Time for encore for Congdon

Sunday May 27, 2012

Considering his long domination of Berkshire County amateur golf and his late-season run to capture Massachusetts Golf Association Senior Player of the Year honors in 2011, the reality that Andy Congdon now has a winter home near the golf mecca of Myrtle Beach, S.C., isn't news other top local amateurs needed to hear.

So, when Congdon teed it up with brother Richie at this week's Mass. Senior Four-Ball Championship, it was stunning to see the potent combination near the bottom of the leaderboard after an opening best-ball of 7-over 79 at the Country Club of Greenfield.

The Congdons quickly made it obvious that round wasn't a sign of things to come, combining for a 3-under 69 in round two at Crumpin-Fox Club -- tied for the second-best round of the day -- to finish in a tie for 42nd place.

When it was suggested to the
57-year-old that his winter in golf paradise doesn't bold well for his fellow competitors, Andy was quick to allay their fears.

"What has year-round golf done for me? Not much, as the four-ball attested," he said with a laugh. "All they have to do is see my putting stroke and they will be much more relaxed."

Congdon said the opening round was "one of those days that started bad and then got worse."

"I had just driven up from South Carolina, but that's no excuse," Congdon said. "I just ruined everything for us. I three-putted the first hole, we both missed short putts on two and we made a bogey on No. 3. The mojo was gone right away."

Congdon said his putting woes kept a good second round from being even better.

"Richie was really something," Congdon said. "He played so well the second day as he has done a number of times in competitions with me. ... If I had putted decently we could have shot a 63."

Congdon earned his MGA honor with a great late-season run. He advanced to the round of 16 at the U.S. Senior Amateur, finished second in the New England Senior Amateur, fourth at the Mass. Senior Amateur and played well for the Massachusetts team in its Tri-State match victory over Connecticut and Rhode Island. He also won the Allied Tour individual championship for the eighth time in August.

Congdon's biggest disappointment was losing in a playoff at Stockbridge Golf Club to gain a spot in July's Mass. Amateur at his home club. He was the second alternate and spent the entire opening day hoping to hear his name called. It never was, but apparently the day still paid dividends in his season-ending run.

"I spent that whole day on the putting green and that may have helped," he said. "I wasn't working on the game that way this winter. Maybe I have to get a little more serious about it."

Of course, golf wasn't the only reason to spend the unusually mild winter on the beaches of South Carolina. Working hard on his golf game wasn't the goal for the retired insurance man.

"My wife and I had a wonderful time," he said. "It was great being there with Cheryl, taking long walks on the beach and just relaxing. It was like a six-month vacation for us."

Now that he is back home, there is a busy schedule ahead. Congdon has automatic exemptions into the upcoming the state Open, Amateur and Mid-Amateur. The 22-time Wyantenuck club champion narrowly missed earning an exemption in the U.S. Senior Amateur. He needed to reach the final eight last year and fell one match short.

First up is the Mass. Open at Walpole Country Club (June 5-7). Andy and Richie played the course -- a tight, tree-lined course that favors accuracy over length -- in the 2000 Mass. Four-Ball Championship.

"I remember that we didn't play well in the first round, but we went low [4-under 67] teeing off early on the second day," Congdon said. "We almost packed up and left, but we decided to stay until someone beat our score. It seemed like every group that came in, we knew if someone made a putt we're out. That seemed to go on for hours."

The brothers eventually finished in a tie for fourth place.

While winning against a strong field of professionals and amateurs in the $75,000 event isn't likely, Congdon will go in with the same attitude he always has.

"The only way I know to go into a tournament is to think that I can win the thing," Congdon said. "It would be like catching lightning in a bottle for me, but it has happened before."

As with any tournament -- after all, only one of 150 players will win -- it's not just about finishing on top.

"Walpole will be a stepping stone for the Allied and other tournaments later in the year," Congdon said. "I'm going to play in the Mass. Am. and I will try to qualify for the U.S. Senior Amateur again."

While his putting is a big concern going forward as it has been for a number of years, the fact Congdon is the reigning senior player of the year says that the rest of his game is terrific and makes him a threat every time he tees it up.

"My ball-striking is as good at is has ever been and I've always been good at managing the course well."


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