Others might not have seen Michael Thorbjornsen’s epic performance coming in Saturday’s championship match of the 113th Massachusetts Amateur, but he had an inkling it was possible.
“I tied the course record [of 8-under 64] on the second day [of stroke play] and it felt like I left a couple of shots out there,” said the 19-year-old resident of nearby Wellesley, who captured the 2018 U.S. Junior Amateur at renowned Baltusrol Golf Club. “Today, I probably hit the ball about the same. I made a couple more putts and made a lot of birdies, which is very important in match play, especially playing against a guy like Matt.”
Matt is Matt Parziale, the 2017 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion from Brockton, Mass., and Thorbjornsen certainly made a slew of birdies – 12 in the morning round alone over Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton. That total included two runs of five straight and gave the rising sophomore at Stanford University a round of 62 and a 6-up lead after 18 holes – this despite Parziale shooting a 5-under 67 (with the usual match-play concessions). Then again, two USGA champions meeting in a state amateur final is a very rare thing – there is some doubt whether it had ever happened before Saturday.
Thorbjornsen added six more birdies in the afternoon, and he vanquished Parziale on the 30th hole, the par-3 12th, completing an 8-and-6 victory in his first Mass. Amateur start. The victory adds to the lofty résumé of the No. 85 player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking®/WAGR®, who spent his first three years of high school at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., before graduating from Wellesley High in 2020.
Thorbjornsen made the cut at age 17 in the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, becoming the second-youngest player (after Beau Hossler in 2012 at The Olympic Club) to make the weekend in a U.S. Open since World War II. He got into that championship with his victory at Baltusrol in 2018, an exemption that had been introduced one year earlier. The winner of this week’s 73rd U.S. Junior Amateur – which begins on Monday at The Country Club of North Carolina in the Village of Pinehurst – will earn a spot in the 122nd U.S. Open next June at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., just 6 miles from Brae Burn.
Brae Burn, a Donald Ross design, has a strong USGA pedigree, having hosted the 1919 U.S. Open, won by Walter Hagen; the 1928 U.S. Amateur, won by Bob Jones; as well as two Curtis Cup Matches and three U.S. Women’s Amateurs, most recently in 1997 (Silvia Cavalleri).
“At least I played well and he just played incredibly, so congratulations to him,” said Parziale. “He’s a great kid; he’s got all the talent in the world. I’m rooting for him, and it’s his to take.”
For Thorbjornsen, it’s on to the Western Amateur starting July 26, at Glen View Club in Golf, Ill., before he makes his third start in the U.S. Amateur, beginning on Monday, Aug. 9 at Oakmont (Pa.) Country Club. Parziale will hope to join Thorbjornsen at Oakmont when he competes in a 36-hole qualifier for the U.S. Amateur on Monday. The Brockton native, who was a full-time firefighter in his hometown when he won the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2017, went on to share low-amateur honors in the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. A veteran of 19 USGA championships, the reinstated amateur won’t have to worry about qualifying for the U.S. Mid-Amateur in September at Sankaty Head Golf Club on Nantucket, as he earned a 10-year exemption with his victory, good through 2027.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.