FIRE DAY LOW SCORE OF 11-UNDER PAR 61
Haverhill, MA — Defending champions Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) and Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC) sent a deafening message to the rest of field on day one of the 2017 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship.
Under cool and damp conditions at Renaissance, the defending champions posted an 11-under par 61 to jump out to a two-stroke lead over the teams of Shawn Roderick (Bradford CC) and Nick Maccario (Bradford CC) and Sean Fitzpatrick (George Wright GC) and Chris Tarallo (Thorny Lea GC).
Defending #MassFourBall Champions Herbie Aikens and Matt Parziale are atop the leaderboard at the halfway point of the Championship! Complete coverage: http://www.mgalinks.org/about-us/news/2017/news_2017_050917.html
Posted by Massachusetts Golf Association on Tuesday, May 9, 2017
“We played the par 5s horrible today,” said Parziale. “Usually when you play a course with four par 5s you try to get a birdie on all four, and we only got one on the first one and almost bogeyed another.”
Their lack of execution on the four par 5s was more than covered by their performance on the other 14 holes where they were 10-under par.
After making the turn at 4-under par 32, Parziale and Aikens faced the Renaissance front nine which is arguably the tougher of the two nines. It was there where they carded seven birdies and two pars.
“It was a perfect ding and dong,” said Aikens. “He would birdie one, and I could come back with one.”
On that front nine, Parziale and Aikens made birdie on the 1st and 2nd holes, respectively, before running into trouble on the 555-yard, par 5 3rd hole. What could have been a round-derailing hole for the duo turned into a momentum-continuing gift.
“We really screwed up the par 5 3rd hole and made a disaster of it,” said Parziale.” I was short in the hazard, and Herb got a bad break right. We were lucky to make par there and keep the momentum going for the last six holes.”
On the very next hole, Aikens sent his approach to inches on the 395-yard, par 4 6th hole and then drained a long birdie putt on the 374-yard, par 4 7th hole.
Parziale would cap off that front nine by making back-to-back birdies on the last two holes of the day, including an approach shot sent to inches on the 416-yard, par 4 8th hole.
“We are always kind of in it, and we hit it for the most part pretty straight,” said Aikens. “It’s rare when one guy is completely out of the hole and the other guy has everything. That wears you down. If you do that too much it ends up catching up to you.”
The field will have to do its best to catch up to the defending champions on day two as they look to secure their second straight title on Wednesday at Haverhill Country Club. If successful, they will become only the fifth team to repeat in back-to-back years as Four-Ball Champions since the Championship’s debut in 1981.
“We just have to keep doing what we are doing and try to have two legitimate birdie chances on every hole,” said Aikens. “They don’t have to be super close, but if you can stay below the hole and have good putts that is all we have to do. We have to keep the stress off each other and that is what we tend to do really well.”
PLANNING PAYS OFF FOR FITZPATRICK & TARALLO
With the dates of the 2017 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship circled on the calendar for months, Sean Fitzpatrick and Christopher Tarallo had this week planned out to a tee.
The former college teammates at St. Anselm’s College were looking to better their T4 finish from one year ago. They took a big step towards their goal on Tuesday by posting a score of 9-under par 63 at Renaissance, just two strokes off the overall lead.
“We reserved a hotel room last night and it paid off this morning,” said Fitzpatrick. “We were able to get some extra sleep, and we both played extremely well today.”
Playing in their fifth straight Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship together, Fitzpatrick and Tarallo are no strangers to competing well. They have posted two T8 finishes during that stretch and just last year entered the final round one stroke off the overall lead.
“We have had a couple of good finishes but we always seem to have one good day and then another that isn’t so good,” said Fitzpatrick. “We are both very competitive, but we have similar games which helps.”
The chemistry between the two goes back to when they were teammates for the Hawks beginning when Fitzpatrick was a junior and Tarallo a freshman.
“We played together for two years in college and then stayed in touch,” said Fitzpatrick. “He is a very good putter, and I lean on him for the putter because I can be streaky on my side. We also club off each other well and have great communication.”
On this day and despite a 45-minute fog delay, Fitzpatrick and Tarallo got off to a fast start when Tarallo sent his wedge approach to five feet on the 389-yard, par 4 1st hole to set up birdie.
The duo would go on to make birdie on four of their first eight holes to make the turn at 4-under par 32. They went on to play 5-under par golf through their next six holes, including an eagle on the 485-yard, par 5 15th hole.
“On the par 5 14th hole I hit a nice 2 hybrid to 15 feet for eagle and that got us going,” said Tarallo. “On the next hole, Sean made a 30-foot slider for birdie. We had tap in for pars on almost every hole and no long putt saving pars.”
They capped off the bogey-free round by making three straight pars, and Fitzpatrick estimates that they had birdie looks on 11 to 12 of the holes on Tuesday.
“We just played really well today,” said Tarallo. “We were both in every hole which is huge in four-ball format. It was a very stress-free round from start to finish.”
Capturing the 37th Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship title would be especially sweet for Fitzpatrick whose name appears on the list of past champions.
The year was 2009 and Fitzpatrick claimed a share of the title with then partner Paul Mitchell in what was a weather-shortened 18-hole event.
“I have definitely had some success at this tournament, but I joke to myself that it would be good to get another one but solo this time,” said Fitzpatrick. “That would make me feel a little better.”
As planned, both players made their way back home to the South Shore following Tuesday’s first round. They will return to the North Shore on Wednesday afternoon to compete in the final round of play at Haverhill Country Club and will hopefully secure that solo title they have been seeking for five years.
