Headline: Jason Thresher Defends His Massachusetts Open Championship Title; Becomes the 8th Golfer in MGA History to Accomplish That Feat

For Immediate Release: June 14, 2017

Jason Thresher (top) captured the 2017 Massachusetts Open Championship title at TGC at Sacconnessett.

Michael Thorbjornsen (below left) & Billy Walthouse shared Low Amateur honors.

Falmouth, MA — To become the first golfer since 2006-07 to successfully defend a Massachusetts Open Championship title, Jason Thresher (West Suffield, CT) knew that he would have to make birdies.

Through 54 holes of stroke play over three days at TGC at Sacconnessett in Falmouth, Thresher did just that and as a result became only the eighth competitor in 108 years to call himself a repeat champion.

The only other competitors to accomplish that feat have been Alex Ross, Harold McSpaden, Paul Harney, Charles Volpone, Dick Hanscom, Dana Quigley and Geoff Sisk.

-------------------------

108th MGA Open Day 3 Quick Links

-------------------------

“It’s harder to win,” said Thresher who one year ago captured his first such title in a two-man playoff at Worcester Country Club. “It took a playoff last year, so it was a good feeling to hit the fairway on 18 with a two- shot lead. It was a much different feeling.”

Thresher finished with a final score of 7-under par 209 and carded 13 birdies over 54 holes for a two-stroke win over Josh Salah (Bass Rocks GC) and Chris Houston (Gilford, NH).

“It’s a great field and probably the best field in New England to start off with,” said Thresher before accepting the Clarence G. Cochrane Memorial Trophy and a winner’s check of $15,000. “It’s three rounds and it comes down to a shot or two and you have to be mentally tough and really grind it out. I was in bad spots throughout the week, but I was able to get up and down a few times.”

It was an especially gratifying victory for Thresher who one week ago finished second at the Cape Cod Open following a two-man playoff. Following his second round at TGC at Sacconnessett and sitting in a tie for the overall lead, Thresher was asked what he needed to do to capture the win. His answer then was simple. He needed to make birdies.

On Wednesday – paired with career journeyman Robin Byrd (Satellite Beach, FL) who fell off the pace early in the round to finish T5 overall – Thresher got off to a fast start by making birdie on two of his first three holes. He struggled to get back his momentum and eventually made the turn at even par following bogeys on the 4th and 8th holes.

“I made probably the best putt of the day on the first hole unfortunately,” said Thresher with a laugh. “That was kind of how the week went, but I knew that eventually putts would fall as long as I kept giving myself opportunities.”

As the day wore on, pressure was firmly applied by Chris Houston (Gilford, NH) and Josh Salah (Bass Rocks GC) who stormed up the leaderboard. In fact, Salah held onto the overall lead during the middle stages of his round when he made three birdies (on the 9th, 11th and 12th holes) through four holes.

Just after 4:00 p.m., Salah turned in his scorecard and was the leader in the clubhouse with a score of 5-under par 211. It was then when Thresher made a final push that would lead him to eventual victory. He made critical birdies on the 11th, 14th and 15th holes to go from one back to two up.

“I asked where I was after the 14th hole so I knew that the putt on 15 was pretty big,” said Thresher who made a 10-foot birdie putt on that hole. “On 16, I haven’t played that hole that well and I wasn’t quite sure which way the wind was going so when it landed on the green 10 feet from the flag I was pretty happy.”

For the first time since Monday, Thresher was able to take a deep breath as he watched the players in front hole out and saw his tee shot on the 18th hole laying perfectly in the fairway. He needed just three strokes from there to cap off his round and his second straight Massachusetts Open title.

“It’s going to be pretty big,” said Thresher when asked about the significance of the win. “I was hoping to do Web.com Qualifying this fall for the first time, so this is great momentum going into that and through the rest of the summer.”

WALTHOUSE & THORBJORNSEN SHARE LOW AMATEUR HONORS

As Billy Walthouse (Longmeadow CC) and Michael Thorbjornsen (Nashawtuc CC) stood next to Jason Thresher during the Massachusetts Open Championship award ceremony, it was hard not to think that the same scene could be played out again in the near future but with the two young amateurs holding the larger trophy.

On Wednesday, Walthouse and Thorbjornsen were awarded The Commonwealth Cup which is awarded to the lowest scoring amateurs at the Massachusetts Open Championship. The talented duo earned that honor after posting a three-round score of 2-under par 214 at TGC at Sacconnesset.

“I hit the ball great this week especially off the tee which is something you have to do on this course,” said Walthouse. “I had a couple of shots that went over the greens and made some bogies that way but for the most part I played really well and the finish was pretty cool.”

Walthouse was referring to his hole-out from 75 yards on the 531-yard, par 5 18th hole. It was a shot that he delivered in front a gallery of spectators, club members and competitors watching from above. The eagle not only earned applause, but it allowed him to post a final-round score of 2-under par 70 and assured him a share of low-amateur honors.

“It is definitely a move in the right direction,” said Walthouse, whose season included a round of 16 appearance at the 2017 U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship and a win at the 2017 Hornblower Memorial Tournament. “Something really clicked at the Four-Ball and winning the Hornblower was a huge boost to my confidence. Tying for low amateur here is another stepping stone in the right direction.”

