Kearney sweats out close New England Senior victory
Jack Kearney (Dave Colt photo)
Jack Kearney (Dave Colt photo)

BURLINGTON, Vt. (Sept. 19, 2018) – Despite having a three-stroke lead to work with entering the second and final round of the 21st New England Golf Association Senior Amateur Championship, Elmcrest Country Club’s Jack Kearney had to earn every shot down the stretch as he held on to capture his first career NEGA title Wednesday at Burlington Country Club.

The 63-year old Kearney carded a 3-over 74 Wednesday and finished with a two-day, 36-hole score of even-par 142, one stroke ahead of runner-up Rich Parker, the Dartmouth College men’s golf coach.

“It’s great. It’s a big win for me,” Kearney said after his round and the presentation of Andrew C. Bailey Senior Amateur Trophy on Wednesday evening. “I’m 63. I was playing awful a month ago and all of a sudden, I began playing good for no reason.

“As you know with this game, you can never own it, you can only rent it so I’m renting it for a couple weeks,” in reference to his recent play, which also included a runner-up finish last week at the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship.

Paired in the final grouping with two-time reigning champion Phil Pleat, of New Hampshire, and Vermont’s Gary Shover, who both finished the first round of the championship Tuesday at even-par 71, Kearney opened play with a birdie and five pars to set the tone for the remainder of his round – key shots that proved to be the difference maker when cards were signed at the end of the day.

“I was feeling good,” said Kearney about his start. “I hit a good tee shot on four and had a little cut 9-iron to about eight feet and it was an easy downhill putt that I made. That was a good one. [I had a] good par on five and a pretty good par on six. I had a putt for birdie on six then seven was a horror show. Then I bounced back and I kind of got lucky making a long putt on 17. That’s what you have to do to win.”

After rebounding from his one triple of the day on the seventh hole, much like he did the day before with his lone triple on the sixth hole, Kearney hit it close on nine and despite missing the putt, was able to still card a par and had a similar approach on 10 that had the same result.

“On 11, that is the uphill par 4, I hit a good 9-iron to the back of the green and had about a 20-footer and made it,” said Kearney. “I had a couple of bad tee shots on 12 and 13, but got up and down with a 7-iron from 150 for par on 13 and was able to stabilize the round.”

On the 17th hole, he saved what he called a wrong club choice by sinking a 40-foot putt to save bogey and sit at even par with one hole remaining, holding a one-stroke lead.

One the final hole, knowing he had to make par to avoid a potential playoff with Parker, he was on the green in two and after just missing the 8-foot birdie putt, knocked in the putt from within inches to capture the 21st Senior Amateur title and add his name to the list of the top competitors from across New England to hoist the NEGA Senior Amateur title.

“I figured someone might shoot a good round. When I found out that Rich Parker shot a 1-over, I hit a good wedge and just lagged the putt,” added Kearney.

In the Super-Senior Division, Dennis, Mass., resident Dave Houghton, the 2015 New England Senior Amateur champion, rebounded from a 7-over 78 mark in his first round Tuesday with a 2-under 69 mark Wednesday to capture his second super senior title in the annual event. With his victory, he also becomes only the third competitor since the Super Senior Division was added in 2008 to win both a New England Senior Amateur title and a New England Super Senior title, joining the likes of Shawn McLoughlin and Paul Quigley.

His two-round score of 5-over 147 bested runner-up Ken Nilson, of New Hampshire, by one stroke while edging Tuesday co-leader Bill Everett, also of New Hampshire, by three strokes.

On Wednesday, the 74-year old Houghton, who plays out of the Captains Course on Cape Cod, played par or better on 14 of his final 15 holes, including tallying five birdies to best the 40 competitors who were aged 65 and over. Houghton, the reigning Massachusetts Super Senior Amateur champion, topped New Hampshire’s Ken Nilson, who finished one stroke behind at 6-over 148.

“I’m 74 years old, so I’m just happy to get up and play and keep competing and I enjoy that so much,” said Houghton. “It’s fun to play against all these guys. They’re friends and tough competitors, and it’s good to get out there and go at it.”

With his New England Senior Amateur victory in 2015, at age 71 nonetheless, Houghton was the second competitor only to McLoughlin to win both titles in the same year and is the second person to win multiple super senior titles.

Coming off a 7-over 77 performance following the first round on Tuesday, 10 strokes behind day-one leader Jack Kearney, Houghton was able to take advantage of all shots he left out on the course yesterday in his effort Wednesday.

“Today, the putting went right. I made all the putts I missed yesterday and I could see the lines today,” explained Houghton. “I hit some solid shots. The wind came up and it felt more like Cape Cod to me. There were some tough conditions.

“I had some great playing partners that kept everything light and moving and I was hitting some shots that were solid. I only had to scramble a couple times and made a couple three and four putters for par to keep it going. It was just a good solid round.”

ABOUT THE New England Senior Amateur

Entries are open to amateur golfers who will have reached their 55th birthday, hold membership in a club belonging to one of the six New England State Golf Associations and have an up-to-date USGA/GHIN Handicap Index not exceeding 9.9.

36 holes, stroke play. No cut will be made. Players 65 years of age or older will be elligible for the Super Senior Division. Both the Overall and Super Senior Divisions will compete from the same tee/yardage. Pre-qualifying required for non-exempt players.

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