HAMILTON – For the second time in three years, John Hadges, can call himself the Massachusetts Amateur Champion. And, for the second time in three years, the prototypical 49-year old Baby Boomer beat a talented 28-year old Generation X up-and-comer, Dan Head, in the final match of the most prestigious amateur event on the golf calendar.
The final match on July 16 at the 102nd Mass Amateur at steamy Myopia Hunt Club, which has hosted four U.S. Open Championships since its opening back in 1894, once- again pitted age vs. youth, successful veteran vs. rookie and skilled shotmaker vs. raw talent. In the end, experience won out as Hadges (Thorny Lea GC) defeated Head (Wellesley CC), 2 and 1, in 35 holes.
“When we first started the match I thought I had the advantage,” said a tired Hadges after his historic victory. “But I quickly realized after starting off that even though I had never heard of Dan, I had my hands full. He is a great guy and very good player. After witnessing his game, I know that Dan will be back here again.”
Over the course of five days of the most competitive amateur golf in these parts, the two weary warriors logged a total of 282 holes. The nearly nine-hour, 36-hole final match was a perfect end to an exciting week as it was a battle that saw 11 lead changes and no player ever gain more than a two-hole advantage from start to finish. The drama, emotion, excitement and joy of watching two talented amateurs tangle on this stage are now a cherished memory and great storyline.
“Myopia has some tricky greens and I made some key putts when I needed to throughout the week,” said Hadges by telephone one week after his victory. “In my match against Frank Vana, it came down to who makes the most putts, because we basically hit the ball the same from tee to green. My legs were sore a few nights but the week goes by quickly, and I avoided distractions, like thinking about my score or who else was playing well. I stayed in the moment which is what you have to do to win.”
Hadges said preparation is the key to playing well in big events. He said sometimes he’s practicing at Thorny Lea at 5 am, since that is the best free time for him to work around his family (wife, and two children, ages 8 and 4) and work for a commercial real estate company. After notching his second amateur title in three years, his celebration that night included taking his family out for ice cream. The low-key Hadges admits he hasn’t thought a lot about the win but the 49-year old athlete with prodigious golf talent is edging his way into Bay State record books as one of the best ever.
“If you compete at this level and have a desire to win, you avoid casual golf, and put in the practice time, which is what I have been doing,” he added. “I don’t have any burning desire to play pro golf at age 50. There is good balance in my life right now, and I’m very comfortable in the heat of competition. I can’t start thinking about next year but it would be very elite company to win three state am titles.”
To the victor goes the glory, but the unflappable Dan Head had a storybook week and happy ending.
“I am perfectly happy with second place,” said the classy Head, who had a large following from Wellesley CC routing for every good shot. “This is my first time in Match Play so the whole week has been surreal. Every single match I played was a bonus. To make it to the finals and go deep with John Hadges is an added bonus.”
John Hadges becomes only the 19th player to claim two Massachusetts Cup titles since its debut in 1904. He also became the fifth Thorny Lea GC member to win the prestigious title joining Ed Connell (1965), John Tosca (1959,’70), Bruce Douglas (1975,’76) and Steve Tasho (1981, ‘85).
Thorny Lea GC pro Peter Norton said the club is plenty proud of Hadges accomplishment and boasts that the club has produced nine winners over the 102-year history, almost 10 percent win rate.
“John has always had a natural-born talent to excel in golf, but winning two state amateur titles this late in his career is the pinnacle,” said Norton, who has been friendly with Hadges for 35 years, and was the guiding force behind Hadges decision to attend Murray State in 1982. “What we’re seeing from John is the success from his hours and hours of practice. He has always had the ability to be a great amateur but he never practiced. Sometimes, when I show up here at the shop at 6:30 on any weekday morning, John is out there hitting balls, chipping and putting. He will drop his kids off, go to work and come back at night for another practice session that includes playing a few holes. That is dedication, and I’m happy to see the practice is paying off, especially since he turns 50 in August. John’s amateur career is not over and should get him mention as one the best ever.”
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