WEST NEWTON, Massachusetts – Two past United States Golf Association champions who appeared together in the 2019 U.S. Open are the final players still standing in the 113th Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
Brockton native Matt Parziale, 34, (Thorny Lea Golf Club), who won the Mass Amateur and U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2017, is making his third appearance in the final match of the state amateur. His opponent is Wellesley’s Michael Thorbjornsen, 19, (Wellesley Country Club), the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur champion, who just completed his first year at Stanford University.
Both players advanced through the quarterfinals and semifinals with relative ease Friday at Brae Burn Country Club (par-72, 6,770 yards) and will compete in the title 36-hole final match, which begins at 7 a.m. Saturday. Spectators are welcome to attend the final match at Brae Burn Country Club.
MEET THE FINALISTS
Winner of 2017 Mass Amateur, defeating Matt Cowgill, 5&4
Winner of 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur, defeating Josh Nichols 8 & 6
Has 28-10 career record in Mass Amateur match play
Competed in the 2018 Masters where he shot 81-79 (+16)
Tied for low-amateur honors at the 2018 U.S. Open after shooting rounds of 74-73-74-75 — 296 (16-over); Also played in 2019 U.S. Open (74-77–151) (+9)
Other wins: 2008 & 2015 Worcester County Amateur; 2009, 2013, and 2017 Ouimet Memorial Tournament; 2015 & 2016 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship; 2015 Norfolk County Classic
Road to the Finals
Stroke Play: 71-71–142 (T8/No. 8 seed)
R32: Def. Kevin Gately, 3&2
R16: Def. Frank Vana, 5&4
Quarterfinals: Def. Ben Spitz, 2&1
Semifinals: Def. Chris Bornhorst, 4&3
- Ranked 85th in the World Amateur Golf Rankings
- Competing in his first-ever Mass Amateur this year
- Tied competitive course record at Brae Burn (64) during the second round of stroke play
- Won the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at Baltusrol Golf Club (NJ) Rising sophomore for the Stanford University men’s golf team
- Placed 79th in 2019 U.S. Open
- Was a member of two U.S. National Teams: Junior Ryder Cup (2018 winners); Junior Presidents Cup (2019 winners)
- Was a member of the All-Pac-12 Newcomer Team
Road to the Finals
Stroke Play: 73-64–137 (2nd/No. 2 seed)
R32: Def. Alex Snickenberger, 4&2
R16: Def. Dan Howard, 5&3
Quarterfinals: Def. Michael Amari, 3&2
Semifinals: Def. Chris Francoeur, 3&2
8-MATT PARZIALE, Thorny Lea Golf Club def. 4-CHRIS BORNHORST, Brae Burn Country Club, 4&3
Matt Parziale wasn’t shaken after making bogey and losing the first hole of his semifinal match. He knew the next one would be a good chance to make it up. For the fourth consecutive match, Parziale made birdie on the par-4 2nd (362-yards) and after winning the next hole held the lead the rest of the way.
“I’ve had good numbers for a wedge,” Parziale. “That’s a green you don’t really want to spin it on, and I’ve had numbers where I haven’t had to spin it.”
Bornhorst had a chance to swing the match after he made birdie and won the 9th hole (par-4, 310-yards), cutting the lead to 1-up at the turn. But Parziale grabbed the momentum back when he hit a 9-iron from the rough that hit the flagstick and set up a 2-putt opportunity for birdie, which he converted. Bornhorst, meanwhile, ended up making par and falling to 2-down.
“I thought it was going to jump a little bit, it was moving pretty good when I hit the pin, so I was fortunate I hit the stick, and made a good putt,” Parziale said.
“That was kind of a turning point for him to go 2-up, instead of squaring it back up,” Bornhorst said.
Parziale then iced the match by winning the 11th (par-4, 466-yards) and going 4-up with a bride on the par-5 14th (555-yards).
2-MICHAEL THORBJORNSEN, Wellesley Country Club vs. 14-CHRIS FRANCOEUR, Amesbury Golf & Country Club
Michael Thorbjornsen and Chris Francoeur started the week as playing partners, but the Division I golfers finally got to compete head-to-head in the semifinals. Both golfers came out firing with birdies on the par-4 1st hole (335-yards) and they remained tied through five holes. Thorbjornsen was able to mount a 2-up lead at the turn but saw that slip to 1-up after Francoeur made eagle on the 11th hole (par-4, 466-yards).
At 3:36 p.m. play was suspended while the players were on the 14th hole due to lightning and dangerous weather conditions. Following the resumption of play, Thorbjornsen chipped off the back end of the green and put himself close for a birdie, which he made, to regain a 2-up lead. As he’s done all week, Thorbjornsen was solid off the tee and was able to hit two more to set up birdies on the 15th and 16th put the match away.
“I’d say driver has been the best club in the bag so far this week,” Thorbjornsen said. “There were some misses, but a yard or two off the fairways, it’s still in the rough so it makes it tough to attack pins and get it close.”
8-MATT PARZIALE, Thorny Lea Golf Club def. 1-BEN SPITZ, George Wright Golf Course, 2&1
In a contest between the only two past champions remaining, Matt Parziale (2017 winner) advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive year. Ben Spitz (2006 winner) shot 4-under on the back nine and tied the match with a 22-foot eagle putt on the 13th. Parziale broke the tie for good on the par-4, 15th (295 yards) when he drove the green with a 3-wood and two-putted for par.
He closed it out on the par-3, 17th (255-yards) by hitting his tee shot to 18 feet and hitting his second putt to about a foot. Spitz found the left rough and was unable to save par and extend the match.
