Tee to Green: Pittsfield native Todd Scarafoni qualifies for Senior PGA Professional Championship

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Pittsfield native Todd Scarafoni came up one shot short of winning the New England PGA Section Senior Championship on Tuesday, but he still left Vermont's Okemo Valley Country Club with a good reason to smile.

The 50-year-old, playing in his first senior tournament, punched his ticket to the Senior PGA Professional Championship at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., as a result of his impressive 6-under par performance. The top six finishers in the 77-player field earned spots in the Sept. 26-Oct. 1 national championship for senior club professionals.

Scarafoni had rounds of 66 and 68 on the 6,400-yard layout, but that wasn't good enough to beat Maine's John Hickson, who has an impressive four wins and six top-two finishes in 11 section events this season. The tournament came down to the last hole, a 430-yard par 4.

"I made a bogey on 16 and John had one on 17 so we were tied going to the 18th," Scarafoni said. "I got an unlucky lie in the fairway, missed the green and made a bogey while John got his par."

With the New England section being one of the nation's largest — it encompasses Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts — there were six spots available for the national tournament, so Scarafoni knew he was headed west before his final-hole disappointment.

"I'm relatively satisfied with how I played," said Scarafoni, who is a pro at Gloucester's Bass Rocks Golf Club. "If you had given me 6-under before the tournament I probably would have taken it. That is good enough to win most events."

Scarafoni, who now has four top-10 finishes in 11 section starts this season, beat familiar names like Chip Johnson, Ron Philo and Kirk Hanefeld — "our section has 10 or 12 Hall of Fame-type club pros, and I am certainly not one of them" — despite seeing the course for the first time in the opening round.

"I was going in blind," he said. "My philosophy was to keep the ball in front of me and take no big chances. I was trying to hit 15 or 16 greens and that is what happened. I had one bogey and five birdies and missed three putts inside 10 feet, so it could have been even lower."

His second-place finish was ironic considering that it came just two days after his brother, 13-time Country Club of Pittsfield club champion Matt, finished second in the Berkshire Hills Singles, losing in a playoff to New Yorker Jim Mueller.

"I called Matt to say hello and let him know he wasn't the only bridesmaid in the family," Todd joked.

Todd Scarafoni gave up his professional golf career briefly earlier in the decade, going to work for his brother. Eventually, however, he said he realized that teaching and playing golf, not selling insurance, was what he was meant to do. He eventually landed a job with a friend at Sterling National Country Club and has moved on to the Golf Club at Turner Hill in Ipswich and now Bass Rocks over the last couple of years.

In his second life as a club pro, Scarafoni has transformed his golf game and is playing at a high level, as his performance in Vermont obviously showed.

"I seemed to find my form last year," he said. "I won an event and started to hit a lot of fairways and greens."

Scarafoni credits an improved mental approach for his improved play.

"The days of my overpowering a golf course are long gone," he said. "I used to be long, at least for someone my size (5-foot-7), but now I just try to play very, very smart. I'm able to place the ball where I want to. There are no eagles, but there are also no double bogeys. My course management skills have really improved."

Now it's on to Arizona and his second shot at a national championship. He qualified for the PGA Professional National Championship in 2006 at Turning Stone Resort in New York. The winner of that tournament, coincidentally, was Ron Philo, who happens to be one of those pros he beat at Okemo Valley.

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Taconic Golf Club member Bill Hadden shot a 1-under 71 at Manchester (Vt.) Country Club to earn medalist honors in a U.S. Golf Association Senior Amateur qualifier on Tuesday.

Hadden won one of two spots available in this year's national senior championship, which will be played from Aug. 26-31 at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minn.

Hadden, who lives in Vermont and is also a member of the Dorset Field Club, is no newcomer to amateur golfing success. He is a two-time Connecticut State Amateur champion (1982, 1993) and captured the Vermont Amateur championship in 2002 and the Vermont Senior Amateur title in 2014.

Hadden finished three shots ahead of Jack Kearney and Gary Shover. Kearney, who has played plenty of tournament golf in the Berkshires through the years, won a four-hole playoff with an eagle to earn his way to Minnesota.

In another Senior Amateur qualifier at Charter Oak Country Club in Hudson, Massachusetts amateur legend Frank Vana Jr. took advantage of his first opportunity to qualify for a USGA senior event by shooting a 6-under 66 to easily earn medalist honors and a spot in the national tournament.

Vana, a nine-time MGA Player of the Year, won't turn 55 until five days prior to the main event in Minnesota. This will be his 31st appearance in a USGA national tournament.

Berkshire Hills Country Club's Bob Linn, who qualified for both the Massachusetts Amateur and New England Amateur earlier this summer, wasn't as fortunate this time, shooting a disappointing 79.

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Wahconah Country Club member Paul Briggs will be the lone Berkshire County golfer in the field when the Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship tees off on Tuesday on the Nicklaus course at Pinehills Golf Club in Plymouth.

Briggs, who qualified for the third year in a row, shot an even-par 72 at The Ledges in late June to earn his spot in the championship. He struggled in missing the cut in last year's tournament at Waubeeka Golf Links in Williamstown and missed advancing by only two shots in 2015 at Red Tail Golf Club.

Wayland Country Club's Matt Cowgill, who won last year's tournament at Waubeeka in a playoff over Cody Booska, will be in the field along with Booska and a host of the top finishers from last year's tournament, including past champions Andy Drohen and Herbie Aikens.

***

Seven members of Berkshire County courses will attempt to qualify for the MGA's Super Senior Amateur Championship at Wyckoff Country Club on Thursday. Wyantenuck Country Club in Great Barrington will host the state championship for golfers 65-and-over on Sept. 6-7.

Wyantenuck has three golfers in the field — Del Kinney Jr., Peter Kinne and Edward Scarboro — while nearby Stockbridge Golf Club has two in Jim Mcmenamy and Randy Hawthorne. Also attempting to qualify will be Berkshire Hills member Richard Premerlani and Taconic Golf Club's Stephen Crowe.

The top 10 finishers and ties in the 30-player field will qualify to play at Wyantenuck.

The county is already assured of having one golfer in the field. Stockbridge member George Fleischner advanced with an 8-over 80 at Brockton Country Club on Thursday.

***

For the third time in three tournaments, the name dos Santos topped the leaderboard in 16-and-older age division of the Berkshire County Junior Series.

In the first two tournaments, it was Jonathan who was victorious. This time it was his brother, Nathan, who prevailed with a 78 at Worthington Golf Club.

The other winners were Max Digrigoli with an 83 in the 13-and-under division and Ryan Baran with a 91 in the 14-15 division.

It is too late to sign up for Monday's event but there is still time to get into the season finale, the Allied Junior Championship, at Stockbridge Golf Club on Aug. 14. Golfers need to sign up with their club's head pro or general manager before Friday.

Reach Richard Lord at relord633@gmail.com or 413-281-2226.

LOCAL RESULTS

Berkshire County Junior Series


at Worthington Golf Club

13-and-under division

1. Max Digrigoli, CC of Pittsfield, 83. 2. Levi Zielinski, Worthington GC, 90.

14-15 age division

1. Ryan Baran, Waubeeka GL, 91. 2. Liam Fitzgibbons, Berkshire Hills CC, 101.

16-and-older division

1. Nathan dos Santos, Wahconah CC, 78. 2. Connor Champeaux, Berkshire Hills CC.

AREA ACES

Jake Jowett, on the 138-yard 14th hole at Waubeeka Golf Links with a 6-iron. Witness: Ken Hodgen


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