Sean Fitzpatrick rallies back to win Massachusetts Mid-Amateur
Sean Fitzpatrick (Credit: David Colt)
Sean Fitzpatrick (Credit: David Colt)

What started with a mishap on his first shot of the day ultimately ended in triumph for Sean Fitzpatrick. Though the 38-year-old from East Walpole put his opening tee shot in the water, he was able to rally back and capture his first individual state championship.

Fitzpatrick, who plays out of George Wright Golf Course in Hyde Park, entered Wednesday’s final round of the Mass Mid-Amateur Championship with a one-stroke lead over Matt Parziale of Thorny Lea Golf Club. Despite trailing the defending champion by as many four strokes, he found a way to close the gap and secure the biggest win of his amateur golf tenure. Prior to that, Fitzpatrick’s only statewide win came in 2009 Mass Four-Ball when he and Paul Mitchell split the title with Herbie Aikens and Ryan Riley.

“It means the world,” said Fitzpatrick, who shot 3-under 68 in the final round, putting him at 8-under total for the championship. “I had some limited expectations coming into this week and thankfully I found a good rhythm and was able to come out on top this week, which is great.”

Arthur Zelmati, the 2020 champion, finished runner-up at 4-under total alongside Parziale. In 2020, the two met in a playoff for the Mass Mid-Amateur title.

At one point it looked like the final round of the Mass Mid-Amateur Championship was turning into another runaway victory for Matt Parziale, just like 2015 when he won at Marlborough by 15 strokes. The three-time champion (2015, 2016, and 2021) came out of the gates flying, posting a 5-under 30 on the front nine that included an eagle on the par-5 8th hole. With another birdie on the par-5 11th, Parziale was on pace to tie or even break the course record of 65.

Fitzpatrick, whose best finish in the Mid-Amateur was 7th back in 2010 at Dedham Country & Polo Club, was feeling confident after his 5-under 66 in Tuesday’s second round. Knowing he’d need his best to knock off the three-time champion, Fitzpatrick didn’t do himself any favors by hitting his first shot of the day into the water hazard. Despite the double-bogey, he was able to knock in a few birdies to get to even-par for the round, but things weren’t looking promising.

“I did make a few putts to get myself back to even, but I really struggled on the back-nine with ball-striking,” Fitzpatrick said.

However, Fitzpatrick regained some of his mojo with a birdie on the 10th to close the gap to three. Bogeys from Parziale on 12 and 14 closed it to two strokes. On the 15th, Fitzpatrick made his most important birdie of the day, spinning the ball back onto the front fringe and then making the putt to cut it to a stroke.

“I just kept swinging,” Fitzpatrick said. “I just knew it was there, and I just needed to trust it, and I knew eventually would come around. So thankfully, I hit a great tee shot on 10, drove it on the green and then from there on I was just free swinging.”

After pars on the 16th from the leaders, the par-4 17th turned into one of the most bizarre moments in championship history. Fitzpatrick got his approach shot onto the green safely, but Parziale’s second shot sailed over the green, through the trees and settled before the curb of the road. Since it was still in bounds, Parziale couldn’t play a provisional and either had to take an unplayable or try to punch it out. He chose the latter but his first attempt hit a tree and went backwards out of play. After whiffing on a second shot, his third attempt, finally got to the other side. Ultimately, he carded a 9, effectively sealing the title for Fitzpatrick.

“He made a bad swing on 17 which turned things, but Matt played a great round of golf,” Fitzpatrick said afterward.

Despite the odd ending, Fitzpatrick said he’s proud of the three days of golf he put together, and it caps a wonderful season that started May 2 when he advanced to U.S. Open Final Qualifying through Foxborough Country Club.

“To be able to put my name on the trophy and have George Wright next to it means a lot,” Fitzpatrick said.

Similar to two years ago, Zelmati saved his best round for last, shooting a 4-under 67 in the final round, that included a chip-in from the back fringe on the 9th. This year’s Mass Amateur stroke play medalist added another chip-in on the 14th that led to a bogey-free 32 on the back nine.

“I knew I needed some more birdies because these guys are playing such great golf and going so low,” said Zelmati, who made 7 of his 13 birdies on Wednesday. “I was definitely more aggressive trying to make birdies.”

The top 15 finishers in this year’s field are exempt from qualifying for next year’s Mass Mid-Amateur Championship. The 2023 Mass Mid-Amateur Championship is set to return to Willowbend on Cape Cod for the first time since 1993. Back then, the club co-hosted the event with The Club at New Seabury in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1993.

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ABOUT THE Massachusetts Mid-Amateur

Entries are open to amateur golfers who have reached their 25th birthday by the first day of the tournament, who hold membership in an MGA member club and have an up-to-date MGA/USGA GHIN Handicap Index not exceeding 5.4, or who have completed their handicap certification as defined on the Entry Form. Competition will be in two (2) stages at Stroke Play: 18 hole qualifier; Championship Proper - 54 Holes.

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