Fires 4-under Par 67 at Franklin Country Club
Franklin, MA — With temperatures hovering in the mid 80s all day long at Franklin Country Club, competitors in this week’s Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship experienced conditions that were unlike the fall ones they have become accustomed to over the years at this season-ending event.
One competitor who was not complaining about the temperatures on this day, however, was Colin Brennan (Indian Ridge CC), who fired a day-low score of 4-under par 67 to take a one-stroke lead over the 120-player field.
Brennan, who regained his status as an amateur in April after pursuing a professional golf career dating back to 2013, holds a one-stroke lead over two-time and defending champion Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC).
He is also two shots ahead of Brad Stewart (Franklin CC) and Austin Smith (Concord CC). Those four competitors were the only ones to post under-par rounds on Monday.
“Yeah, I’m happy with where my game is,” said Brennan. “I’d like to hit it a little closer if I’m being picky, but if I just keep hitting greens, I’ll be fine.”
Paired with Parziale as well as Billy Van Stratum (Dennis Pines GC) on day one, Brennan used a simple yet steady approach as he eased his way into his round by making par on 11 of his first 13 holes.
He made birdie on the 364-yard, par 4 5th and 359-yard, par 4 11th holes during that stretch. Yet despite the perfect scorecard, he found himself two strokes back of Parziale heading to the 14th tee but that didn’t rattle Brennan who was in a perfect rhythm.
“I think you get that stretch of seven through 11 where you feel like you can make some birdies,” said Brennan. “I think I only had a birdie or two in that stretch, but you feel like you can start to hit them close and get some short clubs in your hand. And then the finish, 16 to 18, you have a medium length par-3, a short par-4 and then a par-5. I feel like you can take advantage there too.”
While Parziale struggled during the middle part of the back nine, Brennan excelled. He made birdie on the 14th and 18th holes and signed a flawless scorecard of four birdies and 14 pars.
“I drove it pretty well,” said Brennan. “I drove it straight and I hit a lot on greens. On the back nine, I finally got a few putts to fall within 20 feet or so, which was nice. On the back nine I played pretty solid. I think I hit all nine greens so it kind of made it stress free.”
Performing well on a big stage is nothing new for Brennan, who was named the 2012 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year during his senior season at Johnson & Wales University (FL). He relocated to Florida and began his professional pursuits in 2013. This season marks his first full season back competing on the Bay State amateur circuit, but it’s clear that he is still focused on being a student of the game.
“I played a practice round with Alex Jeffers last week and there was still some holes today that I probably played a little over conservative because I wasn’t sure what was out there,” said Brennan. I feel like the more you play it, the better the grasp you have on it.”
While many in this week’s field spent the past few days getting one last glimpse at the layout of Franklin Country Club, one mid-amateur veteran – Matt Parziale – was at Pine Valley Golf Club (NJ) competing against some of the nation’s top mid-amateur champions at the 93rd playing of the George A. Crump Memorial Tournament.
In what was both the first time playing in the event and the first time ever visiting the south Jersey charm, twice ranked the Best Golf Course in the World by Golf Magazine, Parziale said it was an experience unlike any other he has ever undergone before.
“It was awesome. It’s the best place I’ve ever been, and the tournament – they did an awesome job,” said Parziale, who’s 2017 resume alone includes victories in the Massachusetts Four Ball, Massachusetts Amateur, Ouimet Memorial Tournament and Tarlow Invitational, among others. “They are a great group of guys. I am getting to know those guys. I went to the Coleman Invitational earlier at the year [held at Florida’s Seminole Golf Club] and I see them there and at the Mid-Amateurs and so on and so forth. It was awesome. I kept trying to imagine where I was.”
After posting a 12-over 152 in 36 holes of stroke play on Thursday and Friday, Parziale took the fourth seed in the second flight of match play and advanced to the semifinal round – knocking off Roger W. Hoit of New Jersey (1 Up) and Michigan’s Scott Strickland (4 and 3) before falling to Utah’s Dan Horner by a score of 1 down.
The Brockton native, a three-time Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year, said the competition against the best of the best set him up for what he would face the rest of the year.
“That place – it is crazy how hard it is,” said Parziale. “When you’re playing competitive golf and playing with the guys at a high level, it is good to stay sharp.”
Although he had less than 24 hours from when his match play round ended to when he started his first round of the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship, which he was won each of the last two years, the long haul had no impact on his performance.