“It’s a pleasure playing with Ben,” Parziale said. “I’ve known him for 15 years now, and he’s the best — his golf game and in person — so we had a good time together.”
4-CHRIS BORNHORST, Brae Burn Country Club def. 21-ERIC LIFSON, Nashawtuc Country Club, 2&1
The two former Division III college athletes each held 1-up leads on the back nine, but Chris Bornhorst prevailed by winning three of the final four holes. Eric Lifson, who attended Kenyon College, took the lead with a birdie on the par-3 12th (157-yards), but Bornhorst fired back by making a birdie on the par-5 14th (555-yards) and a par on the par-4 15th (310-yards).
Bornhorst, the former Babson standout, won it on the 17th after landing his tee shot on the left apron, while Lifson found the rough, and was unable to make a 7-footer downhill par putt. Bornhorst then two-putted his way to victory.
2-MICHAEL THORBJORNSEN, Wellesley Country Club def. 10-MICHAEL AMARI, Northern Spy Golf Club, 3&2
Michael Thorbjornsen won 8 of the 16 holes played to earn a spot in the semifinals for the first time. Only three holes between the pair were tied, but Thorbjornsen won holes 8-11, including a birdie on the par-4 9th (310-yards), to take a 4-up lead. After Michael Amari cut it to 2-up through 15, Thorbjornsen crushed his drive down the middle, leaving himself an easy wedge in, and he made the birdie putt to end it.
14-CHRIS FRANCOEUR, Amesbury Golf & Country Club def. 11-WESTON JONES, Charter Oak Country Club, 2-up
Chris Francoeur got himself back in the semifinals for the second consecutive year, thanks in part to some clutch shots on the back nine. On the par-4 11th (466-yards), he saved par despite hitting a shot that was mere inches from out of bounds. On the next hole, he made a 15-foot sliding putt for birdie and never trailed after that. Francoeur took a 1-up lead to the 18th, but both he and Weston Jones found the right rough, with Jones coming up short of the green. He then conceded the match after Francoeur putted to about 3 feet, and Jones missed his par putt.
Here are some other tidbits from Day 4 at the 113th Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
- If Michael Thorbjornsen wins, he’ll be the first player under 20 to earn the Mass Amateur title since Jim Salinett won the 1999 Championship Proper as a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Rhode Island.
- If Matt Parziale wins, he’ll be the first person to win in their 30s since he did so in 2017. Prior to that, Mike Calef was 33 and 34 when he won in 2012 and 2013, respectively.
- Neither Thorbjornsen nor Parziale has played the 18th hole since the second round of stroke play on Wednesday. All of their matches have been 17 holes or less. In match play, Parziale has played 62 holes, Thorbjornsen has played 63.
- Chris Bornhorst is the first player competing on his home course to make the Mass Amateur semifinals in the past 15 years.
- The last time a Mass Amateur final was played at Brae Burn was 1991 when John Salamone defeated George Popp, 11&9.
- After coming up short in the semifinals for the second straight year, Chris Francoeur will now shift his focus to the Porter Cup, a 72-hole, medal-play elite amateur golf tournament held annually at the Niagara Falls Country Club in New York and will take place this Tuesday-Saturday.
- After that, he’ll defend his Ouimet Memorial Tournament title as the event returns to Charles River Country Club for the first two rounds and concludes, as always, at Woodland Golf Club.
After four years at the University of Rhode Island, Francoeur is transferring to the University of Louisville.
- After falling in the quarterfinals, Weston Jones hopped on an airplane and departed for North Carolina for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship, taking place Monday-Saturday at The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst.
- “Nothing changes. I’d say. If anything, I like this even better because if I find myself down two after 16 holes, I have literally 20 more holes to play. It doesn’t really mean anything, you just have to keep chugging at it and try my best.” — Michael Thorbjornsen, on his strategy in a 36-hole final match.
- “I know he hits it pretty far, he can putt well. Him playing well will force me to play well and vice versa, so it should be fun and exciting,” — Michael Thorbjornsen, on facing Matt Parziale.
“It was so special. I’ve never had so much fun on a golf course where everyone’s rooting me on. I really couldn’t have asked for a more fun week.” — Chris Bornhorst, on his week at the Mass Amateur.
- “I just didn’t have it. I didn’t play well today. I didn’t play as well as I did yesterday. I couldn’t figure out the speed with my putting, so it definitely hurt me. There were a lot of times on the greens where there was a make and miss one way, where it could have been miss-make and that was the difference.” — Chris Bornhorst on his performance Friday.
- “The membership supports Chris. I think Chris has been a great junior golfer here, and he’s a mentor to a lot of these young kids here at Brae Burn. It’s great for him with this being his home club to get out there and represent us. If you saw the fan support that he had out there, everyone thinks very highly of him, and he put on a good fight. He knows the course well, and he played great.” — Phil Psaros, Brae Burn Country Club Head Golf Professional on Chris Bornhorst’s run to the semifinals.
- “I didn’t get to the end result, but I played well. My game is definitely turning in the right direction. Coming into this week, my putter has been really, really cold, and that’s kind of holding me back from shooting scores that I can and the last two days, I really started to putt well, which is nice because I’m working hard on my putting. It feels good, and use this as momentum going into the rest of the events for the summer.” — Chris Francoeur on his performance this week.
- “They play a great schedule, they got great facilities and I’m really looking forward to meeting all the guys and the new coaches. I’ve been in contact with a lot of them lately and they all seem great, so I’m just looking forward to getting down there.” — Chris Francoeur on joining the Louisville men’s golf team.