AUBURNDALE – After five playoff holes, Matt Parziale was wearing a big smile, the look of a winner, which he was after grinding out victory in a three-man playoff at the 46th Ouimet Invitational Memorial Tournament at historic Woodland Golf Club.
The thrill of victory for Parziale, 24, a recently reinstated amateur playing out of Thorny Lea Golf Club in Brockton, was reminiscent of his win here in 2009, just before he turned professional, because the tournament was rain delayed. That year, he had to complete the last four holes of his 54-hole stroke play total the next day. This year the event was reduced to 36-holes, played at Wollaston GC and Wellesley CC, with the playoff at Woodland GC among Cody Paladino (Wethersfield CC) and John Flaherty (TPC River Highlands), due to excessive rainfall after round two. The trio finished 36 holes at 3-under 139. The playoff began in light mist, with soggy fairways and wet greens.
“The wet conditions were not a factor. I just wanted to go out in the playoff and play steady and make pars,” said Parziale, whose father, Victor, caddied for the five-hole playoff. “It’s special to win one Ouimet title, but it’s an honor to win twice.”
Parziale is a familiar name in New England amateur golf circles having won the New England Amateur (2009) , MGA player of the year (2009), and a Hornblower Memorial win (2007). He found chasing the dream of life on the PGA Tour too grueling and expensive after trying “Q” school three times, and then failing to earn exempt status on the Web.com Tour.
“I prefer 54-hole or 72-hole stroke play events which is one reason I have the Ouimet on my calendar,” said Parziale, who is expecting to be selected to the Brockton Fire Dept. in the next few months, following the career of his father who has 28 years on the force. “I’m going to continue to play competitive golf and continue to try to improve my game for the second half of the season.”
The Ouimet playoff format called for three-hole cumulative total, with the lowest score determining the winner, and sudden death to follow that if tied. John Flaherty, 19, a UConn sophomore, drove into a bunker and bogeyed the third playoff hole and was eliminated, while Parziale and Paladino finished tied at even par. Paladino posted three pars while Parziale made par, birdie, and bogey including a three-putt from 50 feet on the last scheduled hole. He missed a six foot putt to win it all, which then continued into sudden death.
Both player’s made par on the par 4, 354-yard, 16 th hole. On the tee of the par-4, 377-yard 17 th hole Paladino pulled his drive left and the ball went out of bounds, into the back yard of one of the million dollar mansions that border the hole. Parziale hit 3-iron, 7-iron and took two putts to seal the victory. Game. Set. Match.
“In sudden death you can’t hit a bad drive like that and expect to win,” said a disappointed Paladino, 24, who was leading or tied for the lead the entire tournament, posting a 5-under 67 at Wollaston GC, and 2-over 72 at Wellesley CC. “I thought if I made birdie with my second ball there was a chance to half the hole but Matt hit two good shots and made par.”
Paladino is enjoying an outstanding season recently becoming the first player to win both the Connecticut Match play and Stroke play championship in the same year. His future includes a career in professional golf.
“Yes, it’s disappointing to play well and come up empty because I’m feeling good about my game right now. I was really looking forward to the final 18 holes and it could have been an exciting finish with so many good players at the top of the leaderboard. But, unfortunately the rain changed everything. If I’m still am amateur next summer, I would like to come back because Mr. Donovan runs a first class event, and there is a lot of golf history here.”
Three players tied for 4th after 36 holes: Andy Drohen (The Ranch) (70-71), Evan Russell (Vermont CC) (70-71) and Peter French (Maplegate) (70-71). Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich) (68-74), Ryan Riley (Sharon) (71-71) and Jonathan Woods (Duxbury) (74-68) finished T-7. Brian Higgins (Franklin) (78-65) finished in 10th place.
In the Senior Division playoff, Dick King (Hyannis) edged Kevin Carey (Dennis Pines) and Joe Walker (Dennis Pines) in an exciting sudden death battle that ended after six holes, when King made birdie. King won his second consecutive Ouimet Senior championship.
This year marks the centennial celebration of Francis Ouimet’s U.S. Open win in 1913 at The Country Club. The U.S. Amateur is scheduled for August 12 – 18 at The Country Club in his honor. Francis Ouimet had been a 50-year member at Woodland and practiced religiously at Woodland prior to his Open win, so the tournament has special significance for players, the club and Bay State golf aficionados. For scoreboard go to: www.ouimet.org.
(Tom Gorman, a Boston-based golf writer, has been actively covering golf for over 20 years)WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?