Norton, MA — Three local golfers were selected to represent Team Massachusetts at the 2016 USGA State Team Championship, as announced by MGA Executive Director Jesse Menachem.
Massachusetts residents Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC), John Kelly (Twin Hills CC) and Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) bring an abundance of experience and success at both the state and regional level to the 12th playing of the USGA Men’s State Championship, being held on the West Course at the Country Club of Birmingham in Birmingham, Alabama on September 28-30.
In the three-day, 54 hole stroke-play championship, the two lowest scores from each round will count towards the team’s total. Each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico are eligible to field a team of no more than three amateur players who are residents of said state and who are not an active collegiate player.
“We are thrilled to have Herbie, John and Matt represent the MGA at the upcoming USGA State Team Championship in Birmingham,” stated Menachem. “Based on their fine play and results over the last two years, they have each earned the right to showcase their talents as a team, and we know their experiences – at the local, regional and national level – will give them the confidence to compete against the Nation’s best amateur competitors.
“We have a trio of quality and classy gentlemen, and we wish them well in their quest for this prestigious National Championship.”
Each of the team’s three members bring an array of experience to the team, which last competed at the 2014 USGA Men’s State Championship, when the event was held in Indiana on the Pete Dye Course at French Lick Resort. While both Aikens and Parziale have played for Team Massachusetts in the past, this will be the first time that Kelly will be representing his state.
“To get the opportunity to represent the state of Massachusetts alongside two excellent players in Herbie and Matt is a dream come true,” said Kelly, who captured the 2014 Massachusetts Amateur Championship and finished as runner up at that same event in 2016.
He said his second-place finish at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship held this year at Taconic Golf Club initially put the thought of playing for the team in his mind.
“I honestly didn’t even think about it until the week after this year’s Mass Amateur because I didn’t think I had a chance,” said Kelly. “My performance that week is the main reason I am on this team.”
In that five-day tournament back in July, Kelly, an East Longmeadow native, cruised through the first two rounds of stroke play in a field of 144 and advanced to match play seeded 27th out of 32. From there, he won by scores of 7 and 6, 5 and 4, 4 and 2 and 1 up before falling in the 36-hole final match, 4 and 3, to Brendan Hunter.
While this will be Kelly’s first appearance at USGA Men’s State Team Championship, he is quite familiar with other USGA events.
The 27 year old has previously competed at the 2006 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, the 2014 and 2015 U.S. Mid-Amateur and most recently, the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship held at Winged Foot Golf Club (Mamaroneck, N.Y.) in May.
While Kelly may be the team’s rookie, its other two players, Aikens and Parziale, are no strangers to the team, or each other, when it comes to the golf scene.
Earlier this season, the pair won the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship after finishing T8 the year prior. The pair also represented Team Massachusetts at the 2014 USGA Men’s State Championship, where they, along with fellow teammate Doug Clapp, placed T26.
“It is an honor to be selected to represent Massachusetts at this year’s state team,” said Parziale, who will be competing for the Bay State squad for a second consecutive Championship Proper.
In addition to the familiarity he has with the team’s third player Aikens, Parziale’s knowledge of the Country Club of Birmingham is also an advantage will also be an added bonus come late September.
Parziale, who competed at CC of Birmingham when he participated in the 2013 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, said of returning to the course, “I really enjoyed playing there. I’m looking forward to going back.”
Like Kelly, Parziale too has a lengthy resume in USGA events. Besides playing in the 2016 U.S. Amateur Four Ball Championship at Winged Foot Golf Club, he will also being playing in his third U.S. Mid-Amateur in mid September after appearances in both the 2013 and 2015 Championships Proper. An appearance in the 2006 U.S. Amateur rounded out his experience in USGA Championships.
Aikens, the third member of the state team and the most experienced of the three, has played for Team Massachusetts in both 2012
and 2014. This time around, he says a new approach will serve him best.
“I am going to try to be more relaxed this year,” said Aikens. “I am just going to play golf and enjoy this course that I have wanted to play since I missed the U.S. Mid-Am years ago.”
He too looks forward to representing the Bay State again and says the opportunity to play on the state team has helped motivate him in other tournaments.
“To be able to represent Massachusetts is something that I work towards every year. When you’re not playing the way you want in an event, the state team serves as motivation because it reminds you to grind it out and to try to get every last point.”
The trio of Aikens, Kelly and Parziale will begin play on September 28 at the Country Club of Birmingham.
The final USGA Championship Proper of the season, the Men’s State Team was formed in 1995 as part of the USGA’s 100th year celebration. It was held every other year since its inauguration and in 2010, the USGA has alternated the Men and Women’s State Teams with the men competing in even numbered years and the women competing in odd numbered years.
The highest Team Massachusetts has finished in the 11 previous Championship Proper’s was when the trio of Brendan Hester, Kevin Quinn and Frank Vana, Jr. finished fifth in the 2003 event, held at Massachusetts’ own Charles River CC.