For immediate release: September 21, 2022
MARLBOROUGH, Mass. – What started with an accident on his first shot of the day ultimately ended in triumph for Sean Fitzpatrick. Although the 38-year-old from East Walpole put his first tee shot in the water, he was able to rally and win his first individual state championship.
Fitzpatrick, who plays at the George Wright Golf Course in Hyde Park, entered the final round of the Mass Mid-Amateur Championship on Wednesday with a one-stroke lead over Mast Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club). Despite trailing the defending champion by as many as four strokes, he found a way to close the gap and take the biggest win of his tenure as an amateur golfer. Prior to that, Fitzpatrick’s only statewide victory came in 2009 Mass Four-Ball when he and Paul Mitchell share title with Herbie Aikens and Ryan Riley.
“It means the world,” said Fitzpatrick, who shot 3-under 68 in the final round, putting him 8-under for the championship. “I had limited expectations this week and luckily I found a good rhythm and was able to come out on top this week which is great.”
Arthur Zelmat (George Wright Golf Course), the 2020 champion, finished second at 4 under alongside Parziale. In 2020, the two met in the playoffs for the Mass Mid-Amateur title.
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At one point, it looked like the final round of the Mid-Amateur Mass Championship was turning into another blistering victory for Matt Parziale, just like 2015 when he won at Marlborough by 15 strokes. The three-time champion (2015, 2016 and 2021) flew out of the gates, posting a 5-under 30 on the front nine that included an eagle on the par-5 8th hole. With another birdie on the par-5 11th, Parziale was close to tying or even breaking the course record of 65.
Fitzpatrick, whose best Mid-Am result was 7th in 2010 at Dedham Country & Polo Club, was feeling confident after his 5-under 66 in the second round on Tuesday. Knowing that he would need his best to eliminate the triple champion, Fitzpatrick did himself a disservice by hitting his first shot of the day in the water hazard. Despite the double bogey, he managed to hit a few birdies to get level for the round, but things didn’t look promising.
“I made a few putts to get back to par, but I really struggled on the back nine with ball strikes,” Fitzpatrick said.
However, George Wright’s standout regained some of his mojo with a birdie on the 10 to close the gap to three. The bogeys of Parziale on 12 and 14 closed it with two strokes. On the 15th, Fitzpatrick made his biggest birdie of the day, spinning the ball on the front fringe and then making the putt to cut it in one.
“I just kept swinging,” Fitzpatrick said. “I just knew it was there, and I just needed to trust it, and I knew it would eventually happen. So luckily I landed a great tee shot on the 10, drove it onto the green and from there I was just swinging free.
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After a par-16 by the leaders, the par-4 17 turned into one of the most bizarre moments in league history. Fitzpatrick got his approach shot onto the green safely, but Parziale’s second shot sailed onto the green, through the trees and set up short of the roadside. As he was still in bounds, Parziale opted to play the ball and not take an unplayable penalty. His first attempt hit a tree and backed out of the game. After sniffing out what was his fifth shot, he finally made it to the other side. In the end, he carded a 9, thus sealing the title for Fitzpatrick.
“He had a bad swing on 17, which changed things, but Matt had a great game of golf,” Fitzpatrick said afterwards.
Despite the odd ending, Fitzpatrick said he was proud of the three days of golf he hosted, and it caps off a wonderful season that began May 2 when he qualified for the US final. Open via Foxborough Country Club.
“To be able to put my name on the trophy and have George Wright next to it means a lot,” Fitzpatrick said.
Similar to two years ago, Zelmati saved his best round for last, shooting a 4-under 67 in the final round, which included a back fringe chip-in on the 9th. This year’s stroke play Mass Amateur medalist added another chip-in on the 14th that led to a bogey-free 32 on the back nine.
“I knew I needed more birdies because these guys play golf so well and go so low,” said Zelmati, who birdied 7 of 13 on Wednesday. “I was definitely more aggressive trying to birdies.”
The top 15 finishers in the field this year are exempt from qualifying for next year’s Mid-Amateur Mass Championship. The 2023 Mass Mid-Amateur Championship is set to return to Willowbend on Cape Cod for the first time since 1993. At the time, the club co-hosted the event with The Club at New Seabury in 1989, 1990, 1992 and 1993.
The final Mass Golf Championship of the year is the Mass Super Senior Amateur, scheduled for October 3-4 at the Taconic Golf Club in Williamstown.