PITTSFIELD >> The last time John Kelly and Billy McDonald played in the Pewter Cup in 2014 they walked away as champions, setting the stage for future individual and team success.
Less than a month after their win at Berkshire Hills Country Club, Kelly captured the Massachusetts Amateur championship at Kernwood Country Club in Salem. Then last September, the duo qualified for May's U.S. Golf Association Four-Ball Championship at historic Winged Foot Country Club in New York.
Given that success, the longtime friends look like the team to beat as this year's Pewter Cup tees off this morning, especially since the defending champions, Bill Tefft and Brent Dietz, had to withdraw because of family issues.
Kelly, of East Longmeadow, and McDonald, of East Hartford, Conn., proved at Winged Foot that they can compete on a national level, tying for 31st in the medal-play qualifying but losing out in a six-way playoff for the final two spots in the 32-player match-play field.
A few of the area's top players, including Bob Linn and Randy Driscoll, have other commitments, but tournament director Jeff Puleri said there are still 10 or 11 golfers with scratch handicaps in the field of 88 teams.
Puleri, who recently captured the Country Club of Pittsfield Men's Invitational with Driscoll, will play with his brother, Rick, as he looks to continue a strong season. He teamed with fellow Berkshire Hills member Steve Sykes to win the Allied Four-Ball title and finished second with Rick behind Driscoll and Chris Shields in the Stockbridge Trophy four-ball event.
Sykes will team with Andy Dastoli, a member at The Orchards in South Hadley, this week. Other top local teams include Matt and Tom Keenan, John Dahrouge and Matt Ortega, Frank Cippolini and Mike Del Grande as well as Chad Alibozek and Adam Brickle. There is also a strong contingent of teams from the Albany, N.Y., area in the field.
Tee times today will run from 7:30 am to 9 a.m. for the first wave and from noon to 2 p.m. for the afternoon golfers.
The 54-hole event finishes up on Sunday afternoon.