Brandon Gillis Defends, Davis Chatfield Pursues
The two kids—Brandon Gillis and Davis Chatfield—will be at it again in the 53rd Annual Hornblower Memorial, one of New England’s most prestigious amateur events. Seasoned tournament veterans now at the tender age of 18, both Gillis and Chatfield dueled down the stretch last year before Gillis won the title on the 18th green when his 20-foot birdie putt toppled into the hole.
Each shot a four-under par 65 on Saturday at Plymouth Country Club, setting the new Hornblower course record, created with the lengthening of the course and the addition of four new back tees. Gillis, however, shot 68 (-1) on Friday, one better than Chatfield’s even-par 69, to win the event with his 133 to Chatfield’s 134.
Both young men, who graduate from high school this year, will take their golf clubs with them to college in the fall. Gillis will attend Wake Forest, and Chatfield, who won the Rhode Island Amateur later in the summer of 2016, will attend Notre Dame.
The Donald Ross Challenge
The other 154 participants who will be teeing it up at PCC on June 2nd and 3rd will do their best to thwart Gillis’s and Chatfield’s rematch, and this year’s event is shaping up to be one of the most competitive Hornblowers yet. The field represents some of the best golfers from New England and beyond, and the Donald Ross gem, which gets better and better each year, will challenge the competitors to keep their drives in play, their second shots on the greens, and their putts on line.
The last four championships have been decided on the 18th hole through a playoff, a chip-in birdie, and two crucial birdie putts—one of them Gillis’s—to avoid playoffs. Once again, the course is in absolutely magnificent condition, with pristine fairways and oh-so-true and oh-so-undulating and oh-so-fast greens that will Stimp around 11 or more.
Above the hole, above par!
Recent renovations include both the removal of numerous trees that have encroached on fairways and greens and extensive bunker reconstruction. The bunker repair effort, for example, is most evident around the 8th-hole green complex. A mere 142 yards from an elevated tee, this par 3 is considered by many to be among the most difficult short holes on the South Shore. Its two-tiered green slopes cruelly from back to front and defies golfers, first, to keep their tee shots anywhere on the putting surface and, second, to two putt successfully for par.
Once and Future Champions
The field is full of quality golfers with 12 states and 83 golf clubs represented. Seven previous Hornblower champions, besides Gillis, are looking to add another title to their resumes: Steve Tasho (86, 91, 96), Walter Sharis (87), Ray Richard (89), Brendan Hester (02), Jack Kearney (05), John Hadges (06, 13), and 2016 Massachusetts Golfer of the Year, Matt Parziale (07).
Also teeing it up will be the three Senior Hornblower Champions: 2016 Massachusetts Senior Golfer of the Year Kevin Carey (14), Mike Arter (15), and Jack Kearney (16). Kearney, from Elmcrest Country Club, Peachtree, Georgia, is the only participant who has won both events. In addition, many of the players are veterans of college, MGA, regional, and/or national events, who are looking forward to adding a Hornblower crown to their golf achievements.
Looking for Improvement from Last Year
Many of last year’s top players have returned, setting their sights on finishing just a little higher than they did previously. The best Massachusetts golfer never to have won a Hornblower is, without doubt, Herbie Aikens, one of the Bay State’s most accomplished amateurs and a member of Pinehills in Plymouth, just down the road from PCC. Aikens is a perennial favorite and has been a fixture in the Hornblower Top 10, last year finishing tied for fourth with Sean Fitzpatrick at 139.
Aikens is fresh off his MGA Four-Ball Championship in early May with his friend and former Hornblower Champ Matt Parziale from Thorny Lea. Ironically, Aikens and Parziale beat Fitzpatrick and his partner in a sudden-death playoff. Fitzpatrick is looking for some vindication this year after leading the Hornblower last year after the first round with a 66 before shooting a 73 on Saturday.
Other 2017 hopefuls include Tufts University’s Owen Elliot who shot 73-68=141 for 6th place all alone. Senior Mike Arter (71-71) from LeBaron Hills CC tied for 7th at 142. Five returning players tied at 143: Kevin Duncan (71-72), Fairfield University; Patrick Frodigh (72-71), University of Louisville; William Hall (73-70), Rollins College; Tim Johnson (73-70), Poquoy Brook; and Parziale (72-71). Two other Massachusetts Players of the Year and frequent Hornblower participants, Frank Vana and Doug Clapp, also deserve a nod.
Another Youth Movement
Local top high school players Nathan Ingram of Pembroke and Dillon Brown of Halifax have set their sights on shooting some low numbers. Ingram, a Boston College High School junior, is the 2016 MIAA Division 1 High School Champion and the grandson of the late Sterling (Hank) Ingram, a PCC member who, along with Skeet Ellis, Reno Zamachi, and Head Professional Gerry Goodwin, revived the tournament 53 years ago. Brown, a Silver Lake Regional High School junior, is off to a strong start this spring having already won both the Liberty National Qualifier at the Agawam Hunt Club and the Future Collegians World Open event at Red Tail Country Club.
In what is undoubtedly a fraternal first for the Hornblower, the three brothers Frodigh from Dedham County and Polo Club—Patrick (8th place last year), Will, and Danny—will all be participating. Each is an accomplished player who has earned entry through highly successful performances in other events.
The public is cordially invited to attend the tournament. Admission is complimentary to all golf fans, and all clubhouse amenities will be available throughout the tournament. Spectators are welcome to stroll the course with players or select locations from which to watch the action. The public will be the guests of Tournament Chairman Mike Ellis, Club President Randy Kupferberg, Director of Golf A.J. Petrulak, Course Superintendent Ben Whiting, the members of the Hornblower Committee, and the members of Plymouth CC.
(Feature photo of Davis Chatfield, Brandon Gillis, and Mike Ellis and all other photos courtesy of Vicky MacKay)