MAKING MGA HISTORY
East Falmouth, MA – It was history in the making yesterday at the TGC at Scconnesset. For the second straight year Jason Thresher captured the Massachusetts Open Championship title. He is the first golfer since 2006-07 and the 8th competitor in MGA’s 108 year history to have successfully accomplished back to back title wins. Through 54 holes of stroke play over three days, Thresher finished with a final score of 7-under par 209 and carded 13 birdies for a two-stroke win over Josh Salah (Bass Rocks GC) and Chris Houston (Gilford, NH).
“It’s harder to win,” said Thresher who captured his first such title in a two-man playoff at Worcester Country Club just one year ago. “It took a playoff last year, so it was a good feeling to hit the fairway on 18 with a two- shot lead. It was a much different feeling.”
“It’s a great field and probably the best field in New England to start off with,” said Thresher before accepting the Clarence G. Cochrane Memorial Trophy and a winner’s check of $15,000. “It’s three rounds and it comes down to a shot or two and you have to be mentally tough and really grind it out. I was in bad spots throughout the week, but I was able to get up and down a few times.”
When asked what he needed to do to capture the win. His answer then was simple. He needed to make birdies. On Wednesday Thresher was paired with career journeyman Robin Byrd (Satellite Beach, FL) who fell off the pace early in the round to finish T5 overall. Thresher got off to a fast start by making birdie on two of his first three holes. After getting his momentum back he eventually made the turn at even par following bogeys on the 4th and 8th holes.
“I made probably the best putt of the day on the first hole unfortunately,” said Thresher with a laugh. “That was kind of how the week went, but I knew that eventually putts would fall as long as I kept giving myself opportunities.”
Pressure was firmly applied by Chris Houston (Gilford, NH) and Josh Salah (Bass Rocks GC) who stormed up the leaderboard. In fact, Salah held onto the overall lead during the middle stages of his round when he made three birdies (on the 9th, 11th and 12th holes) through four holes.
Just after 4:00 p.m., Salah turned in his scorecard and was the leader in the clubhouse with a score of 5-under par 211. It was then when Thresher made a final push that would lead him to eventual victory. He made critical birdies on the 11th, 14th and 15th holes to go from one back to two up.
“I asked where I was after the 14th hole so I knew that the putt on 15 was pretty big,” said Thresher who made a 10-foot birdie putt on that hole. “On 16, I haven’t played that hole that well and I wasn’t quite sure which way the wind was going so when it landed on the green 10 feet from the flag I was pretty happy.”
For the first time since Monday, Thresher was able to breathe as he watched the players in front hole out and saw his tee shot on the 18th hole laying perfectly in the fairway. He needed just three strokes from there to cap off his round and his second straight Massachusetts Open title.
“It’s going to be pretty big,” said Thresher when asked about the significance of the win. “I was hoping to do Web.com Qualifying this fall for the first time, so this is great momentum going into that and through the rest of the summer.”
WALTHOUSE & THORBJORNSEN SHARE LOW AMATEUR HONORS
On Wednesday,Billy Walthouse (Longmeadow CC) andMichael Thorbjornsen (Nashawtuc CC) were awarded The Commonwealth Cup which is awarded to the lowest scoring amateurs at the Massachusetts Open Championship. The talented duo earned that honor after posting a three-round score of 2-under par 214 at TGC at Sacconnesset. Sanding next to repeat winner Jason Thresher during the Massachusetts Open Championship award ceremony, it was hard not to think that the same scene could be played out again in the near future but with the two young amateurs holding the larger trophy.
Walthouse posted a final-round score of 2-under par 70 and assured him a share of low-amateur honors.
“It is definitely a move in the right direction,” said Walthouse, whose season included a round of 16 appearance at the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and a win at the 2017 Hornblower Memorial Tournament. “Something really clicked at the Four-Ball and winning the Hornblower was a huge boost to my confidence. Tying for low amateur here is another stepping stone in the right direction.”
Walthouse, who was a 2017 Atlantic-10 All-Conference team member at the University of Rhode Island, is scheduled to compete at next week’s Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club (RI), the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and the Ouimet Memorial Tournament in July. He is also planning to take part in sectional qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship.
