2017 Massachusetts Open Championship
Falmouth, MA — Defending Champion Jason Thresher (West Suffield, CT) began his 2017 Massachusetts Open Championship title pursuit by making three straight bogies on Monday.
Since that time, he has played 7-under par golf and currently holds a share of the lead heading into the third and final round of play at TGC at Sacconnessett. Thresher is tied with Robin Byrd (Satellite Beach, FL) with a score of 4-under par 140.
“I knew that I was playing well coming in and I was going to make a few birdies that day,” said Thresher about his start. “I brushed it off and around the turn I made a couple birdies and an eagle and I knew that they would come.”
Thresher and Byrd are two of 60 competitors who will advance to the third round and will compete in a final 18 holes on Wednesday in Falmouth. This year’s cut line fell at 6-over par 150. In the event there is still a tie after 54 holes, a hole-by-hole play-off will determine the champion.
A potential playoff is nothing new to Thresher who won his 2016 Massachusetts Open title in a two-man playoff at Black Rock Country Club and who lost in a two-man playoff one week ago at the 2017 Cape Cod Open to Joshua Eure (Crofton, MD).
“I had a playoff last year, a playoff last week and even in college I was in a few playoffs,” said Thresher. “It’s different when you are only going against one or two other people. You can see what is happening in front of you and respond accordingly.”
Despite high temperatures on Monday morning and hot and windy conditions on Tuesday afternoon, Thresher responded well to the many challenges that the Rees-Jones designed TGC at Sacconnessett presents.
On day one, Thresher stormed back from his three-bogey start by playing his final 15 holes at 6-under par, including an eagle on the 298-yard, par 4 2nd hole. He continued that solid play on Tuesday by making birdie on three of his first five holes. As the wind picked up during the afternoon hours, Thresher managed to keep his round together to post a 1-under par 71.
“I am playing really good off the tee I have not put myself in trouble,” said Thresher. “Playing out here is a lot easier when you are in the fairway. The only thing that is really questionable right now is putting and making a few more five footers.”
And his game plan for Wednesday’s final round?
“Right now it’s just scoring well the first five holes and then I’ll take it from there,” said Thresher. “You have a driveable par 4 and two par 5s that are reachable and we’ll see where I am after that.”
Walking the fairways on Wednesday with Thresher will be Byrd, a self-professed career journeyman who has “played golf in nearly every country that has a golf course”.
This week, Byrd is showcasing his veteran poise on Cape Cod by carding two rounds of 2-under par 70. After making the turn at 1-under par 35 on Tuesday, Byrd made bogey on his 10th hole of the day – the 397-yard, par 4 1st hole – and then carded birdie on three of his next four holes.
“I hit a lot of greens and fairways and tried to hit the ball on the right part of the green basically,” said Byrd. “I didn’t hit it on the right place on the last green and three putted for bogey, but other that it was a good ball-striking day for as windy as it was. It was really, really windy.”
Even for a 58-year-old veteran who has played on nearly every tour except for the PGA Tour over the course of his career, this week’s layout has created a unique challenge this week.
“We played a practice round and the wind was blowing like this, really hard and then yesterday morning we come out and it’s like why did you play a practice round,” said Byrd. “Everything was either longer or shorter whichever way you were going with the wind. It started to pick up in the afternoon, but it was like playing two different golf courses for sure.”
Regardless of what happens on Wednesday, Byrd is simply happy to be playing another day and looks forward to a potential big payday.
“It’s a tough grind,” said Byrd with a quick laugh. “I’m probably like everybody out here. Everybody has probably won a hundred mini-tour events around the world in their lifetime. I have had a tour card on every tour except for the PGA Tour, never got there. But as far as wins nothing big. Just enough to keep eating and surviving and making another check.”
NOTHING KEEPS MORSE DOWN
Thirty-four years ago, Andy Morse (William J. Devine GC) walked to his ball sitting on the 18th green at Charles River Country Club thinking that he had just won the 1983 Massachusetts Open Championship title.
Bad luck and a mis-marked ball on that green resulted in Dana Quigley winning the title that year, but Morse would eventually capture that title six years later (in 1989) and then again in 1992.
