Williamstown, MA — His two-day stay in the Berkshires lasted a bit longer than expected, but that was just fine with Matt Cowgill (Wayland CC), who claimed the 2016 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship title following a three-hole sudden-death playoff against Cody Booska (Crumpin-Fox Club).
After both players matched each other shot for shot through the first two playoff holes, the crowning moment for Cowgill came on the 501-yard, par 5 17th hole where he was able to get up and down for birdie. Booska, who had sent his tee shot out of bounds off the tee, could not recover to extend the playoff.
“It feels really good,” said Cowgill after he chipped to two feet from the back right of the green. “It feels good to win. I haven’t won anything in four years. To be an MGA champion is really special. I love these tournaments.”
35th MGA APL Championship Links
- The Future Looks Bright for Deep
- Sunday Start Gets Rave Reviews
- MGA Intern Gutmann Enjoys A Return Home
- Round 2: Daily Course Statistics
Just hours earlier, Cowgill suffered what he thought was a costly bogey on that same hole during regulation. He sent his approach over the green and out of bounds. He scrambled well for bogey, but at the time assumed his chances of winning were all but over.
“It’s crazy that it ends up biting him,” said Cowgill. “It’s a tough hole, and it’s a good hole for a playoff.”
Cowgill’s birdie marked the end of one of the most exciting sudden-death playoffs in recent MGA memory.
On the first playoff hole, Booska appeared to have the clear advantage when his approach on the 324-yard, par 4 18th hole landed eight feet from the hole. Cowgill stepped up and drained his 20-foot putt. Booska would go on to make a seven-foot par save on the second playoff hole, but he could not continue the magic on the third playoff hole.
“I had confidence on the greens,” said Cowgill. “I made that putt on the first playoff hole so I knew that if I could get it somewhere around the hole on the green I would have a good chance of making it. I focused really hard on putting the ball in play. I hit 3 iron on 18 this week. Usually, I am more aggressive than that and would hit driver on that hole, but my ball striking wasn’t where I wanted it this week.”
Cowgill and Booska were deadlocked at 3-under par 139 following the stipulated 36 holes of regulation play. Booska backed up his day-one score of 2-under par 69 with a 1-under par 69 on Monday.
Cowgill, meanwhile, stormed up the leaderboard on the final day with a tournament-low round of 4-under par 67 which featured a five-hole stretch where he played 6-under par golf.
“I had a great front nine,” said Cowgill, who made the turn at 4-under par 35. “I got on a stretch where I was 6 under through five holes and I holed out which was a nice break.”
Beginning on the fourth hole, Cowgill went birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie and birdie. That stretch came after he made bogey on his third hole of the day.
“I treated the par 5s like par 4s this week and just went for it on every one,” said Cowgill, who was 3-under par on the par 5s this week. “I was able to get one there [on the par-5 4th hole] and then got a nice 30 footer to drop on 5 and then holed out on 6 which was a bonus. I did it last year on the first hole, so there must be something about this tournament.”
One year ago, Cowgill made two eagles at this event including a hole-out on his first hole of the second round. He finished second overall to eventual champion Nick McLaughlin.
This time around, Cowgill had to battle back from a first-round deficit of four strokes to earn the top prize.
“I stumbled a bit on the back,” said Cowgill who was 1-over par through his final nine holes of regulation. “The tee ball hurt me a little bit. I got out of position, but I hung in there and made a couple of putts and my dad kept me focused down the stretch except for 17.”
Having his father by his side all week was what Cowgill considered his 15th club in the bag.
“This is definitely in the top three wins especially with my dad on the bag,” said Cowgill. “He is with me a lot so to experience a win with him is really cool.”
The Future Looks Bright for Deep
Mike Deep has done all of the hard work, and now he just needs to find a willing partner to help complete his mission and fulfill his vision.
“I just need $45 million,” said Deep with a smile.
While the sum on paper seems large, the ask is quite simple from the Waubeeka Golf Links owner.
After all, Deep has done most of the work to take what was a soon-to-be-closed golf course and turn it into an outstanding MGA Championship host site. He has accomplished that feat in less than two years.
