LOWELL — Some incredible golf was played in Massachusetts over the weekend.
And the guys from Brookline weren’t bad either.
He took the fourth playoff hole and a 20-foot birdie putt in near-total darkness that no one who was at Mt. Pleasant Golf Club on Saturday night will soon forget, but Nabnasset Lake’s Chris Herrick captured the Lowell Golf Tournament City in one step. one of the most exciting finishes in the event’s 98-year history.
“I couldn’t see any breaks,” the 38-year-old Westford resident said. “I hit him directly. I hit him hard to get him up the hill. Total glee, I punched and ran to hug the caddy, my father-in-law John Walshe.”
Herrick edged out Vesper CC’s John DeVito in one of the most exciting playoffs in the tournament’s nearly 100 years.
After DeVito bogeyed on the last regulation hole of the 54-hole tournament, he and Herrick started the playoff at No. 9, a challenging par 4. Both pared. They returned to the ninth tee. They both paired up again. They then both parried the par 4 No. 1 hole. At this point, after dark, tournament officials told the men they would return to No. 9.
If they were still tied, they would return to the field on Sunday morning.
Herrick bombed a drive and then hit a 112-yard wedge of sand 20 feet below the hole. DeVito’s approach was long and his chip left him with a difficult 12-foot downhill putt. Before DeVito had a chance to putt for par, Herrick scrambled his birdie putt as evening approached, sparking a wild celebration around the green.
A call was made to Lake Nabnasset. The message? Stay open. And the Westford club did just that, as more than 40 people toasted Herrick’s first towns title and celebrated Nabnasset’s second consecutive champion – quite a feat considering only five Nab golfers have ever captured the event. Brandon Gillis was unable to repeat as champion despite scores of 72-73 in the last two rounds that left him in eighth place.
Herrick, a sales manager for a liquor distributor, called his father in upstate New York and delivered a surprise on the eve of Father’s Day.
“I called him up and said, ‘Hey, I have a little gift for you.’ I was excited,” Herrick said.
Playing in his third Cities, the husband of professional golfer Alison Walshe rallied from being three shots down with two holes remaining to force the tiebreaker with DeVito.
Vesper’s Ryan Friel shot a 70, Saturday’s low round, and his finish of 144 over the last two rounds was the best in the field, but he couldn’t top an opening round 81 at his home course.
There were stories, and drama, everywhere.
Poised to become champion at the tender age of 17, Tyngsboro’s Trevor Drew stumbled on 81. Still, Drew, who started the day with a one-shot lead over DeVito, finished tied for sixth with Friel, an achievement unbelievable for someone wrapping up his junior year at Tyngsboro High.
Elsewhere, how about singing the praises of the Smith family?
Eight-time champion Phil Smith finished with a 75 to finish in 13th place, a more than respectable performance. But Smith was outdone by his two daughters in the field, Morgan, 18, and Molly, 17.
Morgan, a recent Westford Academy graduate headed to Phillips Exeter Academy, finished third in the field of 48 with rounds of 75-71-75. Molly, who will be a senior at WA in the fall, scored a 76 to tie for 10th place.
Herrick praised the play of Drew and the Smith sisters, marveling at how well the teenagers played under pressure.
“Don’t you think I thought of that? I better get my victories before I get too old,” she said with a laugh.
Tied for fourth with 223 totals were Vesper’s Andrew Conway and Mt. Pleasant’s Eric Roy.
After their playoff run, Herrick and DeVito, the 2019 champion, talked about how amazing their playoff matchup was. A magical day turned into a magical night.
“I’ve been hitting the ball pretty solid the last two years, but my putting has been my Achilles’ heel,” Herrick said. “But I thought I had a chance? I thought he had done it. I had some confidence in myself.”
Herrick left the penultimate regulation hole “pretty disappointed” because he thought he was going to be three shots off the lead after a par on the 17th hole. However, checking his phone, he learned that he was still in the tournament and the bogey of DeVito opened the door and forced a tiebreaker.
Nabnasset scared Vesper in the team competition. Vesper, despite playing without several key players due to a wedding, recovered to win (2,623), outscoring Nabnasset by 13 strokes. Long Meadow fell a shot behind Nabnasset, while Mt. Pleasant was fourth (2652).