Massachusetts Open tees off at GreatHorse

  • The 2018 Massachusetts Open is the first major tournament hosted by GreatHorse, formerly Hampden Country Club. It’s also the first time in 10 years the Mass Open is being held in western Mass. GAZETTE STAFF/MIKE MORAN

  • The 2018 Massachusetts Open is the first major tournament hosted by GreatHorse, formerly Hampden Country Club. It’s also the first time in 10 years the Mass Open is being held in western Mass. GAZETTE STAFF/MIKE MORAN

  • A look back at the 10th fairway at GreatHorse in Hampden. GAZETTE STAFF/MIKE MORAN

  • The 2018 Massachusetts Open is the first major tournament hosted by GreatHorse, formerly Hampden Country Club. It’s also the first time in 10 years the Mass Open is being held in western Mass. GAZETTE STAFF/MIKE MORAN

  • A look at the second hole at GreatHorse in Hampden. GAZETTE STAFF/MIKE MORAN

  • A view of the 18th green at GreatHorse in Hampden. GAZETTE STAFF/MIKE MORAN

  • Sand traps are shown in the distance on the 17th hole at GreatHorse in Hampden. There are 215 bunkers across the par-72, 7,522-yard course, designed by Brian Silva. GAZETTE STAFF/MIKE MORAN

@mikemoranDHG
Published: 6/10/2018 7:01:56 PM

HAMPDEN — The 109th Massachusetts Open is returning to western Mass.

The top tournament of Mass Golf, formerly Massachusetts Golf Association, gets underway Monday at GreatHorse.

The three-day, 54-hole, stroke-play tournament is the first major tournament hosted by GreatHorse, which opened in 2016 after four years of rebuilding at the former Hampden Country Club.

“To be able to host the state open is incredible,” said Guy Antonacci, president of GreatHorse. “I think we’re going to be the youngest facility to host a state open, so that means a lot.”

Antonacci’s family, which owns USA Hauling and Recycling in Connecticut and has been in the horse business for 60 years, had been looking to purchase a golf course for 10 or 15 years.

They bought Hampden Country Club at auction for $1.4 million in 2012. Four years and $55 million later, GreatHorse opened.

“A true champion is going to come out of here,” said Antonacci, who is competing in the Mass Open. “You need to be able to hit all the golf shots. You need to hit driver well. You need to hit irons well. The greens, although they are large and not goofy, you need to be able to putt it well and lag-putt it well. I think it will really test every facet of the game.”

Hampden Country Club’s 18-hole course was torn down and rebuilt. While some holes will look familiar, most will not. When Antonacci bought the course, it was 6,800 yards and had 44 bunkers. Now there are 215 sand traps. The par-72, 7,522-yard course was designed by Brian Silva.

“What’s unique about the golf course is you can play at 5,500 yards and you can play at 7,000 yards and it’s still going to test every part of the game between bunkers placements and green complexes,” Antonacci said. “It plays great from everywhere.”

Mass Golf followed the progress of the course. When the tournament tees off Monday morning, it will be the first time in western Mass. since 2008 at Stockbridge Golf Club.

“We were following Guy as the course was being redeveloped and reworked,” said Kevin Eldridge, Mass Golf director of rules and competitions. “He stayed in touch with us and let us know that when they got it off and running they wanted to host an event. We’re lucky enough to have some of the great golf courses across the state reach out to us and want to host our events.”

The tournament was also held recently at Longmeadow Country Club (2002), Country Club of Pittsfield (2000), Crumpin-Fox Club (1997) and Taconic Golf Club (1992).

“We like to rotate it around regionally — Cape Cod, North Shore, Berkshires, Springfield area,” Eldridge said. “It works in that rotation. Nothing is set in stone. It’s going to be great to be out in western Mass. for the event again.”

A pair of golfers will look to join a small list of Hampshire County natives to win the Mass. Open.

Chris Tallman, who played at South Hadley High School and is the head PGA pro at Cold Spring Country Club in Belchertown, and Sean Gaudette, who played at South Hadley and Hopkins Academy and is out of Wyckoff Country Club in Holyoke, are in the field.

They are looking to be the first Hampshire County native since Haydenville’s Bob Toski 60 years ago to win the Mass. Open.

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.



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