“We have put just under a million dollars into the golf course alone,” said Deep. “We are committed to investing a half a million each year moving forward. This will be the best golf course in the state. We promise.”
Two years ago, the North Adams native was in Arizona when he heard that the latest deal to purchase Waubeeka Golf Links had fallen through. With no other potential buyers in sight – at least any who would want to keep it running as a golf course – Deep stepped in and made an offer to purchase the Williamstown property.
Since that time, Deep has invested his money, time and resources into the course and the results were plain to see this week as the club hosted the 2016 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship.
“It is a great golf course,” said Herbie Aikens. “It is not overly long, but it can be penal. Some of these shots you have to work it both ways. You have to hit some cut shots and you have to hit some draws and every hole has beautiful views. You get up on the par 3 14th, and I just don’t know if there is a better view in the state.”
Aikens is one of many competitors in this field who know a thing or two about top-notch golf courses. Prior to his trek to Williamstown, Aikens competed in an event at Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio.
“We feel that we have the ability to make this a destination for the average to the best golfers,” said Deep. “It is a unique course and offers what we believe are the best views anywhere.”
Every hole at Waubeeka features panoramic views of the Berkshire mountains. It is also situated in a favorable geographic spot which has allowed the course to avoid the recent drought conditions that have hampered many facilities across the region.
To that point, Williamstown has received several significant rain events which has allowed the course to remain lush and healthy throughout the summer months.
“The response to this course has been outstanding,” said Kevin Eldridge, the MGA’s director of rules & competition. “The competitors have been impressed with the conditions and the challenge of this layout. Although it’s not the longest course in the state, it presents unique challenges with its elevation changes and green complexes.”
With the golf course now in pristine condition, Deep’s next step is to make this a destination site for even those outside of the MGA championship network. Over the past two years, Deep has worked with town officials to develop a plan to allow for the construction of a hotel and resort that would be situated on the Route 7 property.
With hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless hours of time already invested in this proposed project, Deep has no interest in running that division. He simply wants to open the door for another group to step in and take his vision and plans and make it a reality.
That – he says – will allow him to run a golf course which is where his passion lies.
“That is what I want to do,” said Deep. “The reality is that we can’t continue to operate the golf course without a resort component to help draw in visitors and generate additional revenue 12 months a year.”
New England weather allows the golf course to be open seven months a year, but the surrounding communities provide year-round options including but most certainly not limited to theaters, museums, skiing and even snow shoeing.
“There is so much to do in this area and the closest resort is miles away in Lenox or Manchester,” said Deep. “We have a chance to give visitors a place to stay that will offer them convenient access to all that the Berkshires has to offer.”
Since the course sits in a historic district, the proposed resort will be consistent with the picturesque land that surrounds it on all sides.
“What you will see will reflect the beauty and the historic significance of this area,” said Deep. “You won’t see a cookie cutter hotel placed on this property. It will be a place where one can escape and enjoy what is a very special place in the United States.”
And that sentiment was unanimously supported by those here this week.
“It is truly an incredible venue,” said Jesse Menachem, the MGA’s executive director. “When you have a conversation about destination golf courses in the Bay State, Waubeeka should be right in the mix.”
Sunday Start Gets Rave Reviews from Players
For the first time in history, an MGA Championship was held beginning on a Sunday instead of a traditional weekday. The concept was first introduced back in 2014 when Waubeeka Golf Links agreed to host its first ever MGA Championship Proper.
It was an important year because owner Mike Deep had taken over management of the facility that spring and the course had just been re-rated by the MGA staff and volunteers.
The club had previously hosted a Massachusetts Amateur Public Links qualifying round in 2012 and agreed to host another qualifier in 2015 before opening its doors to the Championship Proper in 2016.
“The club was excited to host a major event,” said Menachem. “We mutually agreed that an event in 2016 to help celebrate Waubeeka’s 50th anniversary would be a perfect opportunity to showcase this incredible Berkshires venue.”
A twist was the Sunday start which would allow competitors to schedule a weekend in the Berkshires. With a cut set after the first round of play, it also allowed golfers to potentially not lose a day away from work.
