Twenty of the 23 players exempt from qualifying will be at Wyantenuck next week.
GREAT BARRINGTON -- With this year's biggest golf event to be held in the Berkshires, the 2011 Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Wyantenuck Country Club, just eight days away, signs point to a compelling week of golf.
The 144-player field is set and the pairings are out and it looks like all but a few of Massachusetts' best will venture west to try and win the state's most prestigious amateur event.
And it appears that Wyantenuck superintendent Peter Bacon will have the course in perfect shape to provide an enjoyable, but challenging, test.
"I'm really pleased to see that all the top players are coming," said Massachusetts Golf Association president and Wyantenuck member Jack Dezieck. "Guys like [two-time champion] Frank Vana, [2010 MGA player of the year] Brian Higgins, [2010 Mass. Senior champion] Jack Kearney will all be here, and I think they will enjoy themselves."
In all, 20 of the 23 players who were exempt from qualifying are in the field, an excellent showing considering the tournament is being play far from the state's population base.
Among those coming in on a high note is Higgins, who was tied for the lead heading into the final round of this week's Massachusetts Open before having to settle for a sixth-place tie. Higgins is the reigning Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year.
"I walked with Brian [at the Open] the first two days," Dezieck said. "He told me he is looking forward to the week."
Higgins is a two-time Mass. Mid-Amateur champion but has yet to win the state's biggest Amateur prize.
The Bellingham resident will be in one of the featured pairings for the two rounds of medal-play qualifying. He is paired with 2006 Amateur champion Benjamin Spitz and Dan Head, who lost in last year's final to champion John Hadges. They will tee off on No. 10 at 7:40 a.m. Monday.
Hadges, who also won in 2008, is in another featured pairing with Kearney and Bradford Tufts at 8:20 on No. 10.
"The course looks beautiful," Dezieck said. If we get some dry weather over the next week, it should be exciting to watch. The greens are absolutely perfect, and with dry weather they will even get a little firmer."
Wyantenuck head professional Tom Sullivan echoed those thoughts and said he's hearing plenty of compliments from those who have ventured west to get in a practice round.
"Everybody's been pretty happy," Sullivan said of the visitors. "They have been very complimentary about the course. ... The greens are just so nice."
The tournament is open to the public and admission is free.
"I think it will be great fun for people who want to watch some great golf," Dezieck said.
Dezieck said parking will be at a premium for the first two days of medal-play qualifying. But, once the field is cut to 32 for match play, it won't be.
There will be two rounds of match play on Wednesday and Thursday to set up a 36-hole final Friday.