WILLIAMSTOWN — To say that Brendan Hunter didn't expect to be playing on Friday is not an understatement.
"I brought three pairs of pants, three shirts and honestly not expecting to make it past [the round of 32]. Golf is golf. You just have to go out and hit the shots," he said.
Hunter not only made it past the round of 32, he advanced all the way to the final of the 108th Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Taconic Golf Club. Hunter defeated Alex Jeffers 3 and 2 in the semifinal round after knocking off Jackson Lang 2 up in the morning's quarterfinal.
"I have never made match play before this," Hunter said after his quarterfinal win over Lang. "I'm just happy to be here."
Hunter, 20 and a rising senior at St. Thomas Aquinas University, will face a veteran presence in Friday's championship round. East Longmeadow's John Kelly, a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and the 2014 Mass. Amateur champion, beat Dan Cappucci 1 up in the semifinal after taking care of Ryan Riley 5 and 3 in the quarterfinals. Riley was the Mass. Amateur champion in 2011, when the event was played at Wyantenuck Country Club in Great Barrington.
"I can't believe I'm here now," Kelly, 26, said after his match. "I shot a 78 on my first round. To be in the finals is unbelievable. We'll see what happens."
Kelly and Hunter will play two rounds this morning at Taconic. The first round begins at 8 a.m. Sometime in the afternoon, a new Mass. Amateur champion will be crowned.
"I've been here before," said Kelly. "This is another 36-hole day. We'll see what happens."
While Hunter beat Lang in the quarterfinal, Jeffers took care of Matthew Naumec 2 and 1. Naumec, the fifth seed in match play, had been the highest-remaining seed.
Hunter had been 1 up through seven holes, but he bogeyed the par-4 eighth while Jeffers made par to even the match. It remained that way until the 12th.
That's when Hunter parred the par-4 13th and watched as Jeffers double bogeyed the hole to go 2 up.
"On 12, I hit a really good shot in there. I just used the wrong club. I thought I hit it about six to eight feet, and I ended up at the back of the green," said Jeffers. "He hit a great putt — that thing breaks far more than it looks — so he hit a great putt to two-putt, and I rammed it right by.
"On 13, I kind of swiped one in the trees and he played it smart."
And from Hunter's perspective?
"Alex hit a really good shot that went right over the pin, and I thought it was inside 10 feet when I first saw it," said the finalist. "When I got up to the green, I noticed I was pin-high on the right edge, where I had to play eight feet of break. Alex had a 35-40 footer straight down the hill the whole way.
"On 13, I kind of gave a safe swing. He made a mistake and put it in the trees on the right."
When Hunter parred the 16th and Jeffers bogeyed the hole, Hunter went up 3 and 2, and that was that.
The second semifinal, unlike the one that preceded it, wasn't decided until the final hole. Cappucci was 2 up after the sixth hole, but Kelly squared the round in the next two holes, and nobody got ahead by more than a hole after that.
"A lot," said Kelly, when asked if his past experience helps. "Absolutely. You just have to take it one hole at a time. When I was younger, I got too down on myself if I made a bogey and lost the hole. You just have to realize that it's one hole at a time.
"You can make some birdies and you just have to stay it in there."
Down the stretch, Kelly parred the 14th while Cappucci bogeyed to go 1 up, but Cappucci bounced back on 14 with a birdie to square things again.
"I gave him a couple of opportunities to pull away," Kelly said with a laugh. "I don't know. He just missed a couple, and I was able to some really good up and downs. That's what match play golf is.
The match ended when Cappucci ran into some problems on the 18th.
"I had enough firepower to get there, but the ball was hanging above my feet and it's just a hard shot to commit to without thinking about [going] left," Cappucci said. "I came out of it a little bit and just kind of ended up in the worst possible spot — in that 50-yard fairway bunker."
Cappucci's bunker shot flew over the green. Kelly, meanwhile, hit his 3-wood from 270 yards into a bunker in front of the green. He got out of the sand and the ball landed about three feet from the pin. Cappucci, meanwhile, missed a tough par putt and conceded the hole and the match.
"It was just one of those things," said Kelly of his semifinal, "where I beat him by one."
Mass. Amateur Results
Quarterfinal round — Brendan Hunter def. Jackson Lang 2 up; Alex Jeffers def. Matthew Naumec 2 and 1; Dan Cappucci def. Ryan Riley 5 and 3; John Kelly def. Thomas Henderson 4 and 2.
Semifinal round — Hunter def. Jeffers 3 and 2; Kelly def. Cappucci 1 up.
Final — Kelly vs. Hunter.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.