Mass Amateur: Matt Parziale, Matthew Naumec headline final eight
Matt Naumec (Mass Golf Photo)
Matt Naumec (Mass Golf Photo)

Match play at the height of summer in the 116th Massachusetts Amateur Championship is very much a matter of survival and advancement. But it might not be surprising that amateur legend Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club), a former champion whose 2018 story of being a former Brockton firefighter competing in the Masters has been shared globally, has shown the most fortitude going through the tournament this week at Framingham Country Club.

Over the weekend, instead of a final tuneup, Parziale unexpectedly wound up in the hospital with swelling throughout his body. He gained over 20 pounds in the process, which has steadily waned courtesy of the roasting sun. The cause…still unknown. But what we do know is that a few bouts of discomfort haven’t prevented him from maintaining a reputation as one of the most formidable in this state. 

To start the tournament, Parziale had issues even fitting a golf glove on his hand and getting proper-fitting shoes. Despite all that, he is still standing after winning both his matches Wednesday, adding to a compelling run in the state’s biggest event each year.

“It’s one of the ones you have circled on the calendar,” Parziale said after his two match wins. “I haven’t felt bad, just heavy and slow. but it’s been better each day. I’m shedding the weight, so I’ll get some rest tonight and get back out and compete tomorrow.”

Parziale faced two familiar opponents on Wednesday — former Thorny Lea member Mike Calef and Rutgers’ Weston Jones, who had a showdown with Parziale four years ago at The Kittansett Club. Parziale was at the top of his game Wednesday, making an eagle on the 12th and finishing off Calef in 14. He then made eight birdies, with another conceded at match end, to defeat Jones, who at times looked disheartened with each putt that fell.

“It was hard today; Weston played great, but that was the most birdies I’ve had in a match in a long time, and I was fortunate to make some down the stretch,” Parziale said of his afternoon match. “I’m super excited to be in the final eight. It was a rough start to the week, but it’s starting to feel better now.”

Better might be an understatement, but Parziale is among three mid-amateurs still standing in the field. Despite being the final player into match play, third-year Framingham member Matthew Naumec remains after his runner-up appearance in 2023, as does Ricky Stimets (Worcester Country Club), the 2023 Mass Golf Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year.

For several years, Stimets has been among the best in stroke play, yet he has hit a brick wall in the Round of 16. This year, he has busted through with a pair of convincing victories on Wednesday.

“It’s been a goal to get to Thursday at least,” Stimets said. “I’ve played well in stroke play the past five years, and it’s just been a grind. It’s hot and humid, and it’s wear and tear on the body. I feel like I’m in pretty good shape this year to tackle in one week.

“Last year, I felt like my calf was cramping every shot,” he added. “I made fitness a priority this year. I got a little better diet, and I feel like I’m ready to go. It’s tough keeping up with these guys, so I’m trying to do everything I can to give myself a boost.”

The day was punctuated with the tournament’s first hole-in-one as Stimets spun a shot into the cup on the 135-yard par-3 11th after nearly acing the downhill par-3 8th. A forward tee was used on 11, calling for a different shot than earlier in the week.

“I had a pretty good number into the wind on 11, and it landed just left of it, spun back in the cup, and bounced four feet and spun back.”

Naumec, the former pro who played in the U.S. Open, didn’t necessarily have his A-game early in the week but proved again he’s a solid match-play competitor. He knocked off medalist and good friend Matt Cowgill (Granite Links Golf Course) and had the upper hand on Ty Dupuis (Highfield Golf & Country Club) to keep some home club rooting interest alive.

“It feels good to play a little bit better in match play,” said Naumec, who is trying to become the first person since Ian Thimble (2013, Longmeadow CC) to make the final match as the No. 32 seed.

In the second match, the heat caught up with Naumec a bit, as his efforts to strike the ball well were matched by his efforts to stay cool.

Naumec’s strategy in dealing with the heat was evident. He shared, “The first three holes were scorching. I was dousing myself with water, trying to cool down and catch my breath. But the ball was flying farther, so it definitely influenced how I chose my numbers. Having played here extensively, the Framingham family knows there are certain paths you can take to keep your energy up.”

“People who are playing well and who get hot at the right time continue on,” Naumec added. “I’m going to stick to my status quo and hopefully get some member bounces here and there.”

Like Naumec, defending champion Ryan Downes (GreatHorse) is also still contending about 24 hours after a playoff decided his tournament fate. The Vanderbilt commit has earned a rematch with Temple University’s Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club), who also dominated through much of match play. Vanderbilt’s John Broderick (Dedham Country & Polo Club) is also surging at the right time, as is University of Rhode Island’s Aidan O’Donovan (Cummaquid Golf Club) and former Hartford standout Danny Frodigh (Dedham Country & Polo Club) also won a pair of exciting matches.

After his cutline scare, Downes now has his caddie and fellow competitor Cole Banning back on the bag, and he seems to have captured that confidence he has shown over the past two years, which has gotten him into the final match. He set himself up for eagle and birdie attempts often. He also showed he could scramble, tying the 5th hole despite hitting into the fescue (again) to maintain a 3-up lead against Trevor Drew (Long Meadow Golf Club).

“I felt in control of my game most of the day,” Downes said. “I was able to hit a couple of drivers here and there and didn’t have to do anything special.”

As for his rematch with Whitney, “Hopefully, it will be a good match with a lot of birdies,” Downes said. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

Results: Massachusetts Amateur
WinMAMatt NaumecWilbraham, MA200
Runner-upMARicky StimetsOsterville, MA100
SemifinalsMAEthan WhitneyWestminster, MA50
SemifinalsMAMatt ParzialeBrockton, MA50

View full results for Massachusetts Amateur

ABOUT THE Massachusetts Amateur

Qualifying - 32 Holes at Stroke Play to determine 32 Qualifiers for Match Play. Entries are open to amateur golfers who have an active MGA/GHIN Handicap Index at any public, private, semi-private, municipal or non-real estate MGA member course/club not exceeding 4.4.

View Complete Tournament Information

Latest in 

Amateurgolf.com, Inc.
6965 El Camino Real 105-631
Carlsbad, CA 92009

Instagram X Facebook YouTube