A heavy mist on Day 1 of the Massachusetts Mid-Am (Dave Colt photo)
PLYMOUTH, Massachusetts – Weather conditions, delays and suspensions of play dominated headlines during day one of the 35th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, which is being held this week at Plymouth Country Club.
Heavy fog delayed the start of the annual 54-hole event by an hour, and then lightning forced a 55-minute suspension of play beginning at 2:33 p.m. Play was officially suspended for the day at 4:29 p.m. when heavy rain began to fall and made the course unplayable.
“Unfortunately, the condition of the course was not favorable for us to get the competitors back on the course today,” said Kevin Eldridge, Mass Golf’s director of rules & competitions. “We appreciate the patience of the competitors and the work of the club staff. We look forward to a full day of golf on Thursday and Friday.”
When play was suspended, all competitors from the afternoon wave had not yet completed the first round of play. Those competitors will return to Plymouth Country Club on Thursday morning. Play will resume at 8:00 a.m. The second round of play will begin at approximately11:30 a.m.
Upon the completion of 36 holes, the field will be reduced to the low 30 scorers and ties or anyone within 5 strokes of the leader. Those competitors are scheduled to compete in a final 18 holes to determine a champion. Any tie for first place will be decided immediately by a hole-by-hole play-off.
One half of the starting field – those who had morning starting times – were able to complete 18 holes on Wednesday. Mike Calef, the 2011 winner of the event, posted the low round of the day with a score of 3-under 66.
One back of Calef at 2-under par 67 were Kyle Tibbetts (Framingham CC) and Matt Miller (Plymouth CC). Rick Moreau (Nabnasset Lake CC) and Derek Schug (Plymouth CC) were the only other competitors from that morning wave to post under-par rounds. They finished at 1-under par 68.
On the Mend and In the Lead
While the dreary, cool and rainy conditions on Wednesday frustrated many, Mike Calef was one competitor who was simply happy just to be on the course in Plymouth.
The 39-year-old Brockton native posted a day-low score of 3-under par 66 and held a one-stroke lead over Kyle Tibbetts when play was suspended on Wednesday afternoon.
Seeing his name atop the leaderboard was something that Calef never expected given what transpired less than a month ago.
On August 20 while competing in a U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifying round, Calef experienced an episode that he unfortunately is familiar with and one he was hoping that he would never encounter again.
“I was playing in the U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier at Charles River and was standing over the ball and started to get really dizzy and just felt terrible,” said Calef. “I finished the round, and then it just got progressively worse that day.”
Fatigue, chills and a fever quickly led to severe joint and muscle pain, which Calef knew to be classic symptoms of Lyme disease, something which he contracted 10 years ago.
“It started in the center of my body and it just spread everywhere and was really weird,” said Calef of the symptoms which intensified over the next 24 hours. “I couldn’t get out of bed for a couple of days… the doctors said that it was a no brainer that it was Lyme disease and put me on the medication right away.”
The road to recovery has been slow and has forced Calef to miss several key competitive events over the past three weeks. This week marks his first return to major competition since the USGA qualifier in Newton on August 20.
“It is really a serious thing,” said Calef, who like many Lyme Disease sufferers never found a tick or the tell-tale red bulls-eye mark on his body. “I am right at the end of the medication now. All of the symptoms went away within a week or so, and for the last two weeks I have just been trying to build muscle back because it just takes it right out of you so quickly.”
Despite the adversity, Calef found a way to muster the strength and focus to post what was the low round of the day. It was an 18-hole stretch which saw him card five birdies and two bogies.
“I hit it pretty solid from tee to green,” said Calef. “I was in the fairway a lot and that means that you can get a little more aggressive with your second shots. If you are in the rough and it’s wet and it’s thick it is difficult. But today I was pretty good.”
On his very first hole of the day and with rain coming down hard, Calef hit his wedge approach shot on the 348-yard, par 4 first hole to 12 feet and made the putt. It was the putt he made two holes later – on the 205-yard, par-3 third hole – however, which Calef believes was key to his solid round.
“I made a good solid 12 to 15 foot save on three which was a good momentum builder,” said Calef.
Two holes later, Calef made his second birdie of the day after sending his 7-iron approach from 190 yards out on the 405-yard, par 4 fifth hole to 6 feet. Another key for Calef on this day was surviving a two-hole stretch that he says has been unkind to him in past years at this golf course.
“My nemesis holes are 7 and 8,” said Calef, who is a regular competitor in the Hornblower Memorial Invitational held every May at Plymouth Country Club. “Me and those holes don’t get along well, but on seven I hit it to about a foot or six inches, and I kicked that one in.”
He made the turn at 3-under par 31, and despite making two bogies down the stretch on the 13th and 17th holes, Calef managed to keep his round going by making birdie first on the par-5 16th hole and then on the 18th hole where he hit his approach to 5 feet.
“It feels good to strike the ball solid and keep the ball in front of me and hit good shots,” said Calef, who noted that 66 represents the lowest round he has ever posted at Plymouth Country Club. “To get it under par at this golf course is good because it has teeth and it can bite back. It was good to get a couple here, and now I’ll try to build on that for tomorrow afternoon and am looking forward to the third day.”
The thought of playing a third day of golf here in Plymouth let alone potentially being in contention for another state title is something that Calef would never have expected just three weeks ago.
“I am back now and can hopefully move forward,” said Calef. “I felt like I got hit by a truck. It was really strange, and it’s a scary thing.”