Smith wins golf title with strong finish
Keith Smith, a two-time club champion at Franklin Country Club, won the Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship this month on his first try.
The 55-year-old Smith accomplished his feat the hard way — making birdies on four of his final seven holes at Haverhill Country Club to forge a first-place tie before capturing a three-man sudden death playoff on the third extra hole.
Smith sank a 15-footer on the 12th hole and then landed his approach on the 13th hole to 6 inches. He drained two 8-foot putts on the 16th and 17th holes to post a final round score of 1-under par 69, and was one of just two competitors to post under-par rounds at the two-day event.
His victory earned Smith exemptions for several MGA tournaments next year, including the Mass. Open, Mass. Amateur, and Mass. Mid-Amateur, and a five-year exemption for the Mass. Senior Amateur.
“So I’m planning to play a lot more competitive golf next year,’’ said Smith, who outlasted former champions Jack Kearney and Tom Bergeron in the playoff.
Smith, who shot a 73 on the first day, thought that despite his hot finish, his aggregate score might not hold up.
“I had just missed a 10-foot birdie on the 18th and figured that was it, so I had changed into my flip flops and had tossed my clubs into the car, ’’ said Smith, who waited 45 minutes before learning he had to put his golf shoes back on and pull his clubs out of the trunk.
“It was a fresh start, something I didn’t expect,’’ said Smith, a plus-1 handicap with one career hole-in-one.
“The one thing you don’t want to do in a playoff is shoot your way out of it. You have to play smart.’’
He won the playoff with consecutive pars, sinking an uphill 3-footer to secure the victory.
“It was surreal to win a tournament of that size and prestige with so many great players from around the state in the field,’’ said Smith. “A few of the past champions had stayed around for the finish and I had a chance to meet some of them, which was something very special.’’
Smith, third in last week’s MGA Senior Player of the Year rankings, was one of four players in his age bracket to be named to the Team Massachusetts for the Tri-State Matches (vs. Connecticut and Rhode Island) Oct. 10-11 at Warwick, R.I. Country Club.
A native of Bellingham, Wash., Smith moved to Franklin six years ago from North Carolina.
He is the chief operating officer for Elite Brands, a Norfolk-based company that supplies food and other products to the military. The company’s owner, Paul Keating, is also a member at Franklin CC.
“Paul brought me up here from North Carolina and I still thank him — until winter kicks in,’’ said Smith, who took up golf at the age of 10 on a US Army course in Germany.
His father, Byron, who celebrated his 80th birthday Sept. 20 in Atlanta, was a teacher in the Defense Department’s network of schools for military dependents.
“Dad gave the spark to my brothers and myself in taking up golf at a young age,’’ said Smith, who played the sport at his high school in Germany and at Western Washington University, where he led his teams to what is now the NCAA Division 2 national tournament.
“I didn’t really try to qualify for large state events until I moved to Massachusetts,’’ said Smith, who made the field for last year’s Mass. Amateur.
His other highlights this year: winning the club championship at his home course and tying for a respectable seventh (5-under for 36 holes) at the Mass. Senior Four Ball with partner Dave Turgeon.
Kapotsis, Narlee lift Babson’s defense
Babson College junior women’s soccer goalie Melina Kapotsis and freshman back Jennifer Narlee are two reasons for the success of the Beavers’ stingy defense — three goals allowed through seven games.
Kapotsis, a Watertown High grad in her second year as a starter for Babson, had a 5-0-1 record while Narlee (Medfield High) started all seven games prior to Tuesday’s match against Endicott and had one assist.
Narlee was named the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week after playing 84 minutes in a 3-1 win over Emmanuel, checking out just prior to the Saints’ only goal, and then played 90 minutes last weekend when the Beavers opened up conference play with a 3-0 victory over Mount Holyoke College.
“Melina loves the sport. You can see it in practices and games and she brings her best to the field every single day,’’ said Babson head coach Nellie Pineault, whose team started the season 6-0-1.
“And Jen came in and made an immediate impact. She has a presence on the field beyond her years.’’
Here and there
Newton South High girls’ basketball coach Sam Doner, a cancer survivor, was presented with the American Cancer Society’s MVP Award on Thursday during the Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff Breakfast, held as part of the NCAA men’s Division 1 media day at TD Garden in Boston. . . Bridgewater State University junior forward Erica Jonasson of Wrentham was selected Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference Women’s Soccer Player of the Week after tallying four goals in two games. She scored twice in a 4-1 win against Rhode Island College on Sept. 18 and three days later had both Bears’ goals in a double OT tie vs. Framingham State. . . Stow’s Coby Horowitz, a Bowdoin University senior, was honored as New England Small College Athletic Conference Cross-Country Performer of the Week. He took first place in a field of 284 runners at the 5-mile University of Southern Maine Invitational.