Competition at 75th Invitational Four-Ball expected to be fierce

  • David Donoghue watches his tee shot during the championship match of the 2019 Invitational Four-Ball at the Country Club of Greenfield. Donoghue and partner Sam Wolanske are the defending champions. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Sam Wolanske watches his tee shot during the championship match of the 2019 Invitational Four-Ball at the Country Club of Greenfield. Wolanske and partner David Donoghue are the defending champions. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2020 4:06:20 PM

In a summer marked by uncertainty, one of the highlights on the Franklin County sporting calendar returns this week.

The 75th Invitational Four-Ball at the Country Club of Greenfield begins Thursday morning bright and early, and a loaded field will descend on the historic course for four days of competition that culminates on Sunday with championship matches.

Thursday’s action begins with tee times at 7 a.m. The first day features qualifying for the twosomes, with the low 16 scores earning a spot in the single-elimination Championship Flight bracket. Match play begins Friday and continues until Sunday’s finals.

Defending champions David Donoghue and Sam Wolanske begin their title defense at 8:39 a.m. on Thursday, though as is tradition, the duo will automatically be the Championship Flight’s No. 1 seed in match play regardless of how their qualifying round goes.

“I’m just looking forward to seeing everybody,” said Donoghue. “It’s been such a weird year with everything going on. It’ll be good to see the usual faces. It’s going to look a little different but hopefully it’ll still have that familiar feel.”

A year ago, Donoghue, a Greenfield native, and Wolanske, who lives in Texas, hadn’t even met until tournament week. They quickly found their groove as partners, marched through match play and defeated Chris Bourbeau and Garrett Cousineau in the finals, 1-Up, when Donoghue drained a birdie putt on the 18th hole. Wolanske joined his father, Max, as a 4-Ball champion. Max Wolanske and Mike Johnson, who won the title back in 2010, are paired with Donoghue and Sam Wolanske for Thursday’s qualifying round.

“We got better every round, learned how each other plays,” explained Donoghue of last year’s run. “I think that familiarity now will definitely help. We’ve stayed in touch and I know Sam’s excited to get going. We’ll have that target on our backs but I don’t know if there’s any more pressure or not having won it last year.”

According to CCG head professional Kevin Piecuch, this year’s tournament could be one of the most difficult in history to win, with so many good teams in the field. Piecuch said the cut line to get into the Championship Flight could be three or four under par, and there’s a very good chance some teams with winning pedigrees may not even crack the top 16.

Piecuch said the fact that Donoghue and Wolanske earn an automatic bid into match play is perhaps more valuable than ever before.

“Without question, it’s very difficult to repeat (as champions),” Piecuch said. “They’re a very strong team and they’ve got a really good chance to be there in the mix again. But the field is extremely strong. It’s going to take a huge effort from a team to make a run and win it. It’s really up for grabs so it should be an interesting weekend.”

The reliable duo of Nate Burdick and Dave Kennedy tee off at 8:57 a.m. on Thursday, and the pair are among the most decorated players in club history. Burdick and Kennedy have teamed to win this event twice (2013, 2015), and have combined for eight championships all time. Burdick and Kennedy are paired with KC Finley and Jarrod Goss on Thursday. Finley has won the Four-Ball twice, with both Cody and Dennis Booska, while Goss just competed in the Mass. Am last week.

Speaking of the Booskas, the father/son duo have decided to pair up as partners for this year’s event. Cody, a 2014 champion with Finley, and Dennis, a five-time champ (1992, 1997, 2001, 2004, 2012). The Booskas go off at 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, and they’re paired with another father/son duo, Scott and Ryan Cote.

“I don’t know if they’ve ever played together in this event before so it’s going to be pretty cool to see,” Piecuch said of the Booskas.

Past champions will be all over the course this week. Joe Wilson and Chris Ferriter, 2018 champions who lost to Bourbeau and Cousineau in last year’s semifinal round, tee off at 8:12 a.m. Bourbeau and Cousineau are set for a 9:15 a.m. tee time, and they’ll look to make another deep run after finishing just one hole short of a title in 2019.

Brodie Conant, who won back-to-back titles with Max Major in 2016 and 2017, has a new partner in Thomas McLaughlin, who plays out of Framingham Country Club. They’ll tee off at 9:57 a.m., along with the team of Jake Simpson and Norm Burns.

Andy Lesenski and partner Mark Waskiewicz are certainly a team to watch. The pair, which tee off at 8:48 a.m. along with the duo of Patrick McGuire and Aaron Wheeler, played stellar golf at the Country Club last month at a qualifier for the Mass. Amateur Public Links Championship. Lesenski won the event and Waskiewicz tied for second place, as both qualified for August’s championship in Lynn.

The pairings of Jake Willis/Reece McLeod and Connor Piecuch/Craig DiFranco tee off at 10:33 a.m., and both teams should be in the hunt for Championship Flight spots. Lee Albertson and Keven Slyne, quarterfinalists from a year ago, tee off at 10:06 a.m. Jamie Crocker and Jason Kelton (9:06 a.m.) also reached the quarterfinals in 2019.

“Everything is in place to make sure it runs as smootly as possible,” Piecuch said. “People are excited to get out and play.”

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