Parziale made seven birdies in his first round and finished at 3-under par 68, which placed him in sole possession of second place entering the final round.
At 8:00 a.m., Brad Stewart looked down the 11th fairway of Franklin Country Club the same way he has done for the past two decades. The only difference today was that he was playing for a state championship title.
“It means everything,” said Stewart about his home club hosting its first-ever Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship this week. “At the end of the day you go play another golf course and get one practice round, so depending upon how you play that practice round you get a feel for the course. Out here I don’t really think that there are too many spots after playing here for 20 years that I haven’t been in. I have hit almost every shot that is out there and I have seen almost every pin position.”
Home-course knowledge was indeed Stewart’s friend on day one as he turned in a score of 1-under par 71 which was bettered by only two other players in the field.
Through his first eight holes on Monday, Stewart battled unusually hot temperatures and nerves as he made two birdies and two bogies and was even par as he headed to the club’s 1st tee.
“There were definitely nerves especially on the first couple of holes,” said Stewart, who hit his approach on the 403-yard, par 4 17th hole to two and a half feet to set up birdie. “This was definitely one of those days where you had to forget about it. Yeah you are going to be nervous because you haven’t played [tournament golf] in a long time, but you know every shot so don’t freak out if you make a mistake.”
Despite knowing the ins and outs of this layout and missing just one green in regulation, Stewart struggled on the greens at times.
“I had four bogies and five birdies and a bunch of horse shoes on the putts,” said Stewart. “I was just not quite hitting it as hard as I wanted to on some of the greens, but overall it was fantastic. I definitely thought I had a lower score in there, but it’s tournament golf and you take what you can get.”
After making birdie on the 355-yard, par 4 2nd hole Stewart pushed his birdie putt eight feet long on the 3rd green which led to a bogey. He quickly recovered with a birdie on the next hole and then played even par golf through his final six holes.
“It was an up and down day, but it was one of those deals because it was my home course there was no reason to freak out,” said Stewart. “If you make a couple of bogies it’s ok because you know where the birdie opportunities are.”
With one solid round under his belt and overwhelming support from his club mates no doubt coming to support him on Tuesday and Wednesday, Stewart is savoring every moment of this week’s experience.
“We have such a great golfing membership it’s incredible,” said Stewart, who said that his best round at this club was a 7-under par 64 which was posted nearly five years ago. “For our club championship we will have anywhere from 50 to 100 people come out to follow the finals. We have a men’s league on Thursday that is anywhere from 50 to 100 guys. We have a golfing club … and it’s all people who care about golf and love it, so it’s great.”
Nearly one month ago, Austin Smith (Concord CC) and Tommy Parker (Thorny Lea GC) were at Framingham Country Club and Berkshire Hills Country Club, respectively, punching their ticket to the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Fast forward to the start of the 34th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship at Franklin Country Club on Monday, less than two weeks away from their trip to the Capital City Club in Atlanta, the duo was paired together for the first round of what is the last MGA Championship Proper of the 2017 calendar season.
With Parker playing in his second straight Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship and Smith his first, both know how important getting out to a good start this week would be to physically and mentally preparing for what each will experience when stroke play in the USGA Championship Proper picks up on October 7.
“It’s definitely a good warmup” said Parker, a former Stetson University golfer who earned medalist honors with a 2-under par 70 mark at Berkshire Hill on August 23. “There is always a solid group of players, so it is good competition.”
That competition isn’t the only thing that the two will use this week to their advantage. Because of its proximity to the USGA Championship, this week’s tournament also provides the opportunity to work on certain parts of the game that might need attention.
For Smith, a Belmont resident who played collegiately at Gettysburg College, this week’s tournament is about working on specific aspects of his game – areas he feels will need to be top notch in order to perform well in Georgia.
“For me, it’s just trying to hit the ball solid because I know the course is really long so solid irons are going to be key to getting up and around those greens” said Smith, who will be playing in his first ever USGA Championship after being among the four who qualified at Framingham Country Club on August 28.
In their first rounds, Smith shot a 1-under par 70 while Parker fired an even par-71. Both are amongst the top players on the leaderboard and have put themselves in a good position to advance past tomorrow’s second round, when the field of 120 will be cut down to the top-30 and ties for Wednesday’s finale.
The USGA Championship will be contested from October 7-12 with stroke play before the top-64 will advance to match play beginning on October 9.
For more information on the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship, visit www.usga.org.