Rhode Island CC - October 18-19
BARRINGTON _ Thirteen proved to be a lucky number for Team Massachusetts Wednesday in the 83rd Tri State Matches with Rhode Island and Connecticut at Rhode Island Country Club.
Led by Hall of Famer Frank Vana Jr., Senior Player of the Year Jack Kearney and two-time Mass Player of the Year Matt Parziale, the Bay State rallied from last to first in singles matches to pull out its 13th straight title in the event.
The tournament was one of the tightest in history as Massachusetts finished 56 ½ with points. First-day leader Rhode Island was second with 54 1/2 and Connecticut third at 51.
It was the play of three of the team leaders that carried Massachusetts to the victory. Vana, who was recently installed in the Mass Golf Hall of Fame, piled up 5 ½ points in his match with two-time Rhode Island champion Bobby Leopold and Connecticut’s Brian Ahern. Ahern earned 3 ½ points and Leopold was shut out.
The caliber of play on a beautiful day on the Donald Ross-designed course along Narragansett Bay was outstanding, as Leopold could testify.
``I was 2-under on the front and I lost to both of them,’’ Leopold said.
Kearney also piled up 5 ½ points in his Senior Division match with Tom Brett of Connecticut (2) and Dean Parziale of Rhode Island (1 ½). Matt Parziale was the other big winner for the Bay State, picking up five points in his match to four for Rhode Island’s Billy Forcier. Brent Dietz of Connecticut was shut out.
Rhode Island, which has not won the event since 2001, made a strong bid to protect its first-day lead.
Kevin Blaser was 3-under in racking up 5 ½ points in his match, former State Amateur champion Kevin Silva provided five points, four-time State Amateur champion Brad Valois had four and Ryan Pelletier 3 1/2. Valois’ match might have been the most spectacular of all as he played URI grad John Kelly of Massachusetts and Connecticut’s Geoff Vartelas.
Valois was four holes down in one match and three down in the other in the other. But he then piled up eight birdies over the last 13 holes to win four points. Blaser, his fellow Metacomet member, had a stretch on the front nine when he went birdie, birdie, eagle beginning on the sixth hole.
``Our guys did not play bad at all. They played fine,’’ said Joe Pieranunzi, the co-captain of the Rhode Island team with Steve Sampson. ``The other guys just played better.’’
The matches will be held in Connecticut next year and could feature an altered format. Part of the discussion during the matches this year was whether to add a second set of matches on the first day and possibly even increase the number of participants from each state.
Day 1 Recap
By Paul Kenyon
BARRINGTON _ When two players enjoy working as partners on the golf course, it apparently does not matter what the format is. They make it work.
Kyle Pelletier and Kyle Hoffman have won the Rhode Island Golf Association Championship twice (in 2013 and 2014). George Pirie and Tom Acciardo have captured the RIGA Senior Four-Ball each of the last four years. So it was not a surprise that when it came time to draw up their pairings for the 83rd Tri-State Matches at Rhode Island Country Club, Bob Ward, the RIGA director, kept those two teams together.
The format in the Tri States is a bit different, played at foursomes, or alternate shots, on the first day. But the results were great for Little Rhody. Those two teams led the way as Rhode Island jumped into the lead after the first day of play.
Hoffman and Pelletier were one of only two teams to sweep all six points. The competition awards one point for a victory for each nine holes and one for the overall match, with each state playing against the other two.
Acciardo and Pirie, who had a wild day even before the actual competition began, won four points to help Rhode Island to 24 points. Connecticut is second 16 with and Massachusetts, the 12-time defending champion, third with 14.
The event will conclude with singles matches involving each of the 12 players on the three teams Wednesday morning.
Rhode Island has not won the event since 2001 when it was held at Newport and only 12 times overall to 39 for Connecticut and 33 for Massachusetts.
However, the Rhode Islanders took advantage of the home course and some familiar partnerships to jump to the first-day lead. In addition to the Hoffman-Pelletier and Pirie-Acciardo teams, the duo of Brad Valois and Billy Forcier earned 5 ½ points for a performance that included four birdies in a row in the middle of the round. The senior team of Paul Quigley and Dean Parziale and the duo of Bobby Leopold and Kevin Blaeser each earned three points.
Pelletier, who lives in North Attleboro, Mass., but plays of out Pawtucket Country Club, spoke about how having a familiar partner was a big help.
``We know how to club each other,’’ Pelletier said. ``We actually had a few discussions debating clubs because we know each other so well.’’ The two combined to go 3-under-par on the day as they swept.
For Acciardo and Doctor Pirie, the excitement began during practice. Competition did not begin until 12:30 p.m. and players are allowed to get in some on-course practice before the start of play. Acciardo and Pirie did some limited work in practice, with one key objective.
``George wanted to play 17 to see what it was like today,’’ Acciardo related.
The 17th is the signature hole on the Donald Ross-designed course. It is along the Narragansett Bay and plays to 130-150 yards to an elevated green and almost always is dramatically impacted by wind conditions. Acciardo hit one ball in the practice session.
``I hit a six and it went just over the green,’’ he said. ``So I took out a seven and hit a little knockdown shot. It went in the hole.’’ Acciardo had six previous holes I one.
In the real competition, it was Acciardo’s turn to hit the tee shot on 17. The wind direction had changed, so he decided to hit an eight-iron with the tee at 135 yards for the seniors. He hit it in the right bunker.
``The pin was on the right. I short-sided him,’’ Acciardo said. ``It was a really tough shot up and over the big mound there with no green to work with. As we were getting there, I told him, `You know Doc, there’s no one I’d rather have hit that shot than you. You could make it.’ ’’
Pirie did just that to win the hole and spark he and Acciardo to winning four of the possible six points.
The only other team with Pelletier and Hoffman to sweep their match was the Massachusetts duo of Ryan Riley and John Kelly. The top Connecticut team was the TPC River Highlands team of John Flaherty and Geoff Vartelas who took 5 ½ points.
News also was made at the tournament dinner following play. Bob Ward, executive director of the host Rhode Island Golf Association, reported that discussions are underway about possible expansion of the 83-year-old event.
Ward said he, Jesse Menachem, the MGA director, and Mike Moraghan, the Connecticut director, have discussed altering the format, both in the number of players each state will send to the event and in the numbers of rounds that will be played.
One possibility is playing two rounds on the first day rather than one. Nothing has yet been decided and Ward told the players to talk about what they would like to see both after the dinner and during play in Wednesday’s final round. A decision on how to hold the event next year will be made at a later time.