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Senior Division Final Results
By Paul Kenyon
EAST PROVIDENCE _ Mistake-free golf carried Kevin Silva to the title in the 33rd RIGA Stroke Play Championship Tuesday at Agawam Hunt.
The 2015 Amateur champion did not make a bogey in his last 26 holes as he came from behind and beat two-time defending champion Brad Valois by two shots. Silva had a 68 in the first round of the 36-hole day to put himself in position and then put together the best round of the tournament, a 4-under 65, to charge to the title with a 4-under 203 total.
The strong finish for the 32-year-old field engineer for a company that installs cell phone towers was all the more impressive considering the long day and the 90-degree heat.
``What a long day. I’m still putting my thoughts together,’’ Silva said shortly before 8 p.m. when the day finished. ``I tried to limit the mistakes. I tried to give myself opportunities.’’
While just about everyone else was fighting the weather and the challenging conditions presented by Agawam’s recently renovated layout, Silva had no problems dealing with anything.
``I like to grind. I love it,’’ he said.
The North Carolina graduate and former pro was fully aware of where he stood. He was playing one group ahead of Valois in what came down to almost match-play conditions over the final nine.
``I was constantly asking the rules official how I stood. I wish me and Brad could have played together,’’ Silva said. ``I wanted to know where we stood.’’
Silva and Valois were within one stroke of each other for most of the final round. They were tied at 3-under for the tournament when Silva was on 13 and Valois on 12. At about the same time, Silva rolled in a curling 15-footer for bird on 13 and Valois bogeyed 12 for a two-shot swing.
Another of the key swings came at the end of the second round. At one point late in that round, Valois got to 5-under for the tournament and five up on the field. However, on the downhill par-4 closing hole, Valois drove right into the edge of the first fairway. He had tree troubles on his approach and hit that one right, into bushes that guard that side of the course from the parking lot. His ball was literally in a rhododendron bush.
Because he also was near a cart path, it looked as if he might be entitled to a free drop and escape trouble. However, the rules dictate that he would have to drop away from the hole, which would have been him even deeper into the bush and into an unplayable lie.
Valois decided to kneel and hold his club backwards to hit the ball back into play. He did, but did not move it far. He got on the green in four and two-putted for a double bogey.
When he also bogeyed the first and third holes, he suddenly was one behind Silva. Silva, playing in the group ahead of Valois, birdied two of his first three holes in round three. Only one other player, Cameron Andrade was in the title chase at that point. Cameron Andrade had posted his second straight 69 in round two and birdied the third hole in round three to get to 1-under for the tournament, just one off the lead at that point.
As it was, Kyle Hoffman finished third at even-par 210 and Tyler Cooke fourth at 212, including a closing 68.
Silva’s ability to halt Valois’ reign broke with tournament history. The event has been dominated by repeat winners. Paul Quigley, who has won the event nine times in all, went back-to-back-to-back in 1988-90 and then again in ‘92-’93 and ’95-96. Jason Pannone did the double in 2006-07, which gave him three in four years, since he also won in 2004. Charlie Blanchard won in 2008-09 and then again in 2011 and, of course, Valois in 2014 and ’15.
Quigley won the Senior Division this year, posting scores of 70 (one below his age), 74 and 72. His 216 total was 13th best overall. Senior Division players play from the senior tees.
First Round Recap
By Paul Kenyon
EAST PROVIDENCE _ As a four-time State Amateur champion, Brad Valois knows good golf when he sees it. He loved what he took part in Monday in the opening round of the RIGA’s 33rd annual Stroke Play Championship at Agawam Hunt.
``That was the best golf I’ve ever seen in the RIGA,’’ Valois said of his day competing with Kyle Hoffman and Cameron Andrade. ``Everybody was hitting good shots. No one was missing anything. And the course is in the best shape I’ve ever seen it.’’
``It was fun,’’ Hoffman agreed, ``a fun day.’’
As so many organizations do, the RIGA seeds players based on past performance. The successful players in previous events tend to play together. Still, in a 114-player field it is extremely rare to see the players in the same threesome finish the day at the top of the scoreboard. But that’s what happened on Monday.
Valois, the two-time defending champion, and former Four-ball winner Hoffman tied for the lead with 3-under-par 66s over the new Agawam layout, one featuring several major renovations from the course’s first century of use.
Andrade, whose father’s name already is on the tournament’s list of champions _ his dad, Champions Tour star Billy Andrade, won the first Stroke Play event in 1984 when it was contested at Montaup _ was next with a 67.
Other contenders included the indomitable Paul Quigley, who recorded a 1-over 70. It was the fourth straight year the 71-year-old Hall of Famer shot his age or lower in this event. Quigley has won this event nine times. Former RIGA champions Kevin Silva and Ryan Pelletier also had 70.
The day also included a hole-in-one by Herman Decones with a nine-iron playing from the senior tees on the eighth hole, which was 138 yards.
Still, anyone who wanted to follow the leaders just had to stay with the threesome that began at 9 a.m. Valois, who is coming off an eighth-place finish in last week’s New England Amateur, set the tempo for the group. By the time the threesome was walking off the seventh green, he was 5-under.
He birdied 1, 3, 5, 6 and 7, and made only one putt over five feet. Three times, he stiffed his approach for almost tap-in birdies. On the short par-4 seventh, he almost drove the green, chipped across and over the green, and then chipped in for bird. He cooled off from there, making nine pars and two bogeys over the last 11.
Hoffman was the steadiest of all. He did not have a bogey until the 18th. By then he was 4-under thanks to birds at 6, 11, 13 and 17 so that even a bogey on the finishing hole kept him in a tie for the lead.
Andrade got it to 4-under thanks to six birdies through the first 15 holes, but he settled for a 67 because of bogeys on 16 and 17.
The good scoring was only part of the day’s discussion. The event was the first RIGA competition at Agawam since the course, established in 1897, underwent significant renovations in the past year. Among other work, the fifth hole was changed from a par-5 to a par-4, the sixth lengthened with a new tee to a par-5 from a long par-4, and the 15th changed from a dogleg par-5 to a 365-yard par-4, thus lowering the overall par to 69.
The reaction among the players was almost universally positive. Several mentioned that they were disappointed with the change to the sixth hole, which had been a strong 460-yard hole. However, virtually everyone praised the other changes, especially the dramatic change on the 15th. The old hole often required strong players to hit an iron off the tee, another iron to stay short of a pond and then a wedge home. The hole now plays with only a slight dogleg, allowing players to decide for themselves how aggressively to play the hole.
Tom Acciardo, who works at the course, reported that the renovations are not complete. The course hired Gil Hanse, the architect who designed the new course that will be used in the Olympics in Rio this summer. Among other work, Hanse has suggested that some trees be removed on the sixth hole and a bunker built to replace them.
``They’re going to take out five or six trees on the right side of six to give you more room to hit it,’’ said Ben Donaldson, a four-time club champion at Agawam who opened with a 72 on Monday.
``I liked the old 15th, but I think I was the only one,’’ Donaldson added. ``But I like the new one, too.’’
Under superintendent Drew Cummins, the course also has grown fescue in numerous areas, especially on the holes across the road (8 through 14), giving the layout a strong old-time feel.
Those who shot 77 or lower qualified for Tuesday’s 36-hole finale.