With the 2017 Massachusetts Amateur Championship heading to Charles River Country Club on July 10-14, Morse took a moment to recall his time on the Newton links and what has transpired since then.
“The last week there was awesome,” said Morse, who also finished second in this event in 1987 and 1991. “Playing in any of these types of events is as close as you can get to USGA type conditions.”
It was indeed a magical time for Morse, who spent more than 15 years playing on the Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour and who continues to this day to be involved in golf as an instructor at McGolf Driving Range in Dedham.
Morse is one of four pre-1993 Massachusetts Open Champions in this year’s field who are exempt for life. Included in that list are John Elliott, Fran Quinn, Jr. and Kevin Johnson.
“It’s great,” said Morse. “This is really the only event that I play in all year so I really look forward to it.”
For Morse, this week was an especially momentous return to golf after what was one of the most harrowing years of his life.
“I had Polycystic Kidney Disease I found out in 1990 which basically meant that the kidneys were going to go downhill but it was slow,” said Morse. “I didn’t feel all that bad until early last spring and come to find out my function was down to five percent and we had to start going on a list and trying to find donors.”
When a donor was found, they did not have to look far. His wife Susan Morse was a perfect match.
“It will be a year on June 17,” said Morse. “I call it my next birthday.”
Understandingly, Morse has played little golf since then. The surgery and ensuing recovery put a pause button on both his play and his work as a golf instructor at McGolf Driving Range.
A quick glance at the leaderboard, however, would never tell Morse’s story. After all, he followed up his day-one score of even par 72 with a 3-over par 75 to easily make the cut and stand T23 with 18 holes remaining.
“My goal was just to make it around,” said Morse. “I haven’t actually walked 18 holes in two years.”
WINIARZ SAVORS MGA OPEN MOMENT
For the first time in his young career, Jared Winiarz is competing in one of the MGA’s most prestigious championship and he is soaking up every single minute of the experience.
Winiarz, a native of Norton and a rising senior at Norton High School, advanced to this week’s Championship Proper after posting a 3-over par 73 at a sectional qualifier held on May 15 at Cohasset Golf Club.
He was one of 14 qualifiers to advance from that site and it represented the second time that he would advance to an MGA Championship Proper. One year ago, Winiarz qualified for and competed at the 2016 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship.
“It is definitely a lot of fun because you feel almost like a pro for the week,” said Winiarz, who was paired this week with fellow amateurs Rasmey Kong (West Haven, CT) and Jason Short (Marlborough CC). “But you have to still go out there and play your game. You can’t let the intimidation factor of playing with the pros get to you.”
Winiarz was able to maintain his focus, especially on day one when he posted a score of 1-over par 73 and was T31 heading into the second round of play. That Monday round featured two highlight-reel birdie putts – a 15-footer on the 531-yard, par 5 5th hole and then a 30-foot putt on the 388-yard, par 4 10th hole.
“I was making a lot of par putts [on Monday],” said Winiarz. “I rolled in some that were just stupid, but after that round I felt that it was probably the best that I had played in two months.”
With college decisions to be made in the near future, Winiarz should have many opportunities open to him. He was the 2016 US Challenge Cup Hornblower Junior Classic Champion and the 2016 New England PGA Jr Open Champion.
Already this season, he captured the US 2017 Challenge Cup Hornblower Junior Classic title and is now playing alongside some of the region’s top amateur and professional competitors at TGC at Sacconnessett
“I am not expecting much,” said Winiarz. “I want to go out there and and have fun because it’s just nice to be here.”
His talent on the links can only be matched by his actions off the course. For the past three years, Jared and his brother Adam Winiarz have hosted the “Birdies for Babcia” golf tournament at MGA Links in Norton as a way to honor their late grandparents, Florence Rogodzinski & Michael Winiarz, and give back through the game. The event has raised more than $8,500 with all proceeds going directly to The Jimmy Fund.
Hosting the event at MGA Links was intentialal as the Norton facility serves as home to The First Tee of Massachusetts. It is that youth-development program which introduced Jared to the game of golf and continues to be a huge influence on his life.