For 15 year old Thorbjornsen, this week marks the next step in his development. One year ago, Thorbjornsen made Massachusetts Open Championship history when he became – at the age of 14 – the youngest competitor to finish as medalist at sectional qualifying. This year he backed up rounds of 71 and 74 with a final-round score of 3-under par 69 on Wednesday.
“I started my round today 1 over and was really glad that I fought back,” said Thorbjornsen, who just completed his first year at the IMG Academy (FL). “I had four birdies after that and the rest were pars and it was great to finish at 69 and three under. That was pretty much my goal since I started this week. I knew from last year that this is what it would take. “It is amazing,” said Thorbjornsen. “I remember looking back last year and thinking that I would have to put a lot of work in to get low amateur. There are a lot of great players out here. I felt that I started off the week well with 1 under and that put me in a good position. This is a great honor.”
A SHORT BUT FUN TRIP HOME FOR JOSH SALAH
For the first time in three years, Josh Salah found himself walking on New England style grass and enjoying a round of golf with his father.
“It’s the first time my dad has seen me play in three years in a tournament,” said Salah. “It’s great to have him on the bag and there with me down the stretch. It’s nice to have someone to lean on.”
The experience will be short lived as Salah – who was born and raised in Gloucester – will be returning to his current home in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday. Since 2015 Salah has been carving out his professional golf career on the Asian Development Golf Tour.
Due to his professional commitments abroad, Salah was unable to participate in the available sectional qualifiers held in Massachusetts. As a result, he went through the process to request a special exemption into the Championship Proper field. His exemption was granted by the MGA Championship Committee.
“This is the first tournament that I have played in the U.S. for three years,” said Salah. “I have to thank the MGA for the special invite to play. I thought that it was a long shot, but I asked and it was awesome to be here playing.”
Salah took full advantage of the opportunity. After posting two straight rounds of even par 72, he stormed up the leaderboard with a final-round score of 5-under par 67 to finish T2.
“The first two days I was hitting it everywhere and was in the fescue for two days and made way too many mistakes,” said Salah. “On this golf course, if you don’t hit the fairways you can’t make birdies, and I was able to avoid that today. I drove it really, really well today and was able to make some putts.”
A fast start helped Salah’s cause. “The first five holes are gettable,” said Salah. “I told my dad before the round that I think that we can get three in the first five, and I birdied the first three. It was a dream start.”
Salah was 5-under par through 12 holes and was holding a one-stroke lead. His only miscue on the back-nine was a three-putt bogey on the 332-yard, par 14th hole. He made up for that quickly by chipping in from 20 feet off the green on the 170-yard, par 3 16th hole.
“That was a nervous three putt on 14, and I blocked my tee shot on 16,” said Salah. “I got fortunate that it was a good lie in the rough and chipped it in it was great and kind of a way to salvage good round. It was tough out there, but I grinded, and it was fun.”
COURSE RECORD BE GONE… AGAIN!
John Clare (Camillus, NY) kicked off his professional career by playing on a very challenging TGC at Sacconnesset layout under some of the most intense competitive conditions. Clare enjoyed a historic round of golf which saw him break the competitive course record by three strokes. He posted a final-round score of 8-under par 64
The previous record of 67 was held for a mere two days by John Stoltz (Middletown, NY), who posted that score during Monday’s first round.
Clare’s astounding round included three bogies and 11 birdies. He began his round with a par and then for the next four holes would make a birdie only to follow with a bogey.
He halted that birdie-bogey pattern on the 460-yard, par 6th hole when he made a long putt for birdie. He went on to make birdie on two of his next three holes to make the turn at 3-under par 33.
“I hit a big tee shot and left myself 100 yards and then hit a wedge to 30 feet which wasn’t very good,” said Clare about that 6th hole. “It was straight up the hill and I hit the putt really hard and way too fast. It hit the back of the hole and rattled around and dropped in. At that point, I was like OK I’ve got something going on right now.”
He most definitely kept up that pace with three straight birdies on the back nine. When the final score was posted, Clare had made nine birdies in a span of 13 holes.