“We have a tendency to have one good round and then stall out on the second day,” said Tarallo, who would be seeking his first career MGA title. “The key is to stay aggressive like today and get two looks at birdie on every hole. We also want to get out to another fast start. That will be huge tomorrow and will help build our confidence.”
HOME COURSE ADVANTAGE FOR RODERICK & MACCARIO
On February 2nd at 10:01 a.m. the first entry for the 2017 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship was officially submitted. It came through one minute after entries opened.
The names on the entry form were Shawn Roderick and Nick Maccario.
Following the first round of play at the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship on Tuesday, those same names could be seen at the top of the leaderboard and just two strokes off the overall lead.
Roderick and Maccario were one of two teams to post a score of 9-under par 63 at Renaissance.
“As soon as we saw the courses for this year’s Four-Ball, we were first to sign up,” said Roderick. “This year I took the horse. He is playing that good I had to have him on my team.”
Roderick, 40, has been a regular in MGA events for years and just recently began cutting back on his competitive play. His golf resume rivals the best on the North Shore as he is a nine-time club champion at Haverhill Country Club. During his time at Haverhill Country Club, Roderick became friendly with an up-and-coming junior golfer, Nick Maccario.
As fate would have it, both have since moved their club affiliations to Bradford Country Club and have been battling for that club championship for the past two years.
“We play against each other quite often but rarely get to play on the same team,” said Roderick. “It’s nice to not have to play against him because he normally beats me. Every time we play it’s a great match and I love playing with him. He is a great kid. I am older and have been around the block so I try to help him out as much as I can.”
The history and competitiveness between the two – who are 15 years apart – was just one of many factors that led to today’s success. Roderick estimates that he has played more than 3,500 rounds at Haverhill Country Club, while Maccario has played in a host of events on the North Shore and has enjoyed much success at Renaissance.
It also helps that Haverhill Country Club and Renaissance enjoy a reciprocal relationship that allows members access to both courses.
“There is just a great group of guys at both courses,” said Roderick. “I remember when [Renaissance] was just dirt in the mid 1990s. They would drive us around and say this is where a great course will be. It was hard to believe at the time, but it has been nice to see it come together and to have two amazing courses to play.”
The comfort level for both was evident from the start as Roderick and Maccario made the turn at 3-under 33, but it was the back nine where they made their move.
Maccario made birdie on the 336-yard, par 4 10th hole, which began a stretch of play where they made birdie on six of eight holes. It could have even been better as Maccario missed a four-foot birdie putt on the 200-yard, par 4 15th hole.
“I think that today has a lot to do with a comfort level of being at the golf course,” said Roderick. “Having played so many rounds here and playing with Nick who is playing well means no pressure on me. I had a good run in the early 2000s and haven’t played too much over the past few years, but I wasn’t going to miss this one.
Roderick was especially excited when discussion shifted from Renaissance to Haverhill Country Club which he considers his “comfort course” and where the duo will look to claim the Four-Ball title on Wednesday.
“It’s amazing but it does have a huge impact when you can stand on every hole and you don’t have to worry about where to hit it,” said Roderick. “It’s so comforting and makes a huge difference.”
NEWS & NOTES
What’s Next – On Wednesday (May 10), the field will swap courses. There will be no re-pair of the field based on first-round score. In the event of a tie for first place following the conclusion of play on Wednesday, a hole-by-hole playoff will commence immediately at Haverhill Country Club following the close of competition.
U.S. Senior Open In the House – Representatives from the U.S. Senior Open Championship were on hand at Renaissance spreading news about the USGA Championship Proper that is coming to Salem Country Club on June 26 to July 2.
Samantha Gervais, a former member of the Merrimack College golf team and Bay State native, welcomed Four-Ball competitors and spoke about the many volunteer and ticket opportunities that are available.
Pinehurst Bound – A handful of competitors in this week’s field will be heading south to Pinehurst Resort & Country Club to compete in the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship. Included in that list are Billy Van Stratum, Jimmy Hervol, Michael Souliotis and Taylor Fontaine.
Oppenheim Represents – The Oppenheim family have been mainstay in Bay State circles – especially on the North Shore – for many years. Ken Oppenheim, 40, is part of this week’s field and is the older brother of 2009 MGA Open Champion and current Web.com Tour player, Rob Oppenheim. The brothers grew up on the North Shore, and Ken can often be found serving as a caddy for his younger brother on Tour stops across the country. This week, Ken teamed up with Ryan Friel.
Typical Four-Ball Weather – Weather in New England is always unpredictable, but Mother Nature did her best to delay the start of this year’s Championship. A frost delay on both courses caused a 45-minute delay on Tuesday. Despite the delay, all competitors were able to complete the first round of play.
Four-Ball Play – Today’s event represents a different type of golf tournament that may be foreign to the occasional golfer. In a four-ball event such as the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship, each team is comprised of two players who must have a combined USGA/GHIN Handicap index not exceeding the 6.0 limit stated on the application.
Throughout the 18-hole round, each competitor plays his/her own ball. At the end of each hole, the low score between the two partners is used as that team’s score. The event earned its name because four-ball competition usually pits two two-person teams against each other which would result in four balls being played! Please refer to Rules 30 and 31 of the USGA Rules of Golf manual for more details.
KEEPING UP WITH THE FOUR-BALL
Complete coverage of the 2017 MGA Four-Ball Championship will be available online (MGAlinks.org) and via social media.
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