Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Strong local contingent highlights field for Massachusetts Amateur qualifying event at Stockbridge GC
It's been a long time coming in the world of COVID-19, but Mass Golf will finally open its season on Monday with a trio of Massachusetts Amateur qualifying tournaments, including one locally at Stockbridge Golf Club.
A field of 42 golfers, 12 with Berkshire County connections, will tee it up beginning at 8 a.m. at the par-71 layout. Overall, there will be nine Mass. Am. qualifying events around the state with the final one on June 29. The Mass. Amateur will be played at The Kittansett Club in Marion on the edge of Buzzard's Bay on July 13-17.
The local players in the field range in age from rising RPI sophomore Thomas Fraser to a pair of senior veterans, Bob Linn and Jim Finnerty. Of the 12, no one has more experience in trying to qualify than the 66-year-old Linn, who has planned his tournament schedules in recent years based in large measure on getting to play courses he hadn't previously experienced.
"I wasn't going to try to qualify this year, but then I saw the Amateur was at Kittansett, that was the driving force for me," said Linn, a member at Berkshire Hills.
Indeed, in a state filled with great courses from the Cape to the Berkshires, Kittansett is ranked at No. 5 by Golf Digest and apparently well worth the trip.
"It's location offers spectacular views and challenging shot making in the ever-changing wind," is a course description on the www.top100courses.com website.
While the odds against him qualifying grow as the years pass, Linn has proven he can still get the job done. In 2016 and 2017 he was the oldest player to make the Mass. Am. field and he also made it in 2011 in a qualifier held at Stockbridge. It also helps that Stockbridge, at 6,635 yards from the back, is a course he knows well and one where he isn't at a huge disadvantage against today's young bombers.
"They can move the tees back maybe 40 yards on six, nine and 18," he said of the holes where distance may be at more of a disadvantage.
Although he has already lost out on two tournaments that were cancelled in Hyannisport and in Westchester County (N.Y.) that he was "really excited about," Linn feels like his game hasn't suffered from the ongoing situation that had course availability limited or non-existent in Massachusetts at times.
"I usually don't play much until May anyway," Linn said. "The ranges were open in Connecticut so it didn't disrupt me much except for the tournaments that were cancelled. ... I'm playing pretty well, although lately I have been missing too many 4-footers, so I have to work on that."
Here's a brief look some of the other local hopefuls in the field:
— Fraser, a two-time All-Eagle MVP at Lee High who is currently a member at Berkshire Hills, played in four tournaments in his pandemic-shortened freshman season at RPI. He is the youngest of a solid group of up-and-coming players who will tee it up Monday.
— Another is former Pittsfield High Kevin Quinto, who earned Division III All-Region honors for Christopher Newman University while averaging 72.8 per round during the 2019 fall season. He qualified for last year's Mass. Am. but fell short of reaching the 32-player match-play field
— Forest Park Country Club's Chad Alibozek, an All-Eagle MVP earlier in the last decade who went on to have good college career at Salem State, will also be trying to advance to the main event for the second year in a row. The long-hitting Alibozek also failed to make it to match play last year.
— Former Taconic High golfer Matt Gilardi qualified for two Mass. Golf events in 2018, the Public Links Championship and the Mass. Amateur. He made the cut in the Public Links but failed to advance to match play in the Mass. Am.
— Josh Shepard and Jamie Cimini are former Pittsfield High teammates from early in the 2000s who have shown they can play at the highest amateur levels, having qualified for and played in the 2019 U.S. Four-Ball Championship together. They also finished second together in last year's Pewter Cup at Berkshire Hills Country Club.
Rounding out those looking to earn a ticket to Kittansett are Taconic Golf Club's Ryan Kangas, Wyantenuck Country Club's Brian Cunningham, Country Club of Pittsfield's Adam Karger, former Taconic High golfer Connor Champoux and Stockbridge's Finnerty, who captured the Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball Championship with Paul Murphy in 2010 at The Orchards.
Good luck, guys. Keep it in the short grass and out of the Housatonic River.
Links at Worthington
Memorial Weekend Best of Four
1. James Ryan, Jeff Racz, Dan Matica, James Patterson, 7-under. 2. Gabe Crane, Jim Blascak, Jared Carey, Marc Jamilo, 6 under (won match of cards). 3. Scott Preston, Greg Pease, Joe Mac Kevin Atkin, 6 under.
1. Don Pierce, Peter Cowlin, Chris Baran, John Dabrowski, 14 under. 2. Scott Preston, Doug Reed, Jeremy Stachowicz, Steve Estelle, 12 under.3. Chris Baran, Peter Cowlin, Jerry Bush, Brian Gravel, 12 under.
1. Chris Eugin, Liz Dolby, Kathy Nicholl, Terry Boyce, 1 over.
Tom Joyner, on the 159-yard second hole at Greenock Country Club with a 5-wood. Witnesses: Jerry Provost, Mike Armstrong, Bob Nason.
Richard Lord can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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