WELLESLEY – One of the most popular events on the Bay State golf calendar is held indoors, in the dead of winter, with 200 of the best and brightest players in the Massachusetts Golf Association showing up, without clubs or cleats.
“We are gathered to honor the champions from the 2010 season,” proclaimed MGA Executive Director Joseph Sprague in his opening remarks at the MGA’s annual Salute to Champions Dinner, held at prestigious Wellesley Country Club on Jan. 6. “This MGA tradition is special and memorable, as we honor each 2010 champion from the MGA NewEngland.Golf Association, Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts and male and female player of the year.”
With 25 recipients receiving a trophy or hardware for their success on the golf course from last year, Master of Ceremonies and WCVB-TV 5 sports anchor Mike Dowling, asked each champion to limit remarks to 60 seconds, which he jokingly referred to as the ‘shot clock.” The program also featured a special tribute to popular amateur legend Fordie Pitts, who passed away in October 2009 at 79. Over five decades of competitive amateur golf, Fordie Pitts won 100 tournaments, including 14 MGA titles, and the MGA has named the Father & Son Junior Division Trophy in his honor.
John Hadges Mass Amateur Champion 2010
In the heavyweight division, John Hadges (Thorny Lea), an aging Baby Boomer at the ripe, old age of 49, won his second Mass Amateur title in three years, by besting Dan Head (Wellesley), a talented 28-year old from Generation X, 2 and 1, in one of the most memorable match-play performances in the storied, 102-year history of the Amateur Championship, held July 16 at Myopia Hunt Club. In brutal heat, Hadges earned the prestigious title by playing 282 holes that week, culminating with a victory on the 35th hole of match play in the final against Head, which included 11 lead changes over nine grueling hours.
“Winning a second state amateur title is definitely the highlight of my golf career,” said Hadges, a +3 handicap, whose career in competitive golf spans 30 years. “Competing against the best players is something I love to do, and it’s starting to sink in that many of the previous winners of the state amateur are true golf legends. It’s special to be a two-time champion and to be included in that company.”
Brian Higgins MGA Player of The Year 2010
Brian Higgins (Franklin) earned the Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year by virtue of his consistent, stellar play all season, capped by a victory in the New England Amateur Championship held at The Yale Course July 20-23. The flashy, outspoken Higgins delivered top-10 finishes in most of the 14 major amateur events he entered, earning valuable points to edge Hadges 796 to 700 for the honor. MGA player of the decade Frank Vana finished third with 549 points.
“I had a great season last year and it was a lot of fun along the way,” explained Higgins, 39, who works in the equipment sales industry, and regularly practices his putting in winter on a 10 x 15 foot putting green in his basement. “Golf is not a game of perfect shots, but I was able to put together a collection of three good rounds to come out on top in the New England Amateur. Playing four rounds in the Northeast Amateur is always a thrill because you are paired with the best. It’s nice to play well and win, but what I’ve enjoyed most over the past decade is making new friends along the way. You can’t put a value of the friendships you make playing in MGA events – it’s priceless! In one moment you are battling to beat and crush an opponent on the course, and later, you can enjoy a beer together, sharing the experience. It’s part of what makes golf special to all of us.”
Jack Kearny Senior Player of The Year 2010
MGA Senior Player of Year Jack Kearney (Elmcrest) earned his title over Bob Linn (Berkshire Hills) with his first-ever MGA win at the Senior Amateur Championship held Sept. 13-14 at Plymouth CC. Kearney, a respected player who admits he rarely practices, finally cracked the winner’s circle after 20 years of being near the top.
“I’ve played golf all around the country, and the MGA is the gold standard of competitive amateur golf,” said the 55-year old airline pilot. “The MGA always run first-class tournaments at the best courses, and no other state golf association has the passion and tradition. They consistently produce an outstanding schedule in a short golf season, and we are grateful for the opportunity to compete.”
Tara Joy Connolly 2010 Player of the year / Mary Gale Senior Champion 2010/ Pam Kuong State Amateur Champion 2010
The triple crown winners of the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts include State Amateur champ Pam Kuong (Charles River), who defeated Tara Joy Connolly (Cohasset) 1 up at Charles River on August 4. Mary Gale (Bedrock) captured the Senior Championship, while Tara Joy Connolly earned her sixth consecutive player of the year honors outpointing Kuong 1,435 to 915. Mary Chamberlain (Cummaquid) finished third with 887 points.
Here are the 2010 champions: MGA Four-Ball Championship: Ryan Riley (Norton) & Herbie Aikens (Pinehills); Senior Four-Ball: Paul Murphy (Charles River) & Jim Finnerty (Stockbridge); Father-Son: Jim Drohen (Crystal Springs) & Bill Drohen (Brookmeadow) & Junior Division: Danny & Griffin Brown (Vesper); Amateur Public Links: Devin Bibeau (Highfields); Junior Championship: Andy Mai (Ranch) & Pre-Junior: John Beadle (Foxborough) & Boys: Steven Dilisio (Swampscott); New England Senior: Dave Szewczul (Tunis Plantation, CT) & Super Senior: Paul Quigley (Swansea); Mid-Amateur: Dan Falcucci (Cyprian Keyes).
Nationwide Tour pro James Hazen (Miller Place, NY) won the 2010 Open Championship, and first-place check of $15,000, held at Wellesley CC June 21 -23, shooting 6-under, 204 total. Hazen beat four players who finished two shots back, Scott Hawley (Shrewsbury), Jimmy Lytle (Ocean Ridge, FL) and newly-minted PGA Tour pro Jim Renner of Plainville, MA. Renner’s fans hope to find his name above the cut line on PGA scoreboards this season, since he earned his PGA Tour card in December the old-fashion way – thorough six “Q” school qualifying rounds.
(Tom Gorman, a Boston-based freelance golf writer, is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, Golf Travel Writers Association and International Network of Golf. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?