Massachusetts Mid-Amateur: Ricky Stimets makes it a family affair
Rick Stimets (Massachusetts Golf Association Photo)
Rick Stimets (Massachusetts Golf Association Photo)

You could point to many reasons why Ricky Stimets won the 40th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship this week at Willowbend. It was practically a home game being just 12 miles from his house in Osterville; he had familiarity with a place he’d spent many summers in his youth; and he was determined to finally earn a Mass Golf championship, which had eluded him over the years.

What it truly came down to was his play, which was simply unmatched from start to finish. That became abundantly clear in the third and final round Thursday at Willowbend as the 32-year-old former professional hoisted the Ted Bishop Cup with a runaway 13-stroke victory (2 strokes shy of the record). Stimets made an eagle on the opening hole from there, pouring in six birdies for a final round 4-under-par 66 and a total score of 8-under 202.

In the process, Stimets clinched enough points to clinch the 2023 Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year Award. But what he cherished, even more, was earning the same title as his late grandfather Dick Stimets won 30 years earlier when it was played at both Willowbend and The Club at New Seabury. Before this week, Stimets’ other triumphs came in the Worcester County Amateur, medalist honors at the 2022 Mexico Mid-Amateur Championship, and in 2020 earned the Cape Cod Open, another title won by his grandfather.

“That’s the coolest thing,” Stimets said of winning this title 30 years after his grandfather. “He lapped the field too, so this is pretty cool. I know my whole family is smiling down up there about this. To have our names on the same trophy is cool.”

Stimets’ only speed bump seemed to come in Wednesday’s second round when he shot 1-over 71 and had just a three-stroke lead heading to the final round. He initially said a good range session would be key to getting back on track.

Instead, he said getting a good night’s sleep on the lead was the most assuring way to prepare to play with the title on the line. Stimets admitted he hasn’t slept well during tournament weeks where he’s in contention, but this week was different.

And though his first nine might’ve amounted to a “chaos card” (three birdies, three bogeys, one par, one eagle), Stimets’ lead grew to six strokes at the turn. From there he didn’t take his foot off the gas. After a birdie on 10, Stimets’ short game was impeccable. He was making several putts around 10 feet or more and made an excellent up-and-down on the 13th despite a chip that rolled at least 10 feet past the hole.

The icing on the cake came on holes 16 and 17 where he put both approach shots inside 5 feet and sank both birdie putts to put an exclamation point on three stellar days of golf.

“It’s probably the best putting tournament I’ve had in a long time,” Stimets said. “And I hit it pretty straight, and I kept it in play. I came out the gates quick, and after that, I said I have a little bit of a lead and I kept on playing steady and the lead kept growing and I just played my game.”

Kevin Gately (Harmon Golf), who shot 4-under 66 in the opening round, earned runner-up honors, his highest finish the 28-year-old has earned in a Mass Golf championship.

Derek Ducharme, who missed the final round cut by one stroke each of the past two years, also earned his best statewide finish by placing third with rounds of 72-72-74 — 218. Ducharme, the Whitinsville Golf Club club champion and course record holder, also made an ace during the Mass Amateur at Essex County Club, adding to his stellar season. In the process, he also qualified for the Ouimet Memorial Tournament for the first time.

“This course is all about strategy, and you really can’t lay up, so I think you have to take it on, and I’m psyched with how I played,” said Ducharme, who hadn’t played Willowbend before Tuesday’s opening round. “The big goal was to make it to Day 3. Once I started today in 5th, I was trying to get second place, but I’m happy with how I finished.”

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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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