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