After making nine birdies over 36 holes at last week’s NEPGA Pro-Pro Stroke Play championship at The Haven in Boylston, Salem Country Club’s Kirk Hanefeld had an inkling he might play well this week at the NEPGA Seniors Championship.
And did he ever. SCC’s Director of Instruction had NEPGA officials scurrying for the record book after the 64-year-old scored 65-67-132, 12 under par, for a seven-stroke victory in the tourney for NEPGA members 50 years and older at Blackstone National in Sutton.
“I expect to always play well if I’m feeling well,” Hanefeld said. “And I felt well, which meant it would be all about my putting. The putting was sharp, so I scored low.”
Hanefeld, in fact, needed a mere 54 putts in two days, an average of 27 per round, in routing the field. One-putting the first three greens (15 feet, 6. Feet, 10 feet) for birdies turned the final round into a rout and earned Hanefeld the $1050 first prize and his third NEPGA Seniors title (2016, 2018).
“I got off to such a fast start that it made the rest of the day easy,” Hanefeld said. “I tried to play protect-the-lead golf after that; one swing at a time, no dumb mistakes. Twelve under par for two rounds is about as I can do.”
It is believed to have been Hanefeld’s second largest winning margin in an NEPGA major tournament. The Rochester, N.H. native shot 64 the final round for a nine-under 201 total and a nine-stroke victory over Kernwood’s Frank Dully, Hickson and Mike San Filippo at the 2001 NEPGA Championship at Thorny Lea, the first of three NEPGA titles he won in a four-year span before his successful seven-year run on the Champions Tour.
“I’m just glad I’m still capable of shooting a low number once in a while in competition,” he said. “It’s especially satisfying when I’m playing on average only once a week. I’ll probably play only two, three more times before the Section championship.”
That’s August 17-19 at Tedesco and Myopia. Based on his showing at Blackstone, and the fact the famed Myopia and highly rated Tedesco layouts will be playing around 6500 yards, short by today’s standards, Hanefeld, even as one of the oldest players in the field, must be considered a favorite with Vesper’s Rich Berberian and Falmouth’s Shawn Warren.
“Three weeks off,” Hanefeld, winner of five state opens, said. “But sure looking forward to it.”
The heat was not a factor for him, Hanefeld pointed out. He has played in big-time heat everywhere, especially in Florida, which is heat unique in its own right. “It helped that we had carts, plenty of water, and most of us were used to the heat, not that we liked it, but we knew how to adjust to it these two days.”
Peabody native Scott Johnson, head pro at Oakley, finished solidly and tied for fourth at 143 (one under). Dully shot 147 and tied for tenth, followed by North Shore-connected players Michael Powers and Bass Rocks’s Todd Scarafoni at 148, Hatherly’s Chip Johnson at 151, Nabnasset’s Dan Gillis at 156 and Far Corner’s John O’Connor at 163.