HINGHAM, Massachusetts - Two days ago, Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich Golf Club-MA) grappled with flying back from Wisconsin. He made the difficult yet calculated decision to withdraw from the second round of the U.S. Mid-Amateur at Erin Hills and head home for another tournament.
"I said I want to come back here and play in something I can win," Clapp said. "What I've said all year is stay in your own lane, and it's fun to be 55 and competing against people in the ballpark of my own age."
Sure enough, his decision paid off as Clapp, 55, captured the title at the 25th New England Senior Amateur Championship on a picture-perfect afternoon at Black Rock Country Club. After playing the final 7 holes of his first round Wednesday morning, Clapp stood at 1-over and then proceeded to shoot a bogey-free 6-under-par 65 to finish to finish four strokes clear of the entire field.
Clapp's victory is in second individual win on the senior ranks, having won the Senior Hornblower Championship last month at Plymouth Country Club. In addition to appearing in nearly 20 USGA Championships, Clapp has also won the 2020 Mass Mixed Four-Ball Championship with Pam Kuong.
Richard Stevens, a municipal golfer from Connecticut, finished runner-up at 1-under total, but the 72-year-old shot a 3-under 68 in the final round to lock up the Super Senior Division title.
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Safe to say, Black Rock Country Club's layout at 6,275 yards fit Doug Clapp's eye much better than Erin Hills, which played to 7,309 yards on Saturday.
A solid ball-striker off the tee, Clapp frequently found the fairway in his second round, and had wedges into the greens at Black Rock. He birdied holes 1, 3, 4 and 7, making each one with relative ease to make the turn at 3-under overall.
Clapp especially put an exclamation point on his rally when he hit a gap wedge into the 17th green, with the ball taking one bounce and almost hoping into the hole, leaving an easy putt.
"All six were all inside of 10 feet," Clapp said of each birdie putt he made. "Coming here the greens are tricky, but if you have a wedge in your hand, especially with the recent rain, you can be pretty aggressive with your approach shots, and I hit a lot of solid wedges.
"The more I can hit driver and be aggressive off the tee, the better I'm going to score."
Clapp said playing alongside Chris O'Neill (Pawtucket CC-RI), and Brian Coakley (Charles River CC-MA), helped him stay in a good rhythm. O'Neill even chipped in for birdie on his final hole.
"It's the first time in a long time that Brian and I have played together," Clapp said. "Chris has such great tempo, and it's fun playing with guys who you fit with. They were rooting me on and that was nice."
Growing up about 30 minutes south of Bangor, Maine, Clapp said he's truly honored to take home a regional title such as the New England Senior Amateur.
"I have a couple of home states in the New England section, so this win is nice," he said.
Richard Stevens also had some clean-up work to do in the morning, but the senior stalwart was tremendous the entire day and was rewarded with the Super Senior Division title.
"Any time you can play in a tournament with guys like Dave Szewczul, Frank Vana, and Bill Hermanson, and you beat them, you played well," said Stevens, who won the Connecticut Senior Amateur in 2007 and 2020.
"I'm 72, but the great thing for me is I'm still improving, and barring some injury or something that's unexpected, I think I can keep improving for another 2-3 years."
That isn't just bluster as Stevens made six birdies, including three consecutive birdies on holes 2-4 in the afternoon round. However, he said his best shot actually came in the morning on hole 17.
"I hit a good drive, but I'm in a divot and I have 131 yards to the pin," Stevens said. "My seven-iron replacement is a hybrid, and my longest iron is an 8, and normally 130 is a 9-iron for me. So I cut a hybrid out of there, held it up against the wind and knocked it to 6 feet and made the putt."
1 - Doug Clapp; Old Sandwich GC (MA); -5; 73-68--137
2 - Richard Stevens; EClub of Connecticut (CT); -1; 73-68--141
T3 - John McNeill; Amateur Golf Tour of New England (MA); -E; 73-69--142
T3 - Craig Platt; Mill River CC (CT); E; 73-69--142
T5 - Frank Vana; Marlborough (MA); +1; 74-69--143
T5 - Dean Godek; Agawam Municipal GC (MA); +1; 74-69--143
T5 - Brian Secia; Plymouth CC (MA); +1; 71-72--143
T5 - Jack Kearney; Westover GC (CT); +1; 71-72--143
T9 - Phil Pleat; Nashua CC (NH); +2; 71-73--144
T10 - John Hadges; Thorny Lea GC (MA); +3; 72-73--145
T10 - Don Reycroft; Bayberry Hills/Bass River (MA); +3; 71-74--145
Top Scores From Each State
Connecticut – 2 (-1) Richard Stevens; EClub of Connecticut
Massachusetts - 1 (-5) Doug Clapp; Old Sandwich GC
New Hampshire – 9 (+2) Phil Pleat; Nashua CC
Maine – T21 (+6) Scott Dewitt; Biddeford-Saco CC
Rhode Island – T12 (+4) Chris O'Neill; Pawtucket CC
Vermont – 53 (+14) Jeffrey S Dolin; Orleans CC
HINGHAM, Massachusetts - For the second consecutive year, the New England Senior Amateur Championship was effected by rain. But despite a two-hour delay for unplayable conditions due to rain, everybody was able to at least start their opening round Tuesday at Black Rock Country Club.