After being a participant in The First Tee of Massachusetts for many years, Winiarz has – since 2014 – served as peer-mentor with The First Tee of Massachusetts.
“It’s what got me into the game, and it’s what keeps me going through and makes me want to try to qualifier for things like this,” said Winiarz, who also serves as an assistant coach for the PGA Junior League. “Every day I make sure that I remember that [The First Tee of Massachusetts] is where I came from and I go out there thinking, “let’s make them proud.”
TGC MEMBERSHIP WELCOMES FIELD
While many of the 150 competitors in the Massachusetts Open Championship field took advantage of the practice rounds at TGC at Sacconnesset prior to Monday’s first day of competition, several of the top professional and amateur players had the opportunity to play competitively as part of TGC’s first ever Pro-Am that was held at the upper-Cape club on Friday, June 9. Paired with four members of the club, the five-man, two ball format featured 105 total players, of which 21 of the competitors were players who qualified for this week’s Championship Proper.
Originally scheduled as a member-guest tournament to allow TGC at Sacconnesset club members to enjoy the pristine conditions ahead of the three-day championship, the event quickly turned into an opportunity to promote the club to people who might not necessarily be from around the area. In fact, more than 20 states are represented in this year’s Open Championship field.
“When this started, we asked ourselves how we could make this member-guest different from all the others we have done before” said Charlie Passios, the club’s Chief Operating Officer. “The MGA is right there and we have guys already doing practice rounds, so the team came up with the idea to invite some of the qualifiers. When we announced that we were inviting qualifiers to play as a fifth, we had people signing up because they got excited about it.
They had the potential to play with a possible touring pro or a top amateur.”
The club provided lunch for all competitors, held the 1 o’clock shotgun and finished the day with a specialty dinner and awards presentation. All the invited guests, who received email invitations, and were added to the tee sheet on a first-come, first-serve basis, received the meals free of charge.
For the tournament itself, professionals donated $50 to the purse raising upwards of $850, an amount that was matched by the club in pro shop credit. With a 3-under par 69 in Friday’sround, Chris Wiatr was crowned Champion and earned $450 in monetary winnings and another $450 in pro shop credit. The Woodbury, Connecticut native Wiatr was paired with TGCS club members Eric Roberts, and guests Bill Campbell, Chad Doe and Bobby Carleton.
Professionals Zachary Potter (Cocoa Beach, FL) and Jimmy Lytle (Ocean Ridge, FL) placed second and third, respectively, and took home the $250 and $150 monetary prizes, which too were matched in pro shop credits. Both shot even par 72 and dueled in a playoff to determine final standings.
Besides playing in the event, many of the players who are also in this week’s field had the opportunity to meet the members who call TGC at Sacconnesset home and some were even offered housing arrangements for the duration of the tournament. And all now have at least four new fans who will be cheering them on.
“The Mass Open being here puts the exclamation point on this golf course” said Passios. “Involving members in that I think energized even more interest in what we are hosting.”
Also competing in Friday’s Pro-Am were Ian Thimble, Ryan Donahue, Ricky Stimets, Rick Lea, Kevin Benstead, Steve Burak, John Jackopsic, Connor Henderson, Tommy Stirling, Blanton Farmer, John Clare, Chris Hawley, Cian Curley, Chris Gentle, Jared Winiarz and Louis Kelley.
NEWS & NOTES FROM THE FIRST TWO DAYS
On June 6, Andrew Flynn (Captains GC) received a call because he – as Alternate No. 16 – was being added to the Championship Proper field. He was granted a spot after MatthewCampbell (Clifton Park, NY) withdrew after learning that he had earned a spot in the 2017 U.S. Open Championship which kicks off on Thursday at Erin Hills in Erin, Wisconsin. Campbell will tee off at 8:57 a.m. off the first tee and is paired with Garrett Osborn (Birmingham, AL) and amateur Walker Lee (Houston, TX).
Since winning this event in 2011, Kyle Gallo (Manchester, CT) has been a very busy man. Two years ago, Gallo – a four-time winner of the Connecticut Open Championship – was named head men’s golf coach at his alma mater Central Connecticut University. One month ago, he welcomed a new baby girl. Gallo currently stands T4 with a two-round score of 2-under par 142.
