Taconic's Mike Kays shoots even par to win the Berkshire Classic golf tournament
Just two months later, on that very same patch of Berkshire County grass, he may have very well played the best round of his life.
Kays submitted an even-par round of 71 to win the ninth annual Berkshire Classic Sunday afternoon. His day included just two bogies, which he righted with a pair of birdies on holes six and 16 to go along with an astounding 12 pars. Kays beat out one of his playing partners in Mount Greylock's Ben Gilooly, who finished as runner-up for the third consecutive year with a score of 75.
On Aug. 14, Kays shot a frustrating 87 while playing in the Allied Junior Championship at Stockbridge.
"I believe it," said tournament manager and Lenox coach Dick Salinetti. "This course is tough. We made it a little shorter and put the pins in easier spots, but it is still a challenge and a great experience for these kids."
That round was a wake-up call for Kays to get it in gear before his final high school season began. Now, he has responded with the best score in the history of the Classic.
"My head was just gone that day. It was the worst round of the year for sure. After that I put in so much work just to make sure that didn't happen again," said Kays. "I put in a tone of work; going up to Berkshire Hills in the afternoon and staying there until dark pretty much every day. It feels good. I've been playing pretty well, shot even a couple times this season. Putter today was the best its ever been."
Kays was playing in the first grouping with Gilooly and Lee's Thomas Fraser (79), both juniors. The trio flew through the course, finishing 15 minutes before any of the other 21 golfers completed their 18. So, Kays had time to look at his 71 on the leader board while other scores trickled in. Wahconah's Nate Dos Santos was a member of the second group, which had its scores posted last. His 77, good for third overall, was the lone threat as no other golfer broke 80.
"I hit pretty much every green, so I was just tapping in pars from in close," said Kays, who enjoyed the competition with Gilooly and Fraser. "It was a little motivation. I knew where I stood the whole time and what I had to shoot. It helped."
A year ago, Kays finished third overall, two strokes out of a playoff between Gilooly and Pittsfield's Kevin Quinto. In 2017, he knocked seven strokes off his junior-year score. Gilooly, likewise, shot a better score with his 75, but the bitter sweet nature of another runner-up finish was tough.
"Extremely frustrated," said Gilooly, who looks forward to dueling with Fraser and Dos Santos to win the Classic next year. "But I'm happy with it. I'm playing good and that's all I really care about. I want to win, but I'm playing well.
"I felt good all day, but Mike played great. It just felt like it was going to be a good day from the beginning."
Greylock put two golfers in the top-five, with Tenley Smith scoring an 84 to land fifth overall. Smith was the lone female golfer competing and continued her breakout senior season after placing fourth in the Western Mass girls championship last week.
"It was nice today, I really liked the course and the tees," said Smith. "I just take my time more. I have to hand it to the pro at Taconic Golf Club [Peter Egazarian] and Derek Alibozek. I took lessons up there and it was nice to get better alongside someone."
Smith just started playing high school golf last season and has already sky-rocketed onto some big-time leader boards.
"With Tenley it's been more of a progression of thought process than a skill evaluation. We talk a lot about mentally playing the angles. She's doing excellent. Her stroke average has gone down six or seven shots from last year," said Greylock coach Mitchell Spooner. "And Ben, he's just a work horse out there."
Colin Finnegan and Conner Champoux gave Lee and Taconic, respectively, a second golfer in the top-10 with matching 86 scores. Alibozek, led the Berkshire North champion Hoosac Valley Hurricanes with an 87 to place eighth. A pair of Lenox eighth-graders, Max DiGrigoli (88) and Brendan Hayden (89) rounded out the top-10.
For much of the field, the 18 hole tournament serves as a great way to prepare for Western Mass tournaments, which are inching closer on the horizon. Spooner echoed a lot of coaches' feelings on what's to come.
"We look at this as the first day of practice for [Western Mass]," said the first-year Mounties leader. "Tournaments are tournaments. It was a great progression into everything I've been telling them and now we've got nine days to prepare. This makes it a lot of fun."
1. Michael Kays, Taconic 71; 2. Ben Gilooly, Mount Greylock 75; 3. Nate Dos Santos, Wahconah 77; 4. Thomas Fraser, Lee 79; 5. Tenley Smith, Mount Greylock 84; 6. (tie) Colin Finnegan, Lee 86 and Connor Champoux, Taconic 86; 8. Derek Alibozek, Hoosac Valley 87; 9. Max DiGrigoli, Lenox 88; 10. Brendan Hayden, Lenox 89.
11. Hunter Roosa, Lee 90; 12. Noah Hunter, Lenox 91; 13. Henry Sniezek, Hoosac Valley 93; 14. Daniel Wilson, Wahconah 94; 15. Brent Arseneau, Taconic 95; 16. Liam Fitzgibbons, Pittsfield 97; 17. (tie) Luc Trombley, Hoosac Valley 100 and Caden Frazier, Wahconah 100; 19. Bennett Zimmerman, Mount Greylock 101.
20. Cooper Rothvoss, Mount Everett 108; 21. Kolby Bleau, Mount Everett 109; 22. Brady Whalen, Monument Mountain 111; 23. Kurt Wilton, Monument Mountain 115; 24. Luke Bleau, Mount Everett 117.
Reach sports writer Mike Walsh at 413-496-6240 or @CLNS_Walsh.
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