Norton, MA – For the second time in three years Brian Higgins (Franklin CC) can call himself the Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year. The 36 year old from Bellingham collected 796 points this past season and becomes just the fifth player in 34 years to earn the title more than once.
It was in July when Higgins established himself as not only the top player in Massachusetts but perhaps in all of New England when he came from behind to capture the 2010 New England Amateur Championship. Despite making a hole in one the day before, Higgins entered the final round three strokes behind the leaders but carded a 3-under par 67 on day three to claim the title. The victory was especially sweet since it marked the first major New England victory since he was reinstated as an amateur back in 1998.
“My mindset every year is to take it event by event and let the results speak,” said Higgins. “I view the Player of the Year as the top honor in Massachusetts amateur golf. I feel very fortunate to have earned this honor in 2010, given the depth of great players in this state. To earn this honor for the second time in three years is even more special.”
Heading into that New England Amateur Championship, Higgins had already set the pace for the Player of the Year race by advancing to the quarterfinals at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship (his best finish in that event since his finals appearance in 2002), winning the Worcester County Amateur, finishing second in the New England Amateur Invitational and fourth in the Hornblower Memorial.
“Coming into the July stretch, I was playing well but the New England Amateur was certainly my best victory to date,” said Higgins, who earned 250 Player of the Year points for the NEGA title. “Winning the Player of the Year award is always in the back of your mind, but it takes consistent and at times great play to earn that title.”
He also continued his impressive play in USGA events by qualifying for both the U.S. Amateur Championship and U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship. It marked the third time in eight years that Higgins had qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship and the third straight season that he had competed in the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
In what was one of the closest Player of the Year battles in recent memory, Higgins bested two-time Massachusetts Amateur Champion John Hadges (Thorny Lea GC) by just 96 points. Hadges, who won his second Massachusetts Amateur Championship title in July at Myopia Hunt Club, made a strong run at the honor by finishing second at the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship and winning his eighth Southeastern Amateur Championship title on his home course of Thorny Lea Golf Course.
Final 2010 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year Points
SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Jack Kearney (Elmcrest CC)
In his senior amateur debut, 55-year-old Jack Kearney (Elmcrest CC) earned a total of 577 points and was named the 2010 George M. Cohen MGA Senior Player of the Year. Kearney finished 268 points ahead of his nearest competitor and becomes only the second player in history to win both the Richard D. Haskell and George M. Cohen Senior Player of the year honors.
“It may sound corny but I feel lucky to have been allowed to play in these events for so many years,” said Kearney, the 1992 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year. “It is a true privilege to play never mind being recognized for my play.”
One of the highlights of the season came at Plymouth Country Club where Kearney captured his first career MGA Championship title. Although it was hard to believe that the 1992 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year had never accomplished such a feat, Kearney made sure that the moment was one to remember. With his back against the wall, Kearney sent his approach on the 18th hole to three feet to set up a birdie putt that earned him the title of Massachusetts Senior Amateur Champion by just one stroke.
Impressive play like that which was on display in Plymouth is what led Kearney to earn the highest accolade for a Bay State senior amateur golfer. In addition to his Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship title, Kearney won the Lowery Division of the Ouimet Memorial Invitational by an astonishing seven strokes. With that victory, Kearney became the first player to win both Ouimet divisions (he won the overall title in 1992). He also finished second – with partner and long-time friend Bill Barry (Elmcrest CC) – at the 2010 Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball Championship and was medalist at 2010 U.S. Senior Amateur Sectional Qualifying.
Final 2010 George M Cohen MGA Senior Player of the Year Points
JUNIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR – Andy Mai (The Ranch GC)
Despite his age, Andy Mai (The Ranch GC) will have to work hard to top his list of 2010 accomplishments. After all, Mai came through with one of the biggest – and most dramatic – wins of his young career at the 2010 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship when he drained a five-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to capture his first career MGA title.
It was a rewarding finale for the 17-year-old Mai who was in his last year of eligibility for the Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship. Playing like a true champion that week, Mai posted a final round score of 1-under par 71 at Foxborough Country Club which was one of only four under-par scores posted on that day.
That victory continued what had already been a strong summer for Mai. Earlier in the summer, he won the Pepsi Junior Connecticut PGA Championship which earned him a berth into the 2010 Junior PGA Championship. He also qualified for and competed in the 2010 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
As a result of his strong play this year, Mai earned a total of 375 points and was named the 2010 Christopher Cutler Rich MGA Player of the Year.
These three competitors – as well as all of the 2010 MGA champions – will be honored at the MGA’s Annual Salute to Champions which will be held on Thursday, January 6 at Wellesley Country Club. All media members are welcome to attend. Please contact Becky Blaeser at email@example.com for more details.
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Massachusetts Golf Association
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