This past Friday at the Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown, Massachusetts the 108th Massachusetts Amateur Championship took place. Brendan Hunter (Red Tail GC) won in a 4-3 victory over John Kelly (Twin Hills CC). This was the biggest win of Hunter’s career so far and was a shock to many. Hunter even surprised himself as he only brought three outfits, not expecting to get past the first two days of stroke play.
Brendan Hunter had tough competition during the tournament including, Matt Cowgill (Wayland CC), former St. Thomas Aquinas College Teammates Christopher Gentle (Mount Pleasant GC), Jackson Lang (Nashawtuc CC) and Alex Jeffers (Woodland GC) in the semifinals.
That hard work earned him a spot in the 36-hole final against Kelly, who had won this event in 2014. Hunter never trailed from start to finish. But it wasn’t until the 27th hole when he was finally able to break away from Kelly.
It came on Taconic GC’s 150-yard, par 3 9th hole. Kelly’s tee shot fell short of the green, but like he had done most of the round, Kelly was able to get up and down for par. With Kelly in with a 3, Hunter stepped up and drained a 15-foot birdie putt to go 2 up.
“I didn’t drop any putts all day long in the first 26 holes,” said Hunter. “On nine, I finally got one to lip in, and it got me on a roll. It gave me a little more confidence on the greens to two putt most of them.”
On the next hole, Kelly struggled with the false-front green and it took multiple attempts to get his ball to settle on the green. On the very next hole, Kelly was in perfect position – 180 yards out from the green in the middle of the fairway – while Hunter sent his drive left and into the rough.
What appeared to be an advantage for Kelly turned into a nightmare. His approach landed in the right greenside bunker and then his third shot sailed into the bunker on the opposite side of the green. Instead of winning that hole, Kelly lost it with a double bogey.
Hunter all but sealed his first major MGA championship victory on Taconic’s 12th hole – the 30th hole of the match – when he stuck his approach to two feet. In a matter of three holes, his lead had ballooned to 5 up with just six holes remaining.
“I thought that it got away from me at 11,” said Kelly. “To make a double bogey from 180 yards in the middle of the fairway is not acceptable… I think that put him 3 up and then it was 5 up like that. I fought as best I could.”
Kelly’s remarkable short-game play kept the match close through the morning 18 holes and then for most of the afternoon tilt. He was able to get up and down from around what are some of the most challenging green complexes in the state.
“I was scrambling like a maniac all day,” said Kelly. “After that many holes, it feels like I played 200 holes… it’s a lot and trying to grind every hole takes its toll. If I had hit the ball better, it would have been a lot more relaxing, but I didn’t. That is why he won.”
Hunter remained steady down the stretch and did not allow Kelly a chance to make a comeback run. The match came to an end on the 33rd hole, which is Taconic’s picturesque par-4 15th hole. Kelly looked to have the advantage with an approach that left him with a 12-foot birdie attempt. Hunter was long and a foot off the back of the green. Hunter chipped to a foot, while Kelly watched his last attempt burn the edge.
“I had never made match play before,” said Hunter. “Just being here is just phenomenal.” Hunter is still young in his golf career but is raking up the accolades. Having captured his first collegiate victory for St. Thomas Aquinas College this past spring. He can no add The Commonwealth Cup to his list of accomplishments. Impressive play and an exciting future are in store for Hunter.