Mass. Open ready for longer course at TGC at Sacconnesset

June 7, 2017

First the Mass. Open, then the U.S. Open.

The 108th Mass. Open serves as a solid local appetizer that begins its three days of competition Monday, leading into the second major of the PGA Tour season, which starts next Thursday in Erin, Wis. Locally, TGC at Sacconnesset in Falmouth will host 150 players pursuing the top Mass. Open prize of $15,000.

This will be the first Mass. Open for the Rees Jones layout, but it is no stranger to hosting tournaments. This marks the fifth Massachusetts Golf Association championship for the club since opening in 2007, including the Mid-Amateur in September.

While the par-72, 7,047-yard layout pales in comparison to what you will see during the U.S. Open at Erin Hills, which measures 7,693 yards, it will be long by Mass. Open standards. Since the start of the decade, Mass. Open venues have averaged about 6,700 yards on primarily older courses like last year’s host, Worcester Country Club (6,637 yards).

“From the long par 4s that measure over 460 yards to the drivable par-4 second hole, it’s really going to allow us to vary the course setup each and every day,” said Kevin Eldridge, the MGA director of rules and competition. “The ever-present and changing Cape Cod winds will probably also come into effect those three days as well (and) really help dictate the test these players will face.”

Jason Thresher prevailed a year ago, earning his first victory as a professional, defeating Mark Stevens by 3 shots in a three-hole aggregate playoff after they were each at 4-under-par 206 through 54 holes.

This spring, Thresher has been playing on the Florida-based Minor League Golf Tour and has three second-place finishes.

Neither of the top two pros to finish behind Thresher will compete this year as Stevens did not enter and Matt Campbell earned a spot in the U.S. Open at Monday’s 36-hole qualifier in New Jersey.

Fran Quinn finished in a tie for sixth last year and is scheduled to be back following this weekend’s Champions Tour stop in Des Moines, Iowa.

An alternate for the U.S. Senior Open later this month in Salem, Geoff Sisk is gunning for a record seventh Mass. Open title, his most recent coming 10 years ago at Kernwood, the site of his qualifier.

Thresher, Quinn and Sisk are among nine former champions to be in the field.

There is a solid cast of amateurs in the field led by Matt Hutchins, whose bid to become the first amateur to take the title since Kevin Quinn in 1999 was derailed on the 13th hole by a 2-stroke penalty for improving his stance in a hazard. Hutchins missed the playoff by 1 shot and had to settle for a tie for third and the Commonwealth Cup for being the low amateur.

Matt Naumec and Billy Walthouse are coming off a solid showing at the recent U.S. Four-Ball at Pinehurst, reaching the round of 16. Walthouse finished tied for ninth last year while Naumec played well on Monday, coming up 4 shots shy of a spot at Erin Hills.

Patrick Frodigh also had a solid tournament a year ago, finishing sixth.

Matt Parziale finished fifth at Worcester but also won the Mid-Amateur hosted by TGC with a score of 4-under par 212, 3 shots better than John Kelly, the only other player in the field to finish in red numbers. Parziale opened with rounds of 69 and a 68 that included a hole-in-one at No. 4.

“I’ve always enjoyed it there. It’s a tough track and you have to hit good shots into the greens and you’ve got to be in the right spots,” Parziale said of TGC at Sacconnesset. “I had a good week the last time we were down there. I felt like I had a good game plan going in, and it held up.”

The winner at the Mass. Open earns $15,000 of the $75,000 purse. There will be a cut after 36 holes, with the top 50 and ties or anyone within 7 shots of the lead advancing to Wednesday.

Should a playoff be needed for the fourth time in the past five years, the final three holes will be used.

“Sixteen is a great par 3, 17 is probably the hardest par 4 on the course, then 18 is a swing hole,” Jones said. “I think that will make this championship a lot of fun because there’s going to be opportunities to make a low score, and then with some bunker location and some of the strategy you have to utilize, you could easily make a bogey.

“I think this golf course is going to be a great championship venue, and I know it is going to crown a great champion.”

This is the first Mass. Open on Cape Cod since 1986 when Kevin Johnson, still an amateur at the time, won at the Country Club of New Seabury.