Headline: Defending Champions Ryan Riley and Herb Aikens Roar to the Top of the Leaderboard Following Day 1 of the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship
For Immediate Release: May 10, 2010
Ipswich, MA — The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That could not have been more true during the first round of the 2010 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship as defending champions Ryan Riley (Norton CC) and Herb Aikens (Pinehills GC) jumped out to a four-stroke lead after firing an impressive 8-under par 64 at Ipswich Country Club on Monday.
Day 1 Quick Links
One year ago, Riley and Aikens combined for a one-day score of 8-under par 63 at Crestwood Country Club to claim a piece of the title at the rain-shortened event. This year it was a case of déjà view as the duo – who shared the 2009 title with Paul Mitchell (George Wright GC) and Sean Fitzpatrick (George Wright GC) – began their round with six straight birdies and never looked back.
"It sure helps when (Ryan) birdies his first five holes," said Aikens, who added his first birdie of the day on the team's sixth hole of the day – the 375-yard, par 4 15th hole.
To wit, the scorecard for the back nine looked like a sea of circles as the team carded six birdies, one bogey and two pars to make the turn at 5-under par 31. Despite the cold temperatures and gusty wind that was pervasive on the North Shore, Aikens continued the momentum on the second nine by making his second birdie of the day on the 509-yard, par 5 1st hole. Following good looks for both players on their next four holes, Riley and Aikens made back-to-back birdies and then two pars to cap off a near-perfect round of 8-under par 64.
"The key for me and Herb is that we tend to keep it in the fairway and on the greens," said Riley, who was victorious at the 2009 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship. "It helps to have two looks at each putt."
An unusually warm spring season has also allowed both players to sharpen their skills over the past few weeks. While Aikens returned home recently from a golf trip to Florida, Riley has already flexed his tournament muscles at several New England events. In addition to a semifinal finish at the Seagulls Four-Ball, Riley claimed second place at the Tournament Players Championship at Point Judith CC (RI) and most recently at the Cronin Memorial where Aikens finished in fourth place overall.
"It's been great to get out there early," said Riley. "Guys have been able to play a lot more this spring which is why you'll probably see more low scores this year."
If successful on Tuesday at the Golf Club at Turner Hills, Riley and Aikens will become the first team since 2006 to capture two straight titles.
"It would be nice to play 36 holes," said Riley, referring to this event which has been shortened to 18 holes in two out of the last five years due to inclement weather. "We are going to stick with the same game plan. We are going to still play aggressively and think birdie on each hole."
And what about the new challenge of the Golf Club at Turner Hill?
"Herb loves that course and has played it a bunch of times which helps," said Riley. "It is almost the exact opposite type of golf course (from Ipswich Country Club). At Turner Hill you can hit a little wayward off the tee, but the second shots are very demanding."
The duo will have to fend off some tough competition on Tuesday, however, as the team of Mark O'Sullivan (Juniper Hill GC) and Aengus McAllister (City GC) posted a score of 6-under par 66 at Ipswich Country Club for sole possession of second place.
Where Are They Now?
It's not often that a defending champion fails to return the following year. In the case of Evan Harmeling (Andover CC) and Colin Brennan (Indian Ridge CC), they had a good reason.
After capturing the title in May of 2007, the youngsters were looking forward to their high school graduation and the start of their collegiate careers. Despite their desire to return as a team, their schedules did not allow them to seek a second title in 2008 or 2009.
This year marks the first time in three years that they have come together to play as a team and they are looking forward to reliving some of those magical moments from the spring of 2007.
"We were talking about it the other day," said Brennan, who spent two years at Rollins College. "We backed into that win, but it was a ton of fun. Hopefully we can throw together a good score tomorrow."
Beginning next fall, Brennan will take his game to Johnson & Wales University in Miami where he will suit up for the Wildcats. Meanwhile, Harmeling is in the midst of finishing his sophomore campaign at Princeton University after taking a year off from school.
As fate would have it, the timing for the two players worked out perfectly. With a week off before final exam period begins at Princeton, Harmeling was able to sneak home and pair up with his friend and four-ball partner.
"My mind couldn’t be further from finals," said Harmeling, who has been able to play a lot of golf this past spring for the Tigers. "We made five birdies... we made some bad mistakes but we also made some good shots too. It was a lot of fun out there."
Although the school books may be tucked away, a first-round score of 2-under par 70 proves that golf class is indeed in session this week for the pair.
Fun on Facebook
The MGA has brought its news to the world of social networking. Earlier this month, the MGA launched its first-ever page on Facebook. Interested web goers should visit this page as the MGA staff will be updating information daily throughout the season.
Click HERE to visit the MGA's Facebook page.
Tuesday, May 11
Second Round, 18 Holes
Any tie for first place will be decided immediately by a hole-by-hole play-off at the Golf Club at Turner Hill.