If a centennial celebration is as much about recognizing the past as it is appreciating the present and looking forward to the future, the 100th New England PGA Section Championship promises to be one for the ages.
The NEPGA will pay tribute to its past this August by returning to the grounds where the Section’s first champion was crowned, the Myopia Hunt Club. Myopia will co-host the 54-hole stroke play championship with nearby gem Tedesco Country Club to give NEPGA professionals a true test, and a treat.
In 1921, Gil Nichols shot 78-78 at Myopia in the inaugural one-day, 36-hole NEPGO Championship to finish atop the 62-player field and claim the Donald Ross Trophy and a hundred bucks. The Championship has evolved significantly over the last century. The NEPGO became known as the NEPGA. The tournament has become a three-day, 54-hole event. Modern fields typically boast nearly 150 players with purses hovering around the six-figure neighborhood. Winners shoot scores 10 strokes lower than a century ago, and are rewarded with the Tom Mahan Sr., Trophy and a five-figure payday.
The championship has not returned to Myopia since that inaugural tournament. Dan Venezio, PGA (Portland CC), spent eight years as an assistant professional at Myopia from 2007-15, and anticipates the course will demand disciplined golf.
“Playing well at Myopia boils down to two things: Fairways and patience,” said Venezio, who qualified for the 2015 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. “The golf course is not long, and on almost every par-4, you have a scoring iron in your hand. But miss the fairway and find the fescue or one of the devilish bunker complexes, you will be fighting an uphill battle the entire day. Aggressive play can be rewarded with a lot of birdies, but those same aggressive choices tend to narrow your landing areas and make your margin for error shrink.”
The PGA of America awards each of its 41 sections a designated number of spots in the annual PGA Professional Championship, where more than 300 PGA Professionals from around the country fight for 20 spots in the PGA Championship. An estimated 12 NEPGA Professionals will earn a spot in the 2021 PGA Professional Championship at this year’s Section Championship.
Tedesco Country Club, which has hosted several Massachusetts Opens, Stage I of PGA TOUR qualifying and LPGA tournaments in the past, will serve as a formidable partner to Myopia throughout the first two rounds hosting the NEPGA Championship for the first time. Myopia will host the final round after the 36-hole cut.
“The two clubs have similar traditional characteristics which put a premium on accuracy off the tee with great touch needed around fast undulating greens,” said Jake Leech, PGA, Tedesco CC’s head golf professional. “It’s unique to see how the Section Championship sites vary, some being big modern golf courses where distance is an advantage, to the traditional style courses in which precision and accuracy play of more importance. Traditionally Peter Hasak, our Golf Course Superintendent, has the golf course firm and fast with high fescue in August and throughout the fall.”
The NEPGA Section Championship annually draws a large and eager field prepping to play at their peak when the 54-hole tournament tees off. This year, that field may be hungrier than ever. Given the cancellation of several major golf championships throughout New England this year, including the US Senior Open, New England Open, The Massachusetts Open and the New Hampshire Open, New England Professionals will have limited opportunities to make their 2020 competitive season a memorable one.
“Section members are extremely excited to get back to competition in 2020, with this event being a bullseye on their tournament calendars,” Leech added. “We have received wonderful notes and e-mail responses as our Club and Superintendent are making all the right moves to prepare for such a great Championship. Enthusiasm is not only coming in from our typical younger portion of players but also some more of the veteran players as Tedesco and Myopia are unique in historic design. It will be a Championship for all to enjoy.”