“We felt that it was a great chance for us to see how a Sunday start would work for both the golfers and the host club,” said Menachem. “It is important to be aware and respectful of weekend play at Member Clubs, but Waubeeka was extremely supportive and amenable to the unique schedule.”
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many competitors who had to travel long distances to get to Williamstown were happy to have the weekend flexibility and the chance to visit this summer destination site.
“It worked out because the majority of the guys who play in this all work and now they only have to take one day off,” said Kevin Carey, one of four members from Dennis Pines GC who made the four-hour drive to Williamstown. “Finding a golf course that is willing to give up their golf course on a Sunday is unique I think.”
The club also enjoyed the engagement of many of its members and regular players who volunteered their time over the two-day event. Many Waubeeka members followed groups and were helping the staff prepare the course for championship play.
“Our membership was very supportive and excited to showcase the course,” said Deep. “We are proud of the course and were happy to open it to some of the best players in the state.”
After receiving such rave reviews this week, competitors may continue to see changes in the future.
“This worked out very well, and we will certainly keep this in mind for future events,” said Menachem. “We will continue to look for new ways of providing different opportunities for our competitors, but we will also make sure that we are taking into account the best interests of our host clubs. We want every event to be a win-win for all involved.”
MGA Intern Gutmann Enjoys A Return Home
It’s not often that Nate Gutmann is able to sleep in his own bed this summer. After all, the Adams native accepted a three-month long USGA P.J. Boatwright Jr. Internship with the MGA, which is based out of Norton and approximately 150 miles from his home.
“It was a great opportunity for me,” said Gutmann, who will be graduating from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in December. “I have an apartment in Worcester for the summer, but it’s always nice to have a chance to return home.”
As part of the summer internship, Gutmann has worked with several different departments within the MGA. Earlier in the summer, he worked alongside Mark Gagne, the MGA’s director of member services, to help manage and grow the MGA Members Now! program which allows golfers to connect with Member Clubs and obtain or renew a GHIN handicap index.
He has also traveled the state with the championship department to help manage qualifying and championship events. He was on site for three days at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship held at Taconic Golf Club in July and has spent the past three days assisting at Waubeeka Golf Links with the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship.
“Working at the events and having that hands-on experience has been incredible,” said Gutmann. “I love being involved and seeing how a tournament is run from behind the scenes. The days are long and the work required is a lot, but it’s a very rewarding experience.”
Interestingly, golf is a new sport for Gutmann who was a standout baseball player at McCann Technical High School. He also played baseball for the Trailblazers. He developed an interest and eventual love for golf only two and a half years ago.
“I was a little late to the sport, but it has become an important part of my life,” said Gutmann. “This internship has allowed me to become more involved in golf while also helping me prepare for a future working in sports.”
Another special part of the internship has been Gutmann’s involvement with The First Tee of Massachusetts at its home course of MGA Links in Norton. Gutmann, who will compete for the MCLA golf team this fall, has been one of the instructors at the junior golf clinics held this summer.
The First Tee of Massachusetts aims to introducing children to the game of golf and its inherent values in an affordable and accessible manner.
“I would say that teaching junior golf has been one of the most rewarding experiences of the summer,” said Gutmann. “Being able to work with young golfers and introduce them to a game that I love has been a highlight and something that I would love to continue even after this internship ends.”
School may start again this fall, but Gutmann will be sure to keep close ties with his new friends in golf.
“I have met so many incredible people both at the MGA and at the courses where we have visited,” said Gutmann. “My home is here in Adams, but I do feel like my golf network has now been expanded across the state.”
Round 2: Daily Course Statistics
Here is a rundown on course statistics from Monday, August 8.
Day 2 Course Statistics
Average Score: 76.292
Low Score: 67
High Score: 87
Total # of Eagles: 7
Total # of Birdies: 140
Total # of Bogeys: 353
Total # of Pars: 606
Hardest Hole: #11 (average score was 4.738)
Easiest Hole: #17 (average score was 4.923)
Videos of all key putts from the playoff are available for view on Twitter. WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?