Walthouse, who was a 2017 Atlantic-10 All-Conference team member at the University of Rhode Island, is scheduled to compete at next week’s Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club (RI), the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and the Ouimet Memorial Tournament in July. He is also planning to take part in sectional qualifying for the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship.

From there, he will be making a decision as to whether – or rather when – he will throw his hat into the professional golf ring.

“It goes to show that I can hang with them and compete with them,” said Walthouse.

For Thorbjornsen, who is just 15 years old, this week marks a critical next step in his development. He backed up rounds of 71 and 74 with a final-round score of 3-under par 69 on Wednesday.

“I started my round today 1 over and was really glad that I fought back,” said Thorbjornsen, who just completed his first year at the IMG Academy (FL). “I had four birdies after that and the rest were pars and it was great to finish at 69 and three under. That was pretty much my goal since I started this week. I knew from last year that this is what it would take.”

One year ago, Thorbjornsen made Massachusetts Open Championship history when he became – at the age of 14 – the youngest competitor to finish as medalist at sectional qualifying.

“It is amazing,” said Thorbjornsen. “I remember looking back last year and thinking that I would have to put a lot of work in to get low amateur. There are a lot of great players out here. I felt that I started off the week well with 1 under and that put me in a good position. This is a great honor.”

A FUN RETURN HOME FOR JOSH SALAH

For the first time in three years, Josh Salah found himself walking on New England style grass and enjoying a round of golf with his father.

“It’s the first time my dad has seen me play in three years in a tournament,” said Salah. “It’s great to have him on the bag and there with me down the stretch. It’s nice to have someone to lean on.”

The experience will be short lived as Salah – who was born and raised in Gloucester – will be returning to his current home in Bangkok, Thailand on Friday.

Since 2015 and following his graduation from Sacred Heart University, Salah has been carving out his professional golf career on the Asian Development Golf Tour.

Due to his professional commitments abroad, Salah was unable to participate in the available sectional qualifiers held in Massachusetts. As a result, he went through the process to request a special exemption into the Championship Proper field. His exemption was granted by the MGA Championship Committee.

“This is the first tournament that I have played in the U.S. for three years,” said Salah. “I have to thank the MGA for the special invite to play. I thought that it was a long shot, but I asked and it was awesome to be here playing.”

Salah took full advantage of the opportunity. After posting two straight rounds of even par 72, he stormed up the leaderboard with a final-round score of 5-under par 67 to finish T2.

“The first two days I was hitting it everywhere and was in the fescue for two days and made way too many mistakes,” said Salah. “On this golf course, if you don’t hit the fairways you can’t make birdies, and I was able to avoid that today. I drove it really, really well today and was able to make some putts.”

A fast start helped Salah’s cause.  

“The first five holes are gettable,” said Salah. “I told my dad before the round that I think that we can get three in the first five, and I birdied the first three. It was a dream start.”

Salah was 5-under par through 12 holes and was holding a one-stroke lead. His only miscue on the back-nine was a three-putt bogey on the 332-yard, par 14th hole. He made up for that quickly by chipping in from 20 feet off the green on the 170-yard, par 3 16th hole.

“That was a nervous three putt on 14, and I blocked my tee shot on 16,” said Salah. “I got fortunate that it was a good lie in the rough and chipped it in it was great and kind of a way to salvage good round. It was tough out there, but I grinded, and it was fun.”

COURSE RECORD BE GONE... AGAIN!

If John Clare (Camillus, NY) was looking for something positive to kick off his professional golf career, he got it on Wednesday.

Playing on a very challenging TGC at Sacconnesset layout under some of the most intense competitive conditions, Clare enjoyed a historic round of golf which saw him break the competitive course record by three strokes. He posted a final-round score of 8-under par 64

The previous record of 67 was held for a mere two days by John Stoltz (Middletown, NY), who posted that score during Monday’s first round.

What makes Clare’s round even more astounding is the fact that round included three bogies and 11 birdies. He began his round with a par and then for the next four holes would make a birdie only to follow with a bogey.

“I did a good job of not getting upset,” said Clare, who turned pro last week after playing his final season at Le Moyne University. “I made two big mistakes early, but I just kept myself in it and I kept myself calm because I knew that I was putting it well today and am hitting it good right now.”

He halted that birdie-bogey pattern on the 460-yard, par 6th hole when he made a long putt for birdie. He went on to make birdie on two of his next three holes to make the turn at 3-under par 33.

“I hit a big tee shot and left myself 100 yards and then hit a wedge to 30 feet which wasn’t very good,” said Clare about that 6th hole. “It was straight up the hill and I hit the putt really hard and way too fast. It hit the back of the hole and rattled around and dropped in. At that point, I was like OK I’ve got something going on right now.”

He most definitely kept up that pace with three straight birdies on the back nine. When the final score was posted, Clare had made nine birdies in a span of 13 holes.

