship Proper is enjoying its 21st edition in usual fashion.
Like a well-oiled machine, the full field of 156 teams of two took to the links eyeing the title of MGA Champion. With seven teams in the field who have combined to win 12 MGA Senior Four-Ball titles dating back to the tournament’s inception in 1997, the field offered a mix of players looking to recapture the title while several other talented teams also sought their first victory.
For the 2017 MGA Senior Four Ball Championship Proper however, the opportunity exists for both newcomers and former champions alike to each walk away from Tuesday’s final round with MGA hardware.
This past off season, the MGA Championship Committee expanded the Senior Four-Ball Championship to include a “Super Senior” Division to recognize those competitors aged 65 and over. While the 77 competitors in the field who are aged 65 and over can still win the overall title, this year’s Championship opens the opportunity to recognize more than one championship-caliber team.
“For the past several years, we have seen an uptick in the number of teams who are eligible for competition in the MGA Senior Four Ball Championship” said Kevin Eldridge, the MGA's director of rules & competition.. “After adding other MGA Championships with an increased age restriction, like the Super Senior Amateur Championship which started in 2014, and seeing the success of those events, it was a no-brainer to make another addition for this week’s event.”
Following the first round of play, the team of Dick King (Hyannis GC) and Joe Keller (Oyster Harbors) hold a two-stroke lead after posting a round-one score of 4-under par 68. That impressive performance also places them just one stroke off the overall lead. They are closely followed by the team of Jim Ruschioni (Wachusett CC) and Paul Nunez (Ludlow CC). A total of 38 "super senior" teams are in this year's field.
While it won’t be determined until the completion of play on Tuesday as to whether the MGA will be recognizing more than one set of champions, this year’s Championship Proper is another example of the MGA working to better serve its members.