When Shaker Hills Country Club owner Fred Curtis saw that the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association eliminated the district and state championship golf tournaments this fall due to the pandemic, he didn’t want the high school golfers, including his two sons, to lose out.
Curtis was determined to hold an alternative state high school golf tournament at his Harvard course, and he’s working with the National High School Golf Association, the PGA of America, Mass Golf and the New England PGA to make it happen.
The Massachusetts High School Golf Championship will be held at Shaker Hill on Sunday, Nov. 1. A total of 104 golfers from all three divisions will compete for medalist honors. No team title will be determined.
“I had always dreamed of single championship with all three divisions,” Curtis said, “because we don’t really know who the state champion is because they never get a chance to see each other in Division 1, 2 and 3. This was an opportunity to make it happen.”
Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that isn’t scheduled to have postseason high school golf, according to Kris Hart, senior director of Nextgengolf for the PGA of America. So Curtis is happy to dedicate a Sunday to this alternate state championship event during this busy golf season in which Shaker has hosted close to 35,000 rounds, the most since he bought the club in 2014.
“It’s just a feel-good story,” he said. “It’s kind of rags to riches. First, there was nothing and now there’s a historical event, the first time all divisions have been combined.”
Nextgengolf runs more than 250 golf tournaments each year, including the High School Golf National Invitational at Pinehurst Resort next June, and Hart said the top 10 finishers at Shaker Hills will be invited to that event.
Five St. John’s High golfers are scheduled to compete: seniors Ethan Whitney, Ray Dennehy, Jacob Mrva and Brendan Maykel, and junior John Pagano.
“I think it’s awesome for the kids,” St. John’s coach Sean Noonan said. “Would I have liked to have a team event? Absolutely, I think is my strongest team in my seven years on paper.”
If a St. John’s golfer wins at Shaker Hills, Noonan said he would consider him to be the true state medalist.
“I absolutely would,” he said, “and honestly this field is probably stronger than Division 1 because there are so many good players in Division 2 and 3 around the state.”
Curtis’s sons, Freddie and Adrian, are scheduled to compete in the event as well. Freddie is a senior and Adrian a junior at the Bromfield School. In 2018, Freddie was the Central Mass. Division 2 medalist and in 2019, he set a Bromfield record by shooting a 5-under 31 at Red Tail Golf Club. In 2019, Adrian finished third in the Central Mass. Division 2 tournament.
“They’ve got a home course advantage,” Curtis said of his sons, “but it’s a strong field.”
First, students who finished in the top 10 in any of the three divisional state tournaments last year and did not graduate were invited to compete. The rest of the field, which sold out in two hours, was open to students with Mass Golf handicaps below 8 or high school scoring averages of under 40 for nine holes or under 80 for 18 holes.
Weston Jones, who shot a 2-under 70 at The Haven CC in Boylston to earn medalist honors and lead Lincoln-Sudbury to the Division 1 state title last fall, is scheduled to play on Nov. 1.
Noonan said if Mass Golf can safely conduct tournaments, he believes a state championship can also be held safely at Shaker Hills for high school students.
“You’re outside,” he said. “As long as they do everything they’re supposed to do from a protocol standpoint, I feel safe every time I’m coaching them. The only time the kids feel normal is when they’re on the golf course.”
“We really feel like we’re acting in a healthy and responsible way,” Hart said, “and we’re every state and local regulation.”
Golfers will tee off the first and ninth holes beginning at 9 a.m. Coaches and parents are permitted to attend, but will be required to wear masks and follow strict social distancing guidelines.
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