“I had a good feel going on from yesterday,” said Clare, who was 4-under through his first 9 holes on Tuesday before carding an even par 72. “I knew that there was a good score out here and that I was hitting it good the past three days. I came out and I made a lot of putts early and then just continued it and kept myself calm.”

Strong finishes seem to be a pattern for Clare who just last week posted a day-low score of 67 during the final round of the Cape Cod Open to secure a T7 finish.

On this day, Clare needed an especially strong final round after he began his Massachusetts Open Championship pursuit with a first-round score of 5-over par 77. He bettered that mark by five strokes on day two and then another eight on Wednesday for a three-round score of 3-under par 218 and a fourth-place finish.

As a result he is now - in what is just his second week as a professional golfer - enjoying every bit of his new career path and a course record to boot.

“It’s cool and something that I have worked towards my whole life,” said Clare. “At Cape Cod I was very uncomfortable because it was a feeling of 'is this is really happening?', but I was lot more comfortable out here this week, and it’s always nice to just make a paycheck in this type of setting.”

NEWS & NOTES FROM ROUND 3

A Fitting Finish
Upon reaching the green, the competitors were greeted by two special guests. T/Sgt O'Brien and M/Sgt Burger of the 102nd Intelligence Wing, Air National Guard served as the honorary flagstick attendants this year. The familiar MGA flag was replaced with a special American flag.

It was a welcome and familiar site for those who frequent the grounds of TGC at Sacconnesset as the club has become a proud and significant supporter of Cape-area veterans and active military families.

Several years ago, the membership of TGC at Sacconnesset established the TGC Fund of the Cape Cod Foundation, a donor-advised fund that provides critical financial assistance to Cape-area veterans and active military families.  

Principle funding comes from “TGC for the Troops,” a golf tournament and reception supported by TGC management, members and local businesses. The TGC Fund touches hundreds of lives each year through grant applications submitted by registered 401(c)3 organizations that provide critical, “just-in-time” financial assistance to Cape veterans and active military families.

The MGA is grateful for the service of our military and the support of the TGC at Sacconnesset membership for the veterans and military families.

An Open Numbers Game

75,000 – the purse amount (in dollars) of the Massachusetts Open Championship.

15,000 – the amount ($) that the champion - Jason Thresher - will take home.

4,200 - the number of bottles of Nestle Water that arrived at TGC at Sacconnesset to help keep the competitors, caddies and volunteers hydrated (special thanks to Nestle for being a proud sponsor of the MGA).

500 – the total number competitors who registered for this year’s Massachusetts Open Championship.

108 – years that this event has been contested dating back to 1905

60 – number of competitors who advanced to the third round.

61 – amateurs who are in this year’s Championship Proper field.

43 – the age difference between the oldest (58) and youngest (15) competitors who advanced to the third round.

17 – the number of alternates that advanced to Championship Proper (there were a total of 40 competitors who made up this year’s Alternate List).

5 – the number of years that a champion is exempt from sectional qualifying.

5 – the number of MGA Championships that TGC at Sacconnesset has hosted since it opened in 2007.

3 – the number of holes that will be played if there is a tie following the first 54 holes of competition.

HISTORY OF AMATEUR FINISHES AT THE OPEN

Since this event began in 1905, only five amateur competitors have been able to claim the top prize. That impressive list includes the following: Jesse Guilford - 1919 & 1929; Francis Ouimet - 1932; Don Hoenig - 1954; Kevin Johnson - 1986; and Kevin Quinn - 1999.

Winning an open championship has indeed proven difficult for even the best of amateur competitors. In the history of U.S. Open Championship, for example, only five amateurs have managed to win the Championship Proper eight times.

The last amateur to win the Massachusetts Amateur Championship was Kevin Quinn, who won the title in 1999 at Wellesley Country Club. Here is a look at the top amateur finishes dating back to 1999.

Year

Player

Score

Host Site

2017

Michael Thorbjornsen/Billy Walthouse

T5

TGC at Sacconnessett

2016

Matt Hutchins

T3

Worcester CC

2015

Ben Spitz

T13

Black Rock CC

2014

Matt Parziale

T2

Weston GC

2013

Ben Spitz

T4

Woodland GC

2012

Chris Congdon/Tony Grillo

T10

Walpole CC

2011

Chris Congdon/Brian Higgins

T6

Oak Hill CC

2010

Mike Calef/Richy Werenski T11

Wellesley CC

2009

Matt Parziale

T2

Belmont CC

2008

Mike Calef

T3

Stockbridge GC

2007

Bill Drohen/Brian Higgins

T11

Kernwood CC

2006

Jim Renner

5

Charles River CC

2005

Tim Acquaviva

7

Vesper CC

2004

Frank Vana, Jr.

7

Pleasant Valley CC

2003 Eric McPhail T14 Tedesco CC
2002 Frank Vana, Jr. 3 Longmeadow CC
2001 Scott Hawley/Michael Carbone T10 Mount Pleasant CC
2000 Josh Hillman T6 CC of Pittsfield
1999 Kevin Quinn 1 Wellesley CC


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

©2003- Massachusetts Golf Association. All rights reserved. Site Design by RainCastle Communications, Inc.