In the battle for The Commonwealth Cup for low-amateur honors, Billy Walthouse (Longmeadow CC) and Alejandro Soto (Blue Hill CC) are tied with scores of even par 144.Michael Thorbjornsen (Nashawtuc CC) stands one back at 1-over par 145.
Past Massachusetts Open Champions John Elliott (Atlantis, FL) and Ian Thimble (George Wright GC), winners in 1991 and 2014 respectively, made a special trip to TGC at Sacconnesset on May 25 to take part in an MGA Open Media Day. Although Mother Nature and heavy rain that day did not allow attendees a sneak peek of the Championship layout, media members enjoyed hearing from the two former champions as well as members of the MGA and host club staff and golf course architect – Rees Jones. Click here to see video highlights from that day.
On Monday, John Clare (Camillus, NY) arrived at the 1st tee as an amateur. Before he struck his first shot, he declared that he was a professional. Although Clare’s decision was officially made one week ago at the Cape Cod Open, his declaration underscored a competitor’s ability to become a professional at any moment. A competitor has the ability to declare himself a professional player at any time prior to the start of the event. Clare just completed his final season at Le Moyne University where he was named – following the 2016-17 season – the Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year.
DYK: In TGC at Sacconnesset’s first opening day tournament in 2007, the best score from each teeing ground was to be deemed an official course record. Rees Jones elected to play from the tips that day and his round of 79 was the day’s best round from any of the tees. The newest course record to be set came on Monday when John Shultz posted a 5-under par 67. That now stands as the official competitive course record at TGC at Sacconnesset.
Rob Corcoran (Melbourne, FL), a PGA teaching professional at Poxabogue Golf Center in Bridgehampton, New York, was all smiles at the scoring tent following his round on Tuesday. After beginning his second round by making birdie, double bogey and double bogey Corcoran went on a tear that saw him card one eagle, four birdies and 10 pars for a score of 3-under par 69. That score – combined with a 5-over par 77 on Monday – guaranteed him a spot in the third round.
File this under “it’s a small world”. First-round leader John Stoltz (Middletown, NY) may hail from New York State, but he has deep Bay State roots. Stoltz’s Johnson & Wales (FL) golf team that won the 2016 NAIA National Championship included two Massachusetts natives and former Massachusetts Open Champions – Jim Renner (2008) and Mike Welch (2012).
Did you say playoff? The Massachusetts Open Championship is the only event on the MGA schedule that stipulates the following: Any tie for first place will be decided immediately by a three-hole aggregate play-off. In the event there is still a tie after 36 holes, a hole-by-hole play-off will determine the champion. There will be no play-off for low amateur honors. That three-hole aggregate play-off has been required in three of the last four years.
RECENT HISTORY OF THE “CUT LINE”
One of the most popular questions on day two of the Massachusetts Open Championship is, “what do you think the cut will be?”
By definition, a “cut line” in golf is defined as the score that represents the dividing point between golfers who continue playing and those who are cut from the field in a golf tournament. In other words, who will be coming back on the final day and who will be going home after 36 holes.
Here is a look at the cut-line through the past 13 years:
|Year||Cut Line Score||No. Players||Host Site|
|2017||150 (+6)||60||TGC at Sacconnesset|
|2016||147 (+7)||54||Worcester CC|
|2015||151 (+9)||51||Black Rock CC|
|2014||148 (+4)||57||Weston GC|
|2013||148 (+4)||50||Woodland GC|
|2012||148 (+6)||50||Walpole CC|
|2011||143 (+3)||46||Oak Hill CC|
|** Prior to 2012, the low 40 scorers and ties advanced to the third round|
|2010||144 (+4)||41||Wellesley CC|
|2009||155 (+11)||46||Belmont CC|
|2008||146 (+6)||45||Stockbridge GC|
|2007||145 (+5)||43||Kernwood CC|
|2006||147 (+7)||45||Charles River CC|
|2005||147 (+3)||43||Vesper CC|
|2004||147 (+5)||46||Pleasant Valley CC|