Kevin Daly, facing his sternest test in terms of both golf and emotions, continued his amazing club championship run Sunday by staving off his son, Ryan, 1 up, in their long-anticipated title match at Salem Country Club.
Daly, 51, thus became the first player to win the men’s club championship five consecutive years, breaking the record set by Charlie McCarthy Jr.’s four straight (1958-1961).
Daly, owner of a Beverly insurance business, has now won 16 club championships – seven at Thomson (1998-99-2001-02-03-05-07) and four during the four years he was a member there (2008-09-10-12). No golfer in North Shore history has amassed such a record covering three prominent local clubs.
They all have been sweet experiences, but nothing compares with what he experienced Sunday against Ryan, a junior on the Bentley University team.
“It was an exciting day for both of us,” Kevin said after his 25-foot two-putt for par on the home hole earned the Salem State golf coach the victory. Ryan’s second shot from the middle of the fairway came up short and his pitch shot left him a 20-footer for par which he missed.
That gives dad a 2-0 edge on son in Salem club championship battles. Kevin beat Ryan in the semis, 5 and 4, two years ago.
“I almost got him this time,” Ryan said. “Maybe next year. At least I kept it interesting all the way around.”
The Daly boys brought their “A” game all weekend. After shooting 76s in the 18-hole qualifying, good for T-4, for the 16 match play slots (Ryan Connelly was medalist with a level-par 72), they both played par golf in taking three matches, setting the stage for the All-Daly title match.
Ryan beat Neil Mack, 4 and 3, Chuck Mace, 3 and 2, and Connelly, 4 and 2. But dad had two narrow escapes – Kevin beat Damon Wirtanen, 2 and 1, after being 1-down after 14. He dumped Matt Nekoroski, 6 and 4, then needed 20 holes to stave off the long hitting Dave Sacco, where Daly blew a 4-up advantage after seven holes, Sacco won 18 to force overtime and Daly survived with a winning par on No. 20.
“We were excited to reach the final together against a strong field,” Kevin said. “I was probably happier for Ryan than for myself. We said little about it Saturday night or Sunday morning. Then on the first tee we told each other to play well and have fun. That was it.”
It was also nice having Kevin’s parents, both in their 80s, looking on with Kevin’s wife and daughter.
Ryan’s 20-foot birdie putt on 12 gave him a 1-up edge on pop, “but I knew I’d need at least a couple more birdies to hold him off and I couldn’t produce any,” Ryan pointed out.
Kevin noted if the club championship had been contested a few weeks ago, he might not have even qualified for match play. “I was playing the worst golf of my life around Fourth of July,” confessed the slimmed down Daly, who looks lean and mean after losing 40 pounds over the winter. “I don’t know why I suddenly improved over the last two weeks or so, but some of it came thanks to a lesson with (Director of Instruction) Kirk Hanefeld. I went pretty fast from shooting around 80 to shooting right around par.”
So a remarkable record in local club championships continues for Kevin Daly, but he is the first to admit, "Ryan will probably be the favorite next year, and I’m mighty proud of how well he played this time around.”
We mourn the passing of Richie Szabunka...The 51st Mike Frangos Memorial Commodore Open, benefiting the. Northeast ARC, is set for. Monday September 21 at. Myopia. Contact the ARC’s Danvers headquarters to play or sponsor. The event has raised close to $3 million for the charity.
Author and historian Gary Larrabee has covered the North Shore golf scene for more than 50 years.