PLYMOUTH, Mass – Once again the Membership of Plymouth Country Club and the Hornblower Memorial Committee are eagerly awaiting the 55th Annual Hornblower Memorial Golf Tournament to be held on May 31st and June 1st, that brings together some of the finest amateur golfers from New England and beyond and always guarantees an amazing display of golf talent.
“Playing in the Hornblower is always a great test of golf. The course plays very difficult and the greens are some of the hardest we play all year,” said last year’s champion Matt Parziale of Brockton, who has also won the United States Mid Amateur Championship (2017), as well as competed in the Master’s and U.S. Open. Matt has won the tournament two times (07,18) and always looks forward to returning.
Shannon Johnson, 2018 Women’s United States Mid Amateur Champion and 2018 Massachusetts Amateur Champion, will be unavailable to play in this year’s event due to a previous commitment to compete in the 2019 U.S. Women’s Open Championship (USGA) being held in Charleston, South Carolina. However she looks forward to competing again soon. “I really enjoyed playing in my first Hornblower tournament last year. Being able to tee it up with the top players in the state and country got my competitive juices flowing early in the season. I knew I had to bring my A game to play the course at Plymouth CC, because the course can play tough with the fast green speeds and pin locations. Having a tough set up and strong field certainly helped get me ready to play the 2018 season which I was able to have a lot of success in. I wish everyone the best of luck this year, and hopefully I will be able to tee it up in 2020”.
Course conditions are always key and Plymouth is very fortunate to have Ben Whiting as the Course Superintendent. Ben, accompanied by his canine companion Harley, and his amazing crew work diligently throughout the winter to make sure the course is always in pristine condition for the Plymouth membership and the Hornblower players This past winter they undertook some major projects in their ongoing effort to restore the course to it’s original Donald Ross glory.
“As far as the course goes, we got through the winter fine with all turf in good condition,” explained Ben. “Now we battle the extremely wet conditions along with the below average temps. With the rain and cool temps the course has been on the softer side, and I would imagine it will stay this way until the weather pattern breaks. This winter we were able to do some significant tree removal throughout the course. The biggest changes players will notice are on 14,16 and 17. In these areas most of the trees were removed giving it a wide open look. Moving forward I do think the work will change how the holes are played. I would imagine that the wind is really going to become more of a major factor than ever. Watching how these championship caliber contestants manage the course will be very interesting.”
There have been many winners of the Hornblower throughout the years but only one player who was an active Plymouth Country Club member at the time has ever captured the championship. That was Bill Buttner who won in 1975 and 1977 then went on to an illustrious career as a professional golfer on the PGA tour, placing in the top ten in multiple tournaments as well as qualifying for the U.S. Open 5 times. Bill is now the golf coach at Eckerd College in St Petersburg, Florida.
“ All these years later I still have very fond memories of winning the Hornblower,” said Buttner. “Doing so at my home course in front of friends and members on the course that taught me the game was very special. Winning the Hornblower was unquestionably also a huge confidence builder and major contributing factor to my future successes in college, the mini tour, and my career on the PGA tour. Plymouth has always been a tremendous challenge because of the undulating greens, diabolical leaves if you land the ball in the wrong place, and unforgiving rough. I want to wish good luck and short putts to this year’s players and looks forward to welcoming the next winner to the talented group of Hornblower Champions.”
Bill stopped back to Plymouth C.C. for a quick visit last summer and shot a score of 28 on the par 34 front nine of Plymouth Country Club. Other former champions who will be competing are Ray Richard, (89) Steve Tasho (86, 91,96,) Jack Kearney (05), John Hadges (06,13), Michael McCarthy (93), and Mike Calef (84), Brandon Gillis (16), Nick McLaughlin (15), Colin Brennan (12), Brendan Hester (02)
Several current Plymouth Country Club members have their sites set on becoming the next Hornblower champion and that group includes Jonathan Stoddard who was edged out last year in a sudden death playoff by a birdie putt on the 19th hole. Jonathan, who now works for Titleist, is looking forward to this years event. “I’m really excited for another chance to compete in this great tournament. I always have this weekend circled on my calendar, and hope that I can use last years experience of making it to the playoff to my advantage. I can’t predict my score but I can definitely guarantee that I’m going to have a great time”.
Among the many very impressive local players who are looking forward to making a run at winning the tournament are long time local favorite Herb Aikens from Kingston and Dillon Brown from Halifax. Herb comes to the tournament with a very impressive golf resume including the Southeastern Amateur (16, 18) and Massachusetts Four Ball Championships (09,10,16,17) ;the last two with fellow Hornblower competitor/ best friend Matt Parziale. Dillon who won the Massachusetts Junior Amateur Champion (17) and was the Hornblower low junior medalist (17, 18) has just completed his freshman year at the University of Maryland and hopes that the college golf experience will help him bring his game up to the next level. “The Hornblower is one of my favorite events each year. The golf course is a great test and the competition is top notch, I look forward to continuing my success at this years tournament”
Another extremely popular feature of the tournament is the annual Pro-Am which will be held on Thursday, May 30th this year. The format pairs Plymouth members and guests with Hornblower participants for a team effort. Under the direction of Pro-Am Coordinator John McCall, this event has grown from just a couple of groups playing with media guests to a yearly sell-out. This year’s event filled in just a few days, more than three weeks before the scheduled date of the Pro-Am.
The success of the event clearly depends on the talent of the players but also relies on the tremendous staff and volunteers from Plymouth Country Club and the surrounding area who commit so much time to making sure everything runs smoothly. Tournament Chairman Mike Ellis has been the guiding force for the tournament for years, assuming the leadership position from his dad Skeet, who along with friends resurrected the tournament from a dusty trophy stashed in a dark closet. Mike’s rapport with the players assures their positive experience, regardless of the final score. He is diligent about details and has assembled a strong committee to make sure everything is just right. He feels “This year’s Hornblower Championship is shaping up to be one of the most competitive ever. The strength of field is exceptional. Couple that with the course upgrades we have made over the winter at Plymouth Country Club and we should be in for a great event from start to finish. The only question is whether Mother Nature will cooperate with us.”
Plymouth Country Club Head Professional/Director of Operations Mike Roy is very much looking forward to this year’s tournament. “Ever since I was a Junior Member of Plymouth Country Club, following the Hornblower has been a very special event for me. Watching those great players always inspired me to improve my game by attempting to emulate the skills that they demonstrated during the tournament. Now. in my second year as Plymouth Country Club Director of Operations, it is my pleasure to do whatever I can to attract and provide services for the fine golfers who participate in the Hornblower. This year is undoubtedly the strongest field we have ever had for the tournament and will certainly result in some exciting moments during the competition. Hopefully lots of folks, including young golfers, will take the opportunity to view this year’s event.
“With the 55th annual Hornblower Memorial Tournament just around the corner the excitement and anticipation is definitely building,” said Plymouth CC president Tom Mayer. “The top amateurs in the country block this weekend off on their golf calendars which is why the Hornblower always has such a talented field each year. The winning score is always around even par proving that this historical Donald Ross masterpiece continues to be a formidable challenge for today’s best players. In recent years the tournament has been won either on the final hole or in a play-off providing edge of your seat excitement for the spectators. Just last year Matt Parziale won the tournament in an incredible sudden death playoff. On behalf of the members and staff of Plymouth Country Club, it is my pleasure to invite everyone to come and walk the grounds to watch these talented players compete in one of New England’s finest tournaments. You will be happy you did. Complimentary access to all areas of the course and all club facilities are available to visitors throughout the tournament.”