Headline: Matt Parziale & Herbie Aikens Claim Second Straight Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship; Win With Birdie on First Sudden-Death Playoff Hole

Matt Parziale (right) and Herbie Aikens captured the 37th MGA Four-Ball Championship title at Haverhill CC & Renaissance.

Haverhill, MA — Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC) watched his final regulation putt of the 2017 Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship disappear into the 18th hole at Haverhill Country Club just after 1:00 p.m.

That putt – a birdie from 18 feet – placed him and partner Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) atop the leaderboard with a score of 16-under par 126.

After winning this title one year ago with a score of 9-under par, most assumed that the perfectly-stroked putt had surely secured another victory and it was just a matter of time before they collected their newest hardware.

However, the team of Sean Fitzpatrick (George Wright GC) and Chris Tarallo (Thorny Lea GC) had other plans in mind as they tapped in for birdie four hours later with the same score to force a playoff.

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Day 2 Quick Links

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In the end, it wasn’t until 7:06 p.m. when Aikens and Parziale finally did celebrate a second-straight Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship victory after Parziale drained a 22-foot birdie putt on the first sudden-death playoff hole – the 170-yard, par 3 10th hole at Haverhill Country Club.

“I had a similar putt earlier with the same line but a little longer so I knew that it would turn hard,” said Parziale, who was the first of the four to putt. “All day I was not really getting them there, so I told myself that I was going to give it a little extra and it turned right in.”

Tarallo and Fitzpatrick both had looks for birdie, but neither could convert. Fitzpatrick was the last to putt and his attempt fell just inches short.

As Fitzpatrick’s head fell in frustration and nearly six hours after they finished their 36 holes of regulation, the realization that they had successfully repeated finally hit Aikens and Parziale.

“We definitely went through some emotions where we played so well yesterday and had so much fun, and then we came out today and we were just trying to find it and felt like we couldn’t get everything there,” said Aikens. “Over the course of the day we went from we think that we might have it to we’re in trouble to maybe being in a playoff. It definitely played with us a lot, and we had a lot of waiting to do.”

Despite facing cool and damp conditions on Tuesday as well as two very challenging courses in Haverhill CC and Renaissance – both located in Haverhill – the winning score of 16-under par marks the lowest score posted as this event since 2010 when Aikens teamed with Ryan Riley. It still stands as the lowest two-day score (relative to par) ever recorded at this event.

“There were two at 16 and one at 15 so three teams really played well this week,” said Parziale. “We were fortunate enough to get into the playoff and then had a chance to win here.”
 
Heading into the playoff, Aikens and Parziale were coming off a day-one score of 9-under par 63 where they capped off their Tuesday round with a 7-under par 29 on the back nine of Renaissance.

Momentum appeared to be on their side as they held a two-stroke advantage over the field, but an early bogey made on the Haverhill CC front nine opened the door for the field.

They made the turn at 1-under par.

“I felt like we hit it pretty well today” said Parziale. “We were just missing low or high, too hard and too slow and we didn’t hit it as close, even though we were hitting good shots” he added, describing the difference in scores carded between the two rounds of competition.”

The back nine was the better tale of two halves for the duo, who carded five pars and four birdies – including the 18 footer on 18 by Aikens – to leave them with a sense of confidence as they waited for the afternoon groups to finish their rounds.  

“We were just really frustrated today,” said Aikens. “We were making really good putts but we were struggling. These greens are wonderful and roll so beautifully, but they are so hard to read with all the hills and stuff. We were hitting good putts and they weren’t going in, so it was nice for one to finally go in.”

Despite carding one of the best two rounds of golf ever posted in the history of this event, Aikens and Parziale would have to wait for hours before learning their fate and having a chance to step back onto the course for a sudden-death playoff with Fitzpatrick and Tarallo.

But in the end, it was well worth the wait.

“It's an awesome feeling," said Parziale. "And the best thing is that we got to spend the whole day together."

A NEW LOOK FOR A HISTORIC LAYOUT

Competitors who traveled to Haverhill were no doubt surprised by the new look of Haverhill Country Club.

Heralded on its web site for “its tree-lined fairways and sloping greens”, the golf course went through an unscheduled and unplanned transformation less than one year ago.

The date was July 18, 2016 and more than 120 members and guests were scattered across Haverhill Country Club taking part in the annual Bobby Peluso Memorial Tournament. The weather alarm sounded and everyone took cover as a historic “microburst” swept through the back side of the course.

The local paper – Eagle Tribune – reported that week that the sudden powerful air current “caused a path of destruction” which ultimately resulted in power outages across Haverhill and many downed trees.

Thankfully, there were no injuries reported at the golf course, but the storm caused damage to – according to initial reports – 70 trees. As the clean up ensued, the club ended up losing nearly 200 trees throughout the course and had to close its doors for a few days in order to repair damaged areas and remove debris.

