Sunday July 7, 2013

Worthington Golf Club member Jim Patterson has had a couple of dramatic moments in Massachusetts Golf Association events, but not the kind he'd like to experience during this week's Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Longmeadow Country Club.

The 45-year-old reigning Western Massachusetts Amateur champion would prefer making a match- or tournament-clinching putt on the final hole as opposed to the harrowing moments he dealt with at the 2010 Mass. Am. at Myopia Hunt Club and 2011 Mass. Mid-Amateur qualifier at Tekoa Country Club.

Playing in his first state amateur at Myopia, a misplaced step made for an afternoon of pain and suffering.

"I stepped on a bees' nest and was stung six times on my left leg," said Patterson, who lives in Southampton. "I am allergic to bee stings. My mother was watching and could tell from the look on my face that I didn't have a bee sting kit with me."

Patterson decided to carry on with the help of Benadryl and managed to finish the round, though his score obviously suffered almost as much as he did.

"Once you take the Benadryl, you're done [scoring]," Patterson said. "I still run into people at tournaments who say ‘you're the guy who got stung by the bees.' "

Perhaps even more dramatic was the turn of events at Tekoa last year.

"We were putting out on the 14th green when all of a sudden a car comes through some bushes and slams into a big maple tree next to the second tee," Patterson recalls. "My playing partner and I rushed across the fairway and jumped across a stream to get to the car, which was on fire. The driver got out of the car but the passenger was stuck under the dashboard so we had to pull him out."

Apparently, according to Patterson, the car, occupied by two college students returning to school, had swerved to avoid a 16-wheeler and the driver lost control of the car, sending it onto the golf course.

After the ordeal was over, the golf wasn't for Patterson and his partner. They eventually headed back to the 14th green.

"We were a wreck," he said. "I had about a 3-foot putt and knocked it 18 feet past and off the green with my adrenaline pumping."

Needless to say, he didn't have a strong finish, playing the final five holes in 5 over to miss a playoff for the final qualifying spots by one shot.

While he may need to avoid bee hives -- and no doubt he will bring a sting kit with him -- he shouldn't have to worry about any daring car rescues.

"There are no roads along the course," he said of Longmeadow CC.

Patterson is coming off a disappointing 80 in a Mass. Public Links qualifier at Tekoa, but as the owner of the Orchard Valley Heating and Cooling Co., that was understandable given the recent weather.

"The last couple of weeks have been so busy," he said. "With it being this hot this long, systems are being pushed to extremes. I thought about withdrawing, but I played and my heart just wasn't in it."

Others will handle the business while Patterson challenges Longmeadow.

"I'm really excited to play," he said. "It's rare to get to play at this end of the state and I'm looking forward to seeing some familiar faces. Hopefully, I can make it to match play."

Prior to a practice round Friday, Patterson had only played Longmeadow once, but it made an impression.

"It's a really good New England test and ranks as an equal with places like Taconic and Wyantenuck," he said. "It's a typical Donald Ross course. You need to keep it below the hole and over the green is dead. With the tees back, there are some long holes.

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This week's loaded field includes past champions Mike Calef (2012), Ryan Riley (2011), John Hadges (2008, 2010) and Frank Vana Jr. (2004-05).

The oldest player in the field is 65-year-old Paul Nunez, who advanced in the qualifier at Wyantenuck, and the youngest is 15-year-old Brendan Ridge, who is two months younger than Steven DeLisio, the youngest qualifier ever when he played at Wyantenuck Country Club in 2011 at age 13.

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Longmeadow has become the home of the best crop of players in the Western Mass. Seven members have qualified for this week's tournament, the most of any club. 

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The tournament format includes 18 holes of medal play Monday and Tuesday with the low 32 players in the 142-player field advancing to match play. There are two rounds of match play on Wednesday and Thursday with the two survivors meeting in the 36-hole final on Friday.

The tournament is open to the public and the admission is free.