Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Trio of locals qualify for Massachusetts Amateur Championship
Earning a berth in the Massachusetts Amateur Championship is always a big deal for the hundreds who try to get there, but this year there was an extra added bonus — getting to play on the hallowed grounds of The Country Club.
After all, it's the same grounds where Francis Ouimet made history in 1963, Curtis Strange beat Nick Faldo in a 18-hole U.S. Open playoff in 1988 and Justin Leonard's putt culminated the Americans' epic comeback win over Europe in the 1999 Ryder Cup.
Three young golfers from Berkshire County clubs — Chad Alibozek, Kevin Quinto and Davis Mullany — earned their tickets to Brookline in Wednesday's qualifier at Wahconah Country Club and are aware that they are headed to a special place. Alibozek shot a 3-over 74 while Quinto and Mullany fired 75s to sneak into the Amateur field.
"I have watched the movie, but I've never ever seen the scorecard," said the 24-year-old Alibozek, referring to "The Greatest Game Every Played," the story of Ouimet's U.S. Open victory as an amateur. "It's definitely one that's on the bucket list to play."
Mullany, the oldest of the trio at 30, has played the course once before and is looking forward to a return visit.
"There is just so much history there, it is a special club," Mullany said. "I remember the greens had lots of slopes and the rough is thicker than it is on most courses in the Berkshires. You are going to have some difficult chips."
In addition to being the Wyantenuck Country Club member's second trip to the club, it will also be his second appearance in the Mass. Amateur. Mullany made it through medal-play qualifying when the tournament was held at his home course in 2011 before being ousted in the round-of-16 by Antonio Grillo.
"I was a little bummed out that I didn't get past that one," said Mullany. "I stripped it all day, but Tony made a lot of putts and he chipped in on No. 16 (for the win)."
Over the past few years, dental school, not golf has been Mullany's focus. He got his degree from the University of Pittsburgh just two weeks ago and will start practicing on Cape Cod, in East Dennis, next month.
Although he has shown flashes of good play despite his lack of playing time — he qualified for last year's U.S. Four-Ball Championship with former Dartmouth teammate Rob Henley — Mullany is perhaps a little surprised to be headed to next month's tournament.
"I had low expectations going into the round," Mullany admitted. "It was probably just my sixth round of the year. I'm pretty happy about how it worked out."
With a few weeks off before he begins his new job, Mullany will go to work in preparation for the Amateur.
"I might have to play some money matches to simulate tournament situations, and I especially need to tidy up my short game," he said.
The 24-year-old Alibozek, meanwhile, has played in one previous Mass. Amateur, failing to make it into the 32-player match-play field in 2016. The former two-time All-Eagle MVP (2011, 2012) and Salem State standout had rounds 82 and 80 at Taconic Golf Club, but he says he is more prepared this time around.
"I have matured a lot more as a golfer since 2016," said Alibozek, who is also hard a work these days as the general manager at Forest Park Country Club. "My demeanor is much better on the golf course now."
Alibozek, also a member at Taconic, has been working on his game with Taconic teaching professional Peter Egazarian.
"Peter is helping me a lot with making minor adjustments to make me more consistent and make my swing easier to repeat," Alibozek said.
The 20-year-old Quinto, who plays golf at Division III Christopher Newport University and made the Capital Athletic Conference all-conference team this year, had a wild ride to his 75. After shooting a 1-over 37 on his first nine, the back, he had a second nine that included three bogeys, a triple bogey, three birdies and only two pars.
"I didn't think I had chance when I finished, I'm just happy that in the end I got the job done," the former Pittsfield High golfer said.
Quinto's triple bogey on the par-4 5th hole — his 14th hole of the round — could have ended his hopes, but he proved his resiliency and as a result he is headed to Brookline.
"I drained back-to-back bombs on the next two holes," said Quinto of his birdies on the par-3 sixth hole and the par-5 seventh. He parred the final two holes to get the job done.
Now, he goes back to work like Davis and Alibozek to get ready for the big show.
"I'm striking it very well, but I need to tighten up my putting," Quinto said. "This will be the strongest field I have ever competed again, so I need to get my game in a good spot."
When James Ryan and partner Aidan Brownlie teed off in the final round of last weekend's Stockbridge Trophy best-ball tournament at Stockbridge Golf Club, their odds of winning weren't great, to say the least.
Ryan and Brownlie were in a three-way tie for sixth — and last — place in the eight-player First Flight at even-par 71, trailing Berkshire Hills Country Club member Mark Chylinski and New York partner Glenn Stopera by six shots after the leading pair shot a sizzling 65 in Saturday's opening round.
With the winds howling and the tees moved back, going low was going to be difficult on Sunday. Turns out, while others' hopes blew away in that wind, Ryan and Brownlie produced a bogey-free, 4-under 67 to win by one shot over the Country Club of Pittsfield's Matt Scarafoni and partner Robbie Sisca. The runners-up shot a 71, three shots better than the third-best score in the flight and five shots better than Chylinski and Stopera, who fell from first place to third.
"James and his partner must have played fantastic to shoot that score in those conditions," said Scarafoni, who combined with his Florida friend and playing partner to card a round of 18 consecutive pars. "We had good looks on probably 14 holes and we just couldn't make a putt. We were never really in danger (of making a bogey)."
The 53-year old Ryan and Brownlie, his nephew who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and plays out of Wykagyl Country Club in New Rochelle, made birdies on Nos. 3, 5, 13 and 18. It turned out, they needed them all to go from worst-to-first.
A missed opportunity on the par-5 15th hole, considered a prime birdie possibility, almost proved costly.
"We had a three-putt par," Ryan said. "I thought that might come back to haunt us."
It might have if not for the Links at Worthington member's clutch birdie 3 on the final hole, which measures a challenging 444 yards from the back tee.
"The hole was playing a lot different than it did on Saturday. I hit a 6-iron from 192 yards after hitting a wedge from 105 in the first round," Ryan said. "I hit the shot to within 10 to 12 feet and made the putt."
Meanwhile, Stockbridge's Chris Shields and Berkshire Hills' Randy Driscoll saw their five-year winning streak in the Trophy come to an end. The longtime partners opened with a 72, which put them in the Second Flight. Another 72 on Sunday left them in a second-place tie with Scott Preston and Dan Matica, four shots behind the Wahconah Country Club team of Brandon Sullivan and Cam Boraski, who shot an impressive 68 on Sunday.
Two Berkshire County head professionals, Taconic Golf Club's Josh Hillman and the Country Club of Pittsfield's Eric Mabee, will be in the field on Monday in Tyngsboro when the $75,000 Massachusetts Open tees off at Vesper Country Club, which also was the site of the first Mass. Open in 1905.
Hillman earned his berth by capturing last fall's Berkshire County Pro Championship while Mabee is exempt as a result of his club hosting a Mass. Open qualifier in May. The county pros will be paired together in a 1:25 p.m. threesome with amateur Zack Camarra
Three-time defending champion Jason Thresher, of West Suffield, Conn., will be looking to become only the third golfer in the tournament's history, which dates back to 1905, to win the title at least four years in a row. Alex Ross, the brother of legendary golf course architect Donald Ross, won five consecutive times from 1906-1910, while Paul Harney prevailed from 1967-70.
Ross was the brother of legendary golf course architect Donald Ross, who won the inaugural open in 1905 at Vesper (which he designed) before brother Alex began his five-year run. Alex also won in 1912, tieing him for the most Mass. Open titles with Geoff Sisk, who won his six championships between 1995-2007.
One potential favorite, 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale, Mass Golf's reigning Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year, won't be in the field for the second year in a row. Instead, he will be in Pebble Beach, Calif., playing in his second consecutive U.S. Open. Parziale, who tied for low amateur honors last year, qualified for this year's U.S. Open in a qualifier earlier this week in Purchase, N.Y.
This week's 150-player field includes 92 pros and 58 amateurs with the ages of the golfers range from 15 (Weston Jones) to 64 (Rick Karbowski). Coincidentally, both golfers are from Sudbury.
The field in the 54-hole tournament will be cut to low 50 and ties after Tuesday's second round.
While searching on Google for information on Alex Ross in the previous item, I stumbled across a current-day golfer with the same name posting a rather mind-boggling score in a tournament at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta on Thursday.
Would you believe a 15-under par 57 with 13 birdies, an eagle and four pars after opening the tournament 4 over with rounds of 75 and 73? Start believing.
According to golfchannel.com, Ross and his playing partners were joking about all missing the cut as they ate lunch prior to their afternoon third round in the Dogwood Invitational. Upon reaching the 10th tee (their starting hole), he asked the starter what the course record was.
"He told me 60," said Ross, a rising junior at Davidson College. "I said, `OK, I guess I'll go after that.' '"
On his first nine, he posted a ridiculous 9-under 27 with seven birdies, an eagle and one par. He chipped in for birdie on his first hole and made a 30-foot eagle putt on his fifth hole to set the stage to make history. His 30 on his final nine included six birdies and three pars.
In 11 college events this past season he had four top-10 finishes and a 73.3 scoring average. Remarkably, his 57 was 10 shots better than his previous tournament low score.
"Yeah, this is by far my best accomplishment," Ross said. "Not even close."
Richard Lord can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-281-2226
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