The microburst occurred just over one month after the MGA had held a Massachusetts Amateur qualifier there on June 9.

“The difference between the course we saw early last year and the one we are playing today is incredible,” said Kevin Eldridge, the MGA’s director of rules & competition. “The club has done a terrific job taking what could have been a disastrous event and used it to create a new look and feel for the golf course that the competitors are enjoying this week.”

Competitors clearly felt the same way.

“The course was in perfect shape,” said Frank Vana, the nine-time Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year who competed at Haverhill Country Club on Wednesday morning and finished at 2-under par 140 with his partner Doug Huber. “The club did an amazing job preparing the course for this event, and I heard nothing but compliments about the layout.”

File this under making a great golf course even greater.  

HERBIE AIKENS SETS NEW FOUR-BALL RECORD

The play Aikens and Parziale at the 2017 MGA Four-Ball Championship solidified a notion that most in the local golf scene already knew.

These two are good.

How good though? Wednesday’s final round at Haverhill CC represented a new record for both players, both individually and as a team.

For the duo, Wednesday’s victory by the defending MGA Four Ball Champions added another familiar scribe to the already populated list of accomplishments by the amateur golfers from Pinehills GC and Thorny Lea GC.

By shooting a 5-under 65 on the par-70 Haverhill CC course on day two of competition, adding to the 11-under mark they carded on Tuesday up the road at Renaissance, the team became only the fifth since the event’s inception in 1981 to win back-to-back Four-Ball Championships and the first since Aikens teamed up with Ryan Riley from 2009-2011 to win three straight Championships.

Other teams who have won at least two straight titles in Four-Ball history include of Frank Vana, Jr. & Michael McCarthy (2002-03), Jon & Carter Fasisk (1997-98) and James Hallet & Rick Edwards (1982-83).

Additionally, for the 35-year old Aikens, the latest MGA trophy makes the champion, who has also won the 2014 MGA Amateur Public Links and Mid-Amateur Championships, among many others tournaments, makes him the all-time winningest victor in the 37-year history of the MGA Four-Ball Championship.

Wednesday’s victory for Aikens was the fifth time the Kingston native hoisted the MGA Four-Ball Trophy, breaking a tie with two other individuals who had each won the event that has traditionally served as the MGA Championship opener. Both Jon and Carter Fasick had each won this event four times, with the most recent victory coming in 1998.

YOUTH MOVEMENT FOR MGA FOUR-BALL CHAMPIONSHIP

While the MGA Four-Ball Championship always brings together a wide range of ages to its field, this year’s tournament at Haverhill CC and Renaissance proved no different as many of its young(er) players made a name for themselves in an event that has recently been dominated by noteworthy mid-amateur players.

Of the athletes near the top of the leaderboard following the second day of action for this year’s tournament, one of the teams that has found particular success is the pair of Jimmy Hervol (Hopkinton CC) and Timothy Umphrey (Tatnuck CC). The team finished T6 on Wednesday in what was the first MGA Four-Ball Championship for either player.

On top of that, they also happened to be the seventh and eighth youngest players in the field, at age 19 and 20, respectively. Regardless of their age, Hervol a sophomore for the Connecticut men’s golf team, and Umphrey a freshman on the same squad, looked more like seasoned pros than tournament rookies.  

The pair combined for a 9-under 133 for the two-day Championship Proper  

FOUR-BALL FUN CONTINUES

The conclusion of today’s event does not mean that there is no more four-ball fun to be had. Four competitors from this week’s field - Billy Van Stratum, Jimmy Hervol, Michael Souliotis and Taylor Fontaine - will be traveling to North Carolina later this month to take part in the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship on May 27-3 at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (Course No. 2). Those competitors earned a spot at Championship Proper at sectional qualifiers which were held last fall.

A total of 128 teams will be represented at Pinehurst Resort & Country Club in what is the third year of this Championship Proper. The U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship will be contested on May 27-31 at South Carolina’s The Dunes Golf & Beach Club.

Sectional qualifying, conducted over 18 holes, will be held for the 2018 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship this fall in New England on the following days.

  • August 30 – Wahconah CC
  • September 12 – Black Rock CC
  • September 13 – Kirkbrae CC (RI

In addition, those competitors who are 55 years and older can look forward to the 2017 Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball Championship which is the next event on the MGA Championship schedule. That full field of senior amateurs will compete at Red Tail GC & Shaker Hills CC on May 22-23.

UPCOMING MGA CHAMPIONSHIPS

Here is rundown on upcoming MGA Championship events.

For a complete list of events - including qualifiers - visit the Championship section of the MGA web site at www.mgalinks.org.

SENIOR FOUR-BALL
May 22-23
Red Tail Golf Club & Shaker Hills Country Club

OPEN
June 12-14
TGC at Sacconnesset

AMATEUR
July 10-14
Charles River Country Club

YOUNG GOLFERS' AMATEUR
July 19
Needham Golf Club

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