Tee to Green: Lee's Fraser enjoying a successful start to summer golf season
The 17-year-old shot a 3-over par 73 to finish in a three-way tie for first place in a local qualifier for the Trusted Choice Big "I" National Championship on Wednesday, and then fired a 60 on the par-57 course at Plymouth's Squirrel Run Golf and Country Club to finish second in a New England PGA Junior Tour event on Friday.
As a result of his performance in a qualifier that featured a 48-player field, Fraser advanced to the state qualifying tournament to be played at the Country Club of New Bedford and the Bay Club at Mattapoisett on July 10-11. The top two finishers there will advance to the national championship, which will be played at Annnandale Golf Club, a Jack Nicklaus-designed beauty in Madison, Miss.
"Playing in the Big 'I' tournament was a great experience," said Fraser, who earned All-Eagle honors last season as a freshman. "Thorny Lea is a beautiful course and I love going east to play against kids from other areas."
Fraser finished in a tie with North Dartmouth's Justin DeBortoli and Stoughton's James Tyer with a steady round that included one birdie and four bogeys.
One look at the past champions shows that qualifying for the national tournament, which dates back to 1969, would be a big deal for the Lee junior-to-be. That list includes former PGA champion Bob Tway (1976), New England's Billy Andrade (1980-81), former British Open champion Justin Leonard (1989) and some guy named Tiger Woods (1990 and 1992).
"I'm looking forward to it," Fraser said. "I'll just keep on practicing to get myself ready."
His performance also earned him points toward qualifying for an American Junior Golf Association event later this summer in Canton — he also received points with a sixth-place finish in an AJGA entry-level event at Waubeeka Golf Links this spring — and a high finish in the Big "I" state event could go a long way toward his qualifying for that event.
His second-place finish on an executive course that requires precise iron play and a good short game was another positive step for Fraser.
"That was definitely a cool experience," he said. "It was nice to be able to sharpen up on a course like that. There were three short par 4s, but they were tricky, and there were some short par 3 holes and some long ones."
Fraser finished three shots behind Cohasset's Will Englander but six shots ahead of the third-place finisher. His ability to overcome a slow start — he had bogeys on the first three holes — was impressive and should serve as a confidence-builder going forward.
"It was a rough front nine, but I made three birdies and was 3-under on the back," he said.
One thing that is perfectly clear when you talk with Fraser is his passion for the game.
"I'm loving it," he said. "I enjoy practicing and I'm feeling good about my game. Golf is definitely a fun game. I enjoy playing with my friends, but it's also the kind of game where you can focus by yourself and try to succeed."
Asked about his strengths, he pointed to his improved putting as a big reason for his advancement. He said he has "average" distance off the tee, but keeps the ball in the fairway "most of the time."
Fraser expects to play in this summer's Berkshire County Monday Junior Series — he will miss the opening tournament because it is on the same day as the first round of the Big "I" qualifier — and is looking forward to his junior season playing for coach Matt Carlino.
"I think we'll have a good team," Fraser predicted. "We have a couple of young guys and a couple of seniors (Hunter Roosa and Colin Finnegan)."
While he's looking forward to being part of the team, he obviously has a big summer ahead that should only add to his confidence going forward.
Greenock Country Club's Tom Keenan Sr. and Tom Keenan Jr. found a perfect way to enjoy Father's Day by capturing the Allied Association's Father-and-Son Tournament at the Country Club of Pittsfield.
The Keenans finished at 2-under par 69 to win the overall championship in the Scotch format event by two shots over past Allied Four-Ball champions Paul and Matt Gilardi, who are members at Skyline Country Club.
Waubeeka Golf Links members Chris and Dan Bourdon finished third with a 73 while the defending champions, Wahconah Country Club's Ted and Cam Boraski, were fourth.
In the youngest age division, Stockbridge Golf Club's Chris and Matt Shields prevailed with a round of 74, while Stockbridge's Rick and Matt Iemolini took the middle of the three age divisions with a 79.
The Massachusetts Golf Association, in conjunction with the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, has announced a new partnership that reinforces its commitment to amateur golf and promoting the game to the next generation.
The MIAA Golf Committee and the MGA unveiled the MIAA & MGA Student-Athlete Program, which will provide student-athletes with a complimentary MGA/USGA GHIN membership until age 18.
The program is open to any student attending an MIAA-instituted school. The student doesn't have to have to golf or be a member of a school-sponsored golf team to receive the membership.
"One of the main goals of the Massachusetts Golf Association is to serve our members and bring as many opportunities as possible to them," said Mark Gagne, the MGA's director of member services. "By creating this opportunity for students who are familiar with or just getting started in golf, it is our intention to reach as many young people as possible so that they can enjoy the benefits that our great game has to offer. We feel the complimentary access is an important part of this unique initiative."
By having an MGA/USGA GHIN Handicap Index, golfers are able to compete on an equal playing field, regardless of skill level or experience while tracking their progress over time. Having an index is also required for most tournaments, including all MGA events.
For more information, go online to www.mgalinks.org.
Skyline Country Club and PGA professional Mark Duane will be hosting his annual junior clinics beginning on June 29.
The weekly clinics will be held on Thursday evenings at Skyline from 5:30-6:30 p.m., from the 29th until July 27. The cost is a bargain at $60 for the five lessons, and is open to juniors of all ability levels from ages 7-14.
For more information or to sign up, call Duane at 413-329-5090.
Reach Richard Lord at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-281-2226.
LOCAL GOLF RESULTS
Father and Son Tournament
at Country Club of Pittsfield
1. Chris and Matt Shields (Stockbridge GC), 74; 2. Ryan and Chris Salius, 82 (Wyantenuck CC).
1. Matt and Rick Iemolini (Stockbridge GC), 79.
1. Tom Keenan and Tom Keenan Jr. (Greenock CC), 69. 2. Paul and Matt Gilardi (Skyline CC), 71. 3. Chris and Dan Bourdon, (Waubeeka GL), 73. 4. Ted and Cam Boraski (Wahconah CC), 74; 5. Tom Curry and Tom Curry Jr. (Berkshire Hills CC), 75.
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