WORCESTER – Bob Bruso, Director of Golf Instruction at Blackstone National Golf Course in Sutton, is just two strokes away from the lead at the 101st New England PGA Championship as the tournament goes into the final round on Wednesday morning at Worcester Country Club.
Bruso, who shot a 2-under 69 on Monday at Marlborough CC, scored the same score on Tuesday’s par-70 Worcester layout and is 3-under for the tournament, two strokes behind Vesper CC leader Rich Berberian (5 under ) who posted a 67 on Tuesday after his 69 on Monday.
“My short game and putting was great today,” said 32-year-old Bruso, who birdies the 12th hole of Worcester CC from 35 feet as well as other 8 foot birdies on holes 2 and 5.
Bruso, a former CMass individual champion during Auburn High, was an assistant professional at Worcester CC from 2014 to 2017.
“I don’t play as much as I used to because I’m a new father,” said Bruso. “But I have my best buddy, Jeff Bastien, in my pocket and I feel very comfortable playing here in Worcester.”
For Bruso, whose best result in the event was fourth and made five promotions to the PGA Professional Championship, catching Berberian and taking first place of $ 11,500 will be a challenge.
The instructor at Vesper CC, Berberian, 34, has won the NEPGA section three times (2014, ’15 and ’18) and competed in the 2015 US Open and five PGA championships.
“This course is great,” said Berberian, who birdyed holes 2, 5, 9, and 18 and lasered a second 58 degree wedge shot from 70 yards to within 2 feet of the cup on the final green. “If you’re not careful, any hole can come out and bite you.”
Interestingly, Berberian has played at PGA events with Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Cantlay, both PGA stars who fought in a six-hole playoff in the BMW Championship last weekend.
Berberian, Bruso and Dan Venezio are fighting for first place in Portland CC, one stroke behind Bruso will be the last three on Wednesday to tee off at 9:40 am at Worcester CC
Wednesday’s Worcester Top 12 finishers will qualify for the PGA Professional Championship this April at the Omni Barton Creek Resort in Austin, Texas. Due to its top 20 placement in 2019, Berberian is excluded from this.
Rick Karbowski of the Auburn Driving Range, like Bruso, a former Auburn High star, is in ninth place after rounds of 70-74.
“I hit my drive out on the second hole and putted three on the next hole,” said 66-year-old Karbowski, whose daughter Liz Gray was his caddy, and watched her father collect on the second nine and make birds the last hole to finish eight strokes back and within striking distance.
“My game is fine, not great,” said Karbowski, who played golf at the University of Alabama and finished in the top five at a number of PGA Tour Champions events during his career.
“I used to be able to overwhelm courses,” he added, “but I can’t because I lost some distance from the tee. I also missed some very doable putts so my card could have been much better.”
Kirk Hanefeld, three-time NEPGA section champion and former head-pro at The International in Bolton, is 21st after his 2-over 72 on Tuesday with 5 over, after his 74 in Marlborough CC on Monday.
“I spat out birdie putts about four or five times,” said the now retired 65-year-old Hanefeld, who has collected more than a million dollars in his years on the Champions Tour.
71-year-old Paul Parajeckas of Pleasant Valley, who won the NEPGA Championship in 2009 when it was last played at Worcester CC at age 59, was disabