HYDE PARK, Mass.- The stage is set, and two superbly conditioned athletes are primed and ready to rumble when the bell rings at 8 a.m. Friday morning July 13!
In one corner we have a 36-year old 6’6” heavyweight from Kingston, and, in the other corner a 25-year old 6’4” keenly-chiseled 210-pounder from Westwood.
Does this sound like a boxing match for the ages or what? Somethings happening here yet it isn’t really clear. This is about elite amateur golf, not boxing!
Herb Aikens and Patrick Frodigh are your finalists in the 2018 Massachusetts Amateur Championship, having successfully played over 100 holes of golf already this week, through a 36-hole qualifier, and each beating four separate opponents, on Boston’s magical municipal course – George Wright.
|HERB AIKENS||PATRICK FRODIGH|
|Old Sandwich||CLUB||Dedham C&PC|
|8||MASS AM STARTS||4|
|T16||BEST FINISH||FINALS ('16)|
The best part of this week of marathon golf in the 110th edition of the Mass Amateur, which tests to the max every element of your body, mind and soul, is that the 36-hole match-play final is shaping up to be a one-on-one epic battle featuring brute muscle and awesome putting, it’s a good bet this dynamic duo will be one the greatest shows on turf in these parts in decades.
Aikens average driving distance is about 300-yards, while lefty Frodigh has no problem hitting it in the 320-range. Both come from the John Daly school of hard knocks: it’s called “grip it and rip it.” A common reaction watching Frodigh hit driver is “wow” which is the polite version of “holy shit.”
If you want a front row seat then go to George Wright Golf Course to watch or follow all the live hole-by-hole coverage on the Mass Golf web site www.massgolf.org.
Quotable – Patrick Frodigh
“One more to go. It isn’t done yet.”
Those were the words of Patrick Frodigh after he finished off Alex Jamieson (Marshfield CC) in the semifinal match of the 110th Massachusetts Amateur Championship Thursday afternoon by a final score of 2&1.
After edging reigning state amateur champion Matt Parziale in the morning round, ensuring there would be a new champion crowned on Friday, Frodigh got off to a hot start against Jamieson. After his opponent made bogey on the first hole to give him a 1-up lead, Frodigh, a former player at Elon University, made birdie on the second hole to extend his advantage early in the match. “I had a good start,” said Frodigh. “Solid par on one and a good birdie on two.”
After halving each of the next two holes, Frodigh got into some trouble on the fifth and sixth holes that brought the match back to even – the same spots where he had struggled in the Round of 16 match the day before.
“Alex quickly came back and won two holes on me,” said Frodigh.
A missed putt for par on the 5th hole, followed by a shot that found deep rough to the left of the green on 6th hole, that resulted in his second straight bogey and an All-Square on the standard bearer sign.
“It was a great match all day,” said Frodigh following his round. “We were pretty much back and forth the whole day. It was just a fun day.”
After halving the 7th hole, Frodigh regained his lead for the final time, first two-putting the 8th hole from the left of the green and then making birdie on the 9th when his second shot landed only 10 feet shy of the cup, pushing his lead to 2 up as the duo made the turn to the back nine.
The older of the two competitors, Frodigh, aged 23, missed a putt on 12 that allowed Jamieson to cut the lead back to one with six holes remaining.
A birdie on the par-5 15th hole that brought the match to 2 up with three holes remaining, providing Frodigh a shift of momentum that he felt helped him down the stretch.
“That was a big putt I made on 15,” said Frodigh. “That was the turning point, I felt like, in my head, going 2 up with three to play. I had control at that point and I just had to hit shots in the right position.”
Despite Jamieson bringing the match back to within one on the 16th hole, the result of a missed putt for par, he struggled on the 17th hole when his first shot fell short of the uphill green and his second attempt to reach the green couldn’t surpass its lip.
Frodigh’s putt for birdie fell short by less than a foot, but Jamieson gave him the par and the match, as it concluded by a final score of 2&1.
Quotable – Herb Aikens
It was a tale of two nines on Thursday afternoon, but in the end Herbie Aikens was glad that his roller-coaster journey delivered him into the finals of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship for the first time in his career.
Aikens, who earlier in the day was able to deliver a come-from-behind victory over Tommy Parker on the 18th hole, found himself trailing 3-down to 18-year-old Andrew O’Leary at the turn during his afternoon semifinal match. It was an opening nine which saw O’Leary hit every green in regulation and post a 2-under par 33.
“I fell behind early in this one,” said Aikens. “[Andrew O’Leary] is a great player. Man he hit his driver straighter than almost anyone I have ever seen, outside of maybe Matt [Parziale]. He just striped it all day. He was tough. I just tried to hang in there and see what I could do. I tried to not get too down.”
After struggling to find his rhythm on the front nine, Aikens played the back nine with a renewed confidence and a razor-sharp iron game. He made two straight pars – on the 10th and 11th holes – before sending his iron approach on the 399-yard, par 4 12th hole to five feet to set up a birdie and to win the hole. It was his first birdie since the second hole of the match and it drew him to within one of O’Leary.
“I’m not going to lie. Turning to the back nine down three was a little discouraging, but I started to chip away and got a little momentum,” said Aikens. “Then I made a big birdie on 12 which kind of got me going. I said, ‘we still got a chance at this.’ It was fun.”
Despite missing fairways during the early part of the back nine, O’Leary scrambled and maintained his 1-up lead until he sent his second shot on the 496-yard, par 5 15th hole into the greenside bunker. He was unable to get up and down for birdie and suffered a loss of hole.
“I struck the ball really well on the front,” said O’Leary who will be attending the University of Notre Dame in the fall. “I don’t know if I lost energy or what on the back, but I shot a couple over and that isn’t good enough when you are this far into the tournament.”
Aikens continued to find fairways and greens and it was on the very next hole – the 342-yard, par 4 16th hole – when he would finally take his first lead of the match. O’Leary’s approach to the elevated green went long and was lost in the back hazard.
“I had 108 uphill and I played it like 115 thinking that was the right yardage,” said O’Leary of that 16th hole which he lost with a bogey. “I don’t know if a gust of wind hit it or what. I don’t know what happened on that one but it got away from me.”
Although Aikens would three putt the next green, he did not falter on the last hole. He closed out the match with a two-putt par to earn him a spot in the finals against Patrick Frodigh.
“This has been a good year,” said Aikens who has advanced as far as the round of 16 in this event. “I’ve been practicing a lot more. I have been working on the short game, and it’s starting to pay off, obviously. It’s been good for me. I’ve always been a pretty good ball striker, but the short game has always held me back. I’ve committed my time to chipping and putting and it’s made the game a little more fun.”