BROOKLINE, Mass – In preparation for the biggest tournament of the summer season for Swampscott’s Steven DiLisio, he said his focus was on beating the golf course, rather than his opponent, even when the format of the 111th edition of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship went from the 36-hole stroke play portion to the match play portion of play, on the historic grounds of The Country Club.
Fast forward five days and four matches from the tournament’s starting Round of 32 match to the Friday July 19th 36-hole championship match and DiLisio accomplished his goal, focusing more on his individual performance than that of his opponents to eventually defeat Hopkinton’s Jimmy Hervol, 3 & 2, in the 36-hole finale of the week-long championship.
With his victory, DiLisio becomes the 77th competitor to win the Bay State’s most prestigious amateur golf event. It turned out to be a battle between two talented 21-year olds.
DiLisio, a prodigy for more than a decade, hailing from a popular North Shore golfing clan, is a rising senior on Duke University’s Men’s Golf Team. He tallied eight birdies in 34 holes, led by as much as 5-up and held on despite a valiant comeback effort down the stretch by the recent UConn graduate Hervol, that saw him win two of his final four holes.
After Hervol sunk a 14-foot on the 34th hole, the par-3 16th hole at The Country Club, DiLisio countered with a difficult five-foot birdie putt to officially secure his spot in the Mass Golf history.
“It’s awesome. It’s exciting. I’ve been playing in the Mass Amateur since I was 12 or 13 years old with my brother and this is my first win,” said DiLisio following the Championship match, which began at 8:00 a.m. with his opening tee shot and finished about 4:00 p.m., with a 40-minute break after 18 holes. “It’s a long week. You’re hoping it’s a long week. I’m just super excited.”
When the final match commenced July 19, DiLisio wasted no time, quickly taking a 1-up advantage after the first hole when he sunk a 15-foot birdie putt that Hervol couldn’t match.
Hervol won the third hole to bring the match back to all square, but the 21-year old DiLisio, who is five months younger than Hervol, regained momentum by winning the next three holes in the match, on Holes 6, 10 and 12, respectively, to move to 3-up. The 3-up lead remained intact until the 18th hole, when Hervol’s key 12-foot birdie putt dug into DiLisio’s lead ahead of nearly a 40-minute long break at the midway point of the Championship match.
Despite the two-hole score differential, both competitors were grinded through the excessive heat, carding a 5-under par 65 with conceded putts, while Hervol’s scorecard showed 4-under 66 after conceded putts as the match surpassed 18 holes.
“It was hard. Part of me wanted to keep going after 18 and part of me wanted to call it for the day because it was so hot,” said DiLisio. “Like I talked about it yesterday, I just tried to come out and play as good as I can and I had to against Jimmy.”
In the second half of the Championship match, after DiLisio had increased his lead to a day-best 5-up by the 30th hole, key putting from Hervol extended the match for additional holes. Needing to at least halve the hole, Hervol tapped in a par-putt on Hole 31 and won 32 with a conceded eagle putt to bring the match within two, but after they both carded pars on the par-4 33rd hole, DiLisio finished off Hervol with his five foot birdie putt on the par-3 34th hole.
After a few days of rest, DiLiso and Hervol will both compete in the Porter Cup, one of the country’s most prestigious amateur events, next week at Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, New York.
Following that, they’ll both compete in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament conducted by Mass Golf. DiLisio will also compete at the 2019 U.S. Amateur Championship in mid-August before returning for his senior season at Duke. Hervol says he plans to turn professional this fall after advancing to the Regional Round of the NCAA Tournament in his final year at UConn this past May.
The 112th Massachusetts Amateur Championship will be conducted at The Kittansett Club in Marion, Mass. in 2020. Dates for that event are TBD.
CREDIT: Mass Golf Staff
PHOTO: David Colt Photography