Frank Vana, Jr. of Marlborough Country Club, the winningest golfer in Mass Golf history, continued to create more history Friday when he captured his record 10th Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship title.
The nine-time Mass Golf Player of the Year sent his approach shot to 2 feet on the 418-yard par-4 18th hole during the first sudden-death playoff hole at Plymouth Country Club.
That set the stage for a winning par and a victory over Mike Calef (Pine Oaks GC) and Jack Kearney (Elmcrest CC). The trio all finished at even par 138 following the regulation 36 holes.
“It was nice to draw one and just get one in the fairway and feel good about that,” said Vana, who earlier this summer advanced to the round of 16 at the US Senior Amateur Championship. “Then I had a perfect yardage for the second shot. I felt fairly relaxed and thankfully, I hit a nice shot.”
In addition to his 10th Mass Mid-Am title, it was Vana’s 15th Mass Golf Championship title. No other golfer in history has equaled those two marks.
“I don’t think about it,” said Vana. “I think I lose track of it sometimes, but like I said, the nine was kind of stuck in my mind for both player of the year and this, so it’s nice to get that 10th one. I’m really thrilled.”
Vana won 10 Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championships (1999-2003, 2005-06, 2012-13, 2018), two Massachusetts Amateur Championships (2004-05), two Massachusetts Four-Ball Championships (2002-03), and one Massachusetts Father & Son Championship (2003). He was also named the Mass Golf Player of the Decades for the 1990s and 2000s, and in 2016, was inducted into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame.
“I just love playing,’’ Vana said. “I love the camaraderie of the guys. I work hard to try and play well, and I just kind of tick it off one by one.”
This week’s victory was especially sweet for Vana, who guessed that he has spent more than two decades playing Plymouth County Club at the annual Hornblower Memorial Tournament, but never walked away as champion.
“Plymouth is a place that I love and I’ve never ever won the Hornblower,” said Vana. “I was able to play in the Senior Hornblower this year, and I finished second, but I’ve been playing in the tournament for maybe 25 years or more. I love this place, and it really always irks me that I haven’t been able to win here. I’m still a little ticked off that I haven’t won a Hornblower, but this feels really good.”
The competitors faced two days of inclement weather which forced tournament organizers to reduce the scheduled 54-hole event to 36 holes.
Despite the interruptions, Vana put on a display of consistency. He followed up his even-par 69 — played over a two-day period — with a final-round 69 which moved him from a tie for fourth into the top spot along with Calef and Kearney.
After making what would be his final birdie of the day on the 331-yard, par-4 13th hole, Vana found himself in trouble off the tee on the 396-yard, par-4 17th hole. He was able to chip from a bad lie and nearly made a 7-foot putt for birdie.
“I hit a terrible second shot [on 17] and it worked out perfectly,” said Vana. “I actually thought I was going to make the putt, which would’ve been a crime, but it was nice to make a par and I wasn’t upset about that at all.”
He slid his birdie attempt on the 18th hole just past the hole.
“Sometimes, the golf gods look down on you,” said Vana. “I hit some bad squirrelly shots today and got away with it, and the rest of the time, I was kind of focused and hit a lot of good shots and didn’t make it too hard on myself. That formula sometimes works to win and today it did.”
Calef followed up his first-round score of 3-under 66 posted on Wednesday morning with a 72 Friday. His final round featured a near hole in one on the 291-yard, par-4 sixth hole (his drive off the tee landed 6 inches from the hole), one birdie, and six bogeys.
Kearney, who won the Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship at Plymouth Country Club in 2010, made a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to advance to the playoff.