“I had a good feel going on from yesterday,” said Clare, who was 4-under through his first 9 holes on Tuesday before carding an even par 72. “I knew that there was a good score out here and that I was hitting it good the past three days. I came out and I made a lot of putts early and then just continued it and kept myself calm.”
Strong finishes seem to be a pattern for Clare who just last week posted a day-low score of 67 during the final round of the Cape Cod Open to secure a T7 finish.
On this day, Clare needed an especially strong final round after he began his Massachusetts Open Championship pursuit with a first-round score of 5-over par 77. He bettered that mark by five strokes on day two and then another eight on Wednesday for a three-round score of 3-under par 218 and a fourth-place finish.
As a result he is now – in what is just his second week as a professional golfer – enjoying every bit of his new career path and a course record to boot
(Photography by David Colt Photography)
NEWS & NOTES FROM ROUND 3
A Fitting Finish
Upon reaching the green, the competitors were greeted by two special guests. T/Sgt O’Brien and M/Sgt Burger of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, Air National Guard served as the honorary flagstick attendants this year. The familiar MGA flag was replaced with a special American flag.
It was a welcome and familiar site for those who frequent the grounds of TGC at Sacconnesset as the club has become a proud and significant supporter of Cape-area veterans and active military families.
Several years ago, the membership of TGC at Sacconnesset established the TGC Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation, a donor-advised fund that provides critical financial assistance to Cape-area veterans and active military families.
Principle funding comes from “TGC for the Troops,” a golf tournament and reception supported by TGC management, members and local businesses. The TGC Fund touches hundreds of lives each year through grant applications submitted by registered 401(c)3 organizations that provide critical, “just-in-time” financial assistance to Cape veterans and active military families.
The MGA is grateful for the service of our military and the support of the TGC at Sacconnesset membership for the veterans and military families.
An Open Numbers Game
75,000 – the purse amount (in dollars) of the Massachusetts Open Championship.
15,000 – the amount ($) that the champion – Jason Thresher – will take home.
4,200 – the number of bottles of Nestle Water that arrived at TGC at Sacconnesset to help keep the competitors, caddies and volunteers hydrated (special thanks to Nestle for being a proud sponsor of the MGA).
500 – the total number competitors who registered for this year’s Massachusetts Open Championship.
108 – years that this event has been contested dating back to 1905
60 – number of competitors who advanced to the third round.
61 – amateurs who are in this year’s Championship Proper field.
43 – the age difference between the oldest (58) and youngest (15) competitors who advanced to the third round.
17 – the number of alternates that advanced to Championship Proper (there were a total of 40 competitors who made up this year’s Alternate List).
5 – the number of years that a champion is exempt from sectional qualifying.
5 – the number of MGA Championships that TGC at Sacconnesset has hosted since it opened in 2007.
3 – the number of holes that will be played if there is a tie following the first 54 holes of competition.
|2017||Michael Thorbjornsen/Billy Walthouse||T5||TGC at Sacconnessett|
|2016||Matt Hutchins||T3||Worcester CC|
|2015||Ben Spitz||T13||Black Rock CC|
|2014||Matt Parziale||T2||Weston GC|
|2013||Ben Spitz||T4||Woodland GC|
|2012||Chris Congdon/Tony Grillo||T10||Walpole CC|
|2011||Chris Congdon/Brian Higgins||T6||Oak Hill CC|
|2010||Mike Calef/Richy Werenski||T11||Wellesley CC|
|2009||Matt Parziale||T2||Belmont CC|
|2008||Mike Calef||T3||Stockbridge GC|
|2007||Bill Drohen/Brian Higgins||T11||Kernwood CC|
|2006||Jim Renner||5||Charles River CC|
|2005||Tim Acquaviva||7||Vesper CC|
|2004||Frank Vana, Jr.||7||Pleasant Valley CC|
|2003||Eric McPhail||T14||Tedesco CC|
|2002||Frank Vana, Jr.||3||Longmeadow CC|
|2001||Scott Hawley/Michael Carbone||T10||Mount Pleasant CC|
|2000||Josh Hillman||T6||CC of Pittsfield|
|1999||Kevin Quinn||1||Wellesley CC|