BROOKLINE, Mass – The Massachusetts Amateur Championship, the longest running Mass Golf Championship, returned to historic The Country Club this week for a record 11th time, and last year’s runner-up – Herb Aikens – earned medalist honors after two-days posting scores of 68-67-135, 7-under par.
The week started with 144 players which is now cut to 32. They will battle in match play over the next three days with a 36-hole final championship match scheduled Friday July 19.
Who will become the Bay State’s next champion, from a list of historic and recognizable names on the prestigious Massachusetts Cup?
Kingston’s Herbie Aikens, who entered Tuesday July 16th second round of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship one stroke behind day-one leader Chris Francoeur, fired a day best 4-under 67 in the last round of stroke play to secure the No. 1 seed heading into Wednesday July 17th first round of match play.
The 37-year old Aikens, who has now made the match play portion of the competition in four of the past five years, recorded five birdies enroute to his two-day total of 7-under 135, three strokes ahead of Hopkinton’s Jimmy Hervol.
He completed the first round with a 3-under 68 mark which saw him tied for second with Halifax’s Dillon Brown and with a little shifting among the top leaders following Tuesday’s rounds, he now holds a five stroke lead over Brown, who shot a 1-over 72. Francoeur shot a 1-over 72 as well, while Walpole’s Jack Boulger shot a 2-under to move into a T3 spot on the leaderboard.
“I just came out today trying to do the same things as yesterday and not get too far ahead of myself and just not try to do anything dumb,” said Aikens following his second round performance. “And make some putts again,” he added.
Starting on The Country Club’s 10th tee to begin his second round, Aikens parred the first hole and quickly went below par by birdying the par-5 11th hole and the succeeding par-3 12th hole. It was that early start that helped him get into a consistent rhythm for the remainder of the day.
“That definitely settled me down quick,” said Aikens of his start, which also included a birdie on the par-5 14th hole. “When you come out of the gate, and I didn’t even hit them that close, that is a good way to get going and it kind of takes the edge off and you just zone in and play golf. That is all it comes down to.”
He added, “From there, you make a couple of putts and you get some confidence. They might not all go in but you make a couple crucial ones and you can relax a little bit and feel like you can make good shots on the green and give yourself attempts and you don’t have to force anything.”
After making the birdie on The Country Club’s 14th hole, his fifth hole of the day, Aikens made par on the remainder of his front nine and made the turn at 3-under 33.
Aikens will look to become only the third competitor since 1999 to win the Amateur Championship as the No. 1 seed. Most recently in 2015 at Oak Hill Country Club, Nick McLaughlin won the championship as the No. 1 seed. Prior to that, John Hadges captured the 2008 Amateur championship at The Kittansett Club as the No. 1 seed. This marks the fourth time in the last five years that Aikens has advanced to the match play round.
Aikens earns the Harry B. McCracken Stroke Play Medalist trophy but has his sites set on the big prize and his experience and game make him a betting favorite.
CREDIT: Mass Golf