Kearney Qualifies in Vermont Following Five-Hole Playoff
Hudson, MA — More than 75 competitors flocked to Charter Oak Country Club on Tuesday morning for the 32nd of 50 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship sectional qualifiers taking place across the country over a three-week span.
The future destination they all had their eyes on? Minneapolis, Minnesota and The Minikahda Club, where the 63rd U.S. Senior Amateur Championship will be taking place from August 26-August 31.
With previous hosted events such as the Massachusetts Father & Son Championship Proper and past U.S. Amateur sectional qualifiers, it should come as no surprise that the Hudson venue itself provided nothing but a championship-like experience. And with a talented field of competitors from seven states and Canada, there was an increased sense of excitement around the sectional qualifier.
The latter was due in large part to the play of U.S. Senior Amateur rookie Frank Vana, Jr. (Boxford, Mass.), a record 9-time MGA Player of the Year whose dominance on the links over the course of the past three decades has been second to none.
Despite not turning the required 55 years old until five days before next month’s Championship Proper, Vana, who holds his handicap index out of Marlborough Country Club, competed in his first career senior amateur event Tuesday. He finished at 6-under par 66 and earned medalist honors.
“All in all, it was a pretty stress-free round” said Vana, who despite growing up in nearby Sudbury has only played the Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed course a handful of times. “The putter was working, and you have to make putts.”
Joining Vana from Tuesday’s sectional qualifier were Ronald Laverdiere (Amherst, Mass.), Mike Arter (Lakeville, Mass.), Duke Delcher (Bluffton, SC) and Brian Secia (Nantucket, Mass.), whose scores ranged from 1-under par 70 to 1-over par 72.
Secia, a member of the Massachusetts Tri-State team in 2016, beat out Peter Herzog of Purchase, NY, in a playoff. Herzog fell to first alternate after shooting a matching 1-over par 72 in regulation. The second alternate spot was awarded to Len Cole of Bangor, Maine following a two-hole playoff.
Vana’s road to Minnesota was paved early on Tuesday, as the 2016 Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame inductee birdied three of his first five holes. Starting off the 10th tee, he made birdie on the par-3 11th hole, the par-5 13th hole and the par-4 14th hole.
“On the par-3, I hit it right where I wanted to and I had just a 15-foot uphill that I made which was great,” said Vana on his first of seven made pars on the day. “On the par-5, I hit a really good drive and used a five iron onto the green and almost made eagle. I had a tap in birdie.”
He added a birdie on the par-5 18th hole to make the turn at a day-low 4-under par, and then continued his stellar play on his second nine with three more birdies to finish the day at 6-under par 65.
Despite advancing to what will be his 31st appearance in a USGA Championship Proper event, the soon to be 55 year old Vana wasn’t thinking about his number of appearances in USGA events.
“I try to not even think about it or get worked up about it,” said Vana. “I try to have a short memory and keep going for it. Lucky, they’ve added up to be a nice number. It’s exciting. I haven’t been to one in a little while so I am excited to get back.”
Making his return to the USGA circuit for the first time since 2010, when he represented the Commonwealth at the USGA State Team Championships at Mayacama Golf Club in Santa Rosa, California, the 14-time MGA Champion will also be competing in the Massachusetts Father & Son Championship in two weeks at Andover Country Club and the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship at Franklin Country Club in September.
Meanwhile at Manchester Country Club in Manchester, Vermont, Jack Kearney – a longtime member at Elmcrest Country Club – prevailed in a five-hole sudden-death playoff to also advance to the 63rd U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. With only two qualifying spots up for grabs, Kearney finished the 18 holes of regulation tied with Gary Shover (Orleans CC – VT) at 2-over par 74.
During that playoff, Kearney made a 10-foot putt for par on the 2nd hole and then a six-foot par save on the 3rd hole. On the fifth playoff hole – which was a par 5 – Kearney hit driver and 3 wood to three feet to set up an eagle putt to capture the second and final qualifying spot.
For more information on the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, visit usga.org.