Leading the way at 3-under is Connecticut's Craig Platt (Mill River CC), who won the Connecticut State Golf Association's Senior Match Play championship last year. Jeff Page (Wellesley Country Club), the head coach for the Babson College men's golf team, is two strokes off the lead and is closest among players who finished their rounds Tuesday.
In his New England Senior Amateur debut Red Sox Hall of Fame pitcher and two-time World Series champion Tim Wakefield finished 2-over 74. Wakefield won the senior club championship at Black Rock and started his round with an up-and-down par on the opening hole followed by a birdie on the par-3 second. He's tied with club member Bud Shultz, a former professional tennis player.
Round 1 was suspended at 6:45 p.m. due to darkness and will resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. At the completion of that round, the low 50 and ties will advance to the final 18-hole round of stroke play. The 10 low scorers in the Super Senior Division (age 65-plus) will also play in the second round.
Craig Platt has kept a relatively low profile in amateur golf circles. Last year he won Connecticut's Senior Match Play Championship, but after today, he has certainly turned some heads.
The Stamford, Connecticut, resident played hockey and golf at New England College, and after coaching hockey and raising a family has begun to improve on his game. Last year he finished T72 in this championship, but now finds himself atop the leaderboard.
"I've been working hard this summer, playing more competitive golf," said Platt, who made Connecticut's Tri-State team last year. "Late in life, I'm just a person who's driven to see what I can do now."
Playing in the first group Tuesday, Platt rode a hot putter to six birdies including three consecutive on holes 7-9, though that stretch was interrupted by the weather delay. Thanks to hitting good irons into greens, he had no 3-putts.
"That was the best part of my game," Platt said. "I had good numbers into the greens... I thought they were fair."
While entering the final round with the lead puts him in a new spot, "I feel comfortable going into tomorrow," he said. "My goal is to get to the back nine knowing you're right there."
Chasing him down will be Jeff Page, who also shot 3-under 33, and like Pratt also made three consecutive birdies on holes 7-9, plus up-and-down for par on the 10th.
Page cited course experience with his success. His brother Chris is a member, and he caddied for Tim Wakefield on Tuesday, but fortunately, Page and Wakefield were paired together allowing them all to be together.
"He was helping Tim, but he said a couple of things to me, and it was fun having him out there," Page said. "I knew where I was going the whole time," he added. "It's a hard course, but I was hitting the wedges close and I'm just a longer hitter and can take advantage of that."
Page said he was able to stay limber during the rain delay and upon resumption sank a 10-footer for birdie on the 7th; chipped to 5 feet and made the putt on the 8th; and then carded a 2 on the par-3 9th, which was playing from the forward tee. That stretch leaves him in contention, and as the head coach of a college team, it's something that gets him excited.
"I love seeing my guys being in the hunt, and it's a nice feeling," he said.
New Hampshire's Phil Pleat (Nashua Country Club), who won the title in 2016 and 2017, is also chasing down the leaders at even-par. Pleat isn't a long hitter, but hit enough fairways to allow him to make four birdies, including on the 17th. He almost made a long putt on the final hole but it just missed the mark.
In the afternoon wave, Dean Godek (Agawam Municipal Golf Course-MA) and Patrick McGuiness (Keney Golf Course-CT) both made the turn at 1-under. McGuiness got to 2-under but a pair a bogeys down the stretch put him back to par. Godek got through 16 holes, but some late bogeys took him out of the red figures.
In the Super Senior Division, 2019 champion Jack Kearney (Westover GC) is in the leader in the clubhouse at even-par 71. Kearney, the champion in 2018, hit a nice greenside chip on the 18th to secure his even-par score. Bob Reni (CC of New Bedford) turned at 1-under and made birdie on the 1st hole (his 10th) to get to 2-under, but he will have to finish his round Wednesday morning.
Partial results from Tuesday's weather-delayed first round of the 2022 New England Senior Amateur Championship. Play was delayed due to unplayable weather conditions for 1 hour and 56 minutes during the first round and suspended due to darkness at 6:45 p.m. The first round will resume at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
1 - Craig Platt; Mill River CC (CT); -3; 68
2 - Bob Reni; CC of New Bedford (MA); -2 (Thru 11)
T3 - Jeff Page; Wellesley CC (MA); -1; 70
T3 - John Hadges Thorny Lea GC (MA); -1 (Thru 13)
T5 - Jack Kearney; Westover GC (MA); E; 71
T5 - Don Reycroft; Bayberry Hills/Bass River (MA); E; 71
T5 - Phil Pleat; Nashua CC (NH); E; 71
T5 - Patrick McGuiness; Keney GC (CT); E; 71
T5 - Richard Stevens; EClub of Connecticut (CT); E (Thru 13)
T5 - Dave Szewczul; TPC River Highlands (CT); E (Thru 13)
T5 - Doug Clapp; Old Sandwich GC (MA); E (Thru 11)
Top Scores From Each State
Connecticut – 1 (-3) Craig Pleat; Mill River CC
New Hampshire – T5 (E) Phil Pleat; Nashua CC
Maine – T17 (+2; Thru 14) Scott Dewitt; Biddeford-Saco CC
Rhode Island – T17 (+2) Chris O'Neill; Pawtucket CC & Darren Corrente; Wannamoisett CC
Vermont – T55 (+6; Thru 12) Jeffrey S Dolin; Orleans CC