Captures Title by Two Strokes at Oakley Country Club
Watertown, MA — Keith Smith (Franklin CC) shot a 4-over par 75 in less than ideal weather conditions on Tuesday, the remnants of Hurricane Jose, to once again capture the Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship title, his second straight victory and third overall in the annual end-of-summer event.
With his win, Smith becomes only the fifth competitor in the Championship’s 57-year history to win back-to-back titles and only the fourth to have his name on the Frederick J. Wright Memorial Trophy three or more times.
But for the reigning Massachusetts Senior Amateur Champion Smith, it seems to appear that his scores continue to get lower as his age increases. After winning his first Massachusetts Senior Amateur back in 2013 with a 2-over par mark, Smith put himself in a position on Monday to pick up his third title.
The 59-year-old shot a day low 6-under par 65 to jump out to a four-stroke lead after round one of the championship and set himself up for another championship run come Tuesday.
Following his round-one performance which was only three strokes off the course record, Smith battled through heavy rain on Tuesday at Oakley Country Club to finish with a two-stroke margin of victory. He was the only person to finish under par for the two day, 36-hole event.
“It was the first time I have ever had where I slept on a lead like that,” said the 59-year-old Smith. “I knew that someone was going to make a run. Dave (Houghton) played tremendously today, and he tracked me down.”
With a four stroke lead entering Tuesday’s final round, Smith needed every last stroke to hold off his playing partner Dave Houghton (Captains GC) and Don Foberg (Plymouth CC), who shot 2-over par 73 and 1-over par 72, respectively, to finish the tournament at even par 142. But playing in his fifth senior amateur championship, Smith knew it would take every last ounce of energy – and every last stroke – to come out on top.
On the front nine of Smith’s round Tuesday, the Franklin Country Club member made the turn at 1-over par after a bogey on the par-3 3rd hole interrupted an otherwise straightforward start for the veteran golfer.
Plagued with heavy rain conditions, Smith, like the other 68 who advanced to the final round of the Championship, had to overcome the challenges associated with the unpredictable weather before hoisting his trophy.
“I don’t know that anyone likes playing in rain gear. I can’t swing in it, and it is much more challenging,” said Smith at the completion of his round. “I didn’t make a birdie today. Pars were becoming very favorable. You have to hit the fairway here and the rough, which is long anyways, is wet too. It definitely was a challenging round with the weather.”
After making the turn at 1-over par and 5-under par for the tournament, Smith shifted the status of the leaderboard, if only for a few minutes, with back-to-back bogeys on the par-4 11th hole and par-3 12th hole. The untimely errors, combined with Houghton’s birdies on holes 10 and 12, served as a reminder he would have to persevere to come away with the title.
“I three putted 10 after hitting it in on in two on the par 5 which was frustrating,” explained Smith. “[Dave Houghton] made a 25-foot birdie putt on top of me so it was a double whammy.”
“I missed the fairway on 11 and made bogey. I hit a poor shot on 12 to make bogey. Then on 13, I hit it behind a tree and had to hit a 3 wood over and towards 15, the par 3, and played a 9 iron over the 15th green to the 13th green. That was a cross-country par, and I had to make an eight-footer for par. It was a scramble. Whatever you could do to make a par you did.”
His save for par proved to be the difference maker as it allowed him to regain his momentum and allowed him to play the course on both Holes 14 and 15. He ended the round with back-to-back pars on the final two holes.
With the victory, Smith becomes the first person since Ed Fletcher won three events from 2000-2002.
The winner of the 2017 Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship will receive 300 points towards their George M. Cohen Senior MGA Player of the Year standings. With several regional events still on the schedule, including the Norfolk County Classic, the Southeastern Amateur and the Cape Cod Senior Amateur, today’s points can have a significant impact on the end of the year standings.
Looking ahead: The 58th Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship will be held at Pine Brook Country Club in Weston on September 25-26, 2018. The top 40 and ties from this year’s event will earn exemption into Pine Brook in 2018. It’ll mark the second MGA Championship Proper to be the held at the course, and the first since Tim Holland won the MGA Senior Amateur Championship there in 1966.
One more MGA Championship: Next week, the 12th and final MGA Championship Proper of the season will take place at Franklin Country Club when the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship kicks off.