Bob Bruso has made it into the top 10 five times at the New England PGA Championship, but has increased the incentive to play well at the tournament this week.
The 101st NEPGA Championship will be played Monday and Tuesday at Worcester Country Club and Marlborough Country Club before the top 60 and ties advance to the finals on Wednesday at Worcester CC.
Bruso, 32, of Grafton has all sorts of connections with Worcester CC. He got to know his wife Stephaniewhen he taught her a lesson there while serving as an Assistant Pro at Worcester CC from 2014-17. They got married in the club and he, his wife and their parents, John and Paula Burns, are members there. He is currently the Instructor at Blackstone National GC in Sutton, but he plays Worcester with his wife about once a week. He shot his best lap at Worcester CC, a 5 under 65, when he was assistant there.
“It would be really cool to play well there and have a chance to win,” he said. “It will be fun.”
Many Worcester CC members will have their eyes fixed on Bruso, but he should still be more relaxed than last year when he shared fourth place in the NEPGA championship at the Myopia Hunt Club in South Hamilton. Stephanie was due to have their first child three days after the finals, and he planned to leave the tournament if the baby came early.
Stephanie urged him to play and walked by his side for the final 18 holes.
“Three days before my due date,” said Stephanie, “it was a welcome break to go outside and focus on something other than the baby’s arrival.”
Her presence helped him shoot a quadruple bogey 9 on the eighth par 5 hole.
“I was really excited for maybe 30 seconds,” he recalls, “and then I realized that I was going to be a father soon and my wife was here, and life is good and there are much more important things than golf. In a normal tournament I would have steamed a few holes. “
Bruso made his next hole with a birdie and shot a 2-over 74 to qualify for fourth place and qualify for the PGA Professional Championship.
“It began such an exciting, special time for us to see our son the next day,” said Stephanie.
Labor began at 5 a.m. the next morning, and Stephanie gave birth to her son Harrison at 5 a.m. that afternoon. He was one year old on August 20th.
Stephanie is pregnant again, but she is not expected until November 22nd. So she plans to see her husband at Worcester CC this week.
History could be on Bruso’s side, because the last time Worcester CC hosted the NEPGA Championship in 2009, the winner was a professional from a club in Sutton like him. Paul Parajeckas, Head Pro at Pleasant Valley CC, won in 2009 at the age of 59. He’ll be in the field this week. Parajecka’s best friend, Dana Quigley, won the last time Worcester CC hosted the event in 1996.
Bruso made the cut for the second time at the PGA Professional Championship in Port St. Lucie, Florida in April. He hasn’t played in that many tournaments since becoming a dad, but he likes his chances at Worcester CC. His frequent caddy and good friend Jeff Bastien should help. A winner of multiple club championships at Blackstone National, Bastien joined Worcester CC this year and has been taking notes for Bruso.
Bruso also likes Marlborough CC where he recently shot a 5-under 66 during a training round.
Bruso was the Central Mass medalist. Division 2 in his senior year at Auburn High and an All-American third team as a senior at Worcester State.
A total of 182 golfers are expected to tee off, including the two-time defending champion Shawn Warren from Falmouth CC in Falmouth, Maine and a three-time champion Rich Berberians Vespers CC in Tyngsborough.
The US $ 88,000 NEPGA Championship prize pool is the largest of any NEPGA event or any pro golf event in Massachusetts this year. The winner will take home approximately $ 12,000.
NEPGA managing director Mike Higgins is a member of Worcester CC and has done its best in recent years to bring the tournament to its home ground.
“There is certainly a sense of pride to be a member,” said the 46-year-old Shrewsbury resident, “and being able to show it off to PGA pros from across the section and share the story is very special.”
Higgins said several pros told him they rank Worcester CC as one of their favorite spots.
Worcester CC, a 1914 design by Donald Ross, hosted the US Open in 1925, the first Ryder Cup in 1927, and the US Women’s Open in 1960. Pinehurst and Hazeltine are the only other courses to have hosted all three of these prestigious events.
NEPGA President Allan Belden worked at Worcester CC for 25 years, including 21 years as Head Pro before retiring late last year. Belden will return to Worcester CC next week to attend the event and as President he will present the trophy to the champion. That year Belden replaced the former International Head Pro Kirk Hanefeld as a teacher at Salem CC, but still lives in Holden.
Putting will be important in Worcester CC’s five par 3s. Higgins said he’s been a member for eight years and still can’t understand the greens, but he managed to shoot a 3-under 67 there last year.
“It was a bad 67 because I had seven birdies,” he said.
Higgins is also delighted that Marlborough CC is hosting the NEPGA Championship for the first time. The club also has a rich history, having hosted the Marlboro Classic from 1981-83 in the early days of the PGA Senior Tour, now known as the PGA Tour Champions.
Wayne Stiles designed the current Back Nine and in 1921 Geoffrey Cornish designed the Front Nine in 1968.
Greg Farland, Head Pro at Marlborough CC, knows the course better than anyone in the field.
“He’s one of our top players in the section,” said Higgins. “So you have to put him on the radar as a potential candidate.”
This year there is a NEPGA Women’s Championship
NEPGA professionals have competed in the NEPGA championship many times, but for the first time they will be hosting their own simultaneous tournament.
The first NEPGA Women’s Championship will be played during the first two rounds of the NEPGA Championship in Worcester CC and Marlborough CC.
On the occasion of Women’s Golf Day, NEPGA organized a Women’s Golf Week for the first time in June this year and called on pros to hold free courses for girls and women and to draw attention to women’s items in the pro shop.
“We’re trying to take the game all the way up for women in the junior division and we’re trying to get our pros to be more involved,” said Higgins.
Only four women signed up to play, but that’s at least a start. Of the 1,100 professionals at NEPGA, only 44 are women.
The women also have the opportunity to compete for the NEPGA Overall Championship.
Rick Durocher and Shawn Durocher, both from Cyprian Keyes GC in Boylston, will be the only married couple participating in the tournament. Rick bound Rick Karbowski the Auburn Driving Range for the 31st last year.
Live video is broadcast on nepga.com from each golfer on the first tee of each day in Worcester CC and Marlborough CC. The top 12 will receive the right to compete in the PGA Professional Championship, the national championship for club professionals, in April at the Omni Barton Creek Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas. The 20 best finishers of this event qualify for the PGA Championship.
—Contact Bill Doyle at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @ BillDoyle15.