Rehoboth, MA – On the second and final day of the 19th New England Senior Amateur Championship, each of the 110 competitors had their own game plan as to what would be needed to take home the Andrew C. Bailey Championship trophy, awarded to the golfer with the lowest score for the two-day, 36-hole stroke play tournament.
For Phil Pleat, the game plan was to simply stay the course.
At Crestwood Country Club on Wednesday, it was the New Hampshire resident Pleat of Nashua Country Club who was the last man standing in a back-and-forth battle that saw several of the region’s top golfers grab hold of the lead, if for only a few minutes.
Pleat’s two-day mark of 5-under par 137 was enough to make him the latest to have his name engraved on the hardware after the battle that ultimately came down to a duo Massachusetts golfers – Paul Mitchell (George Wright GC) and Jack Kearney (Elmcrest CC) – who finished with one extra stroke to finish T2.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Pleat, a 19-time NHGA Champion after winning the New England Senior Amateur Championship. “I’ve been playing in these New England Championships for 35 years, and I had a couple of close calls in the regular New England’s but didn’t make it. I wanted to push through and win won of these things, and this is great. It’s a special day.”
It was a special day for Pleat, who has previously finished third in the 2011 New England Senior and fourth at the 2014 Championship Proper.
As to what was successful this go around, his fifth time playing in the event, the Nashua resident credited his short game as the difference maker.
He said, “I think I hit some short irons and wedges close [this time around]. I managed my game well. I know what I can and can’t do and I knew I was in for a battle.
Entering the second half of the two-day tournament atop the leaderboard (he shot a 3-under par 68 on Tuesday), Pleat got off to a hot start with birdies on two of his first three holes.
Between him and his playing partners, Kearney and Don Foberg (CC of Halifax – MA), the three combined for several shots below par in the beginning of Wednesday’s round that had Pleat convinced winning the New England Senior would be no easy task.
“I had some tough competitors today with Don (Foberg) and Jack Kearney, so I just tried to hang in there and control what I could control,” said Pleat, who also finished runner up in the 2011 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. “I was calm all day and made some putts that I needed to.”
After three birdies through the first nine holes that pushed him to 4-under par after entering the day at 3-under, Pleat had an additional two birdies on Hole No. 13 and No. 15 to complement his 10 made pars.
“I wanted to drive it in the fairways, because some of that rough is pretty thick and wet,” added Pleat on what went right en route to claiming his first Andrew C. Bailey trophy. “I wanted to get myself into the position to hit a lot of greens and I just tried to hit fairways and greens all day and just let the chips falls where they may. That was my plan today.”
That plan was obviously efficient and the victory was special for Pleat, who has found loads of success on other golf platforms in the Northeast.
He said, “This (victory) is up there. To beat the caliber of players here, and since I’ve been trying for so many years to break through on the New England circuit, it’s up there.”
This event caps a successful two-week stretch for Pleat, who just last week qualified for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship alongside his son, James, at the qualifier held at Black Hall Club in Old Lyme, Connecticut.
In other New England Senior Amateur news, Rhode Island native Paul Quigley (Swansea CC) fired a 2-over par 144 to finish as the low scorer in the Super Senior division.
With six birdies and 22 made pars over the 36-hole Championship, Quigley finished one stroke ahead of Massachusetts native Paul Murphy (Charles River CC) to earn the feat as 2016 New England Super Senior Champion.
The New England Golf Association would like to thank Crestwood Country Club and its members for the graciousness that they have shown to all participants throughout the 19th annual New England Amateur Championship. The 2017 Championship Proper will be played at Wethersfield CC in Wethersfield, Connecticut next September.