Tuesday July 17, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A subtle swing change has resulted in a not-so-subtle two-day birdie binge for Stockbridge Golf Club junior member Matt Finnerty. The 16-year-old shot a 5-under-par 67 to outdistance the field by six shots in Monday's Berkshire County Junior Series event at Berkshire Hills Country Club.

The seven-birdie, two-bogey round followed a 3-under 68 at Stockbridge on Sunday in a casual round with High Point University-bound standout Hayden Jarck.

"I found a swing key before Sunday's round and I have been lighting it up with that swing thought," said Finnerty, who is using less of a wrist cock at the start of his swing, slowing his takeaway and resulting in a bigger shoulder turn.

Finnerty added a hot putter to his improved ball-striking Monday, and left the 16-and-older field to battle it out for second place. All-Eagle MVP Chad Alibozek of Hoosac Valley High School shot an even-par 72 to edge former Pittsfield High School golfer Jake Matthews by one shot.

Taconic High School's Mitch Omelenchuck, a Berkshire Hills member, shot an 80 to win the 14-15 age division by three shots over Andrew Beaudoin, Owen Hunder and Sean Ryan. Skyline Country Club's John Farrell shot an 85 to win the 13-and-under division by nine shots over Kevin Quinto.

After a two-putt par on his first hole of the day, the par-3 17th, the long-hitting Finnerty reached the greenside bunker on the par-5 18th hole in two, and hit his 30-yard bunker shot to within six inches for his first birdie.

"The bunker shot was a confidence builder," said Finnerty, who attends Wellesley High School in Eastern Mass., but spends most of the summer at his father Jim's home in the Berkshires.

A bogey on the par-5 second hole briefly dropped him back to even par but a birdie on the par-3 third put him under par to stay. The rest of the day included long drives -- as he took advantage of the field playing from the shorter white tees -- solid iron shots and dropping a few long-range bombs with his putter. Finnerty said he made a 35-footer from the back fringe on No. 6, a 30-footer on No. 8 and a 20-footer on No. 12.

"I knew I had a lot of birdies in me after the way I played at Stockbridge," said Finnerty. "I hit it better Sunday, but today I really putted great."

Jarck, who wasn't in Monday's field but was on the practice green as the field finished, wasn't surprised.

"He's got game," Jarck said. "Every shot he hit at Stockbridge was right on the flag."

Last week, Finnerty played against most of the state's juniors in the Big I Trusted Choice Junior Classic at Crumpin Fox Club in Bernardston, and finished back in the pack with rounds of 82 and 80.

"It was great to play against that competition and on a course was really tough," Finnerty said. "It gave me great perspective on what I need to work on and I've been working hard since."

That work paid off on Monday and should provide a boost as Finnerty points to next month's Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship.

To contact Richard Lord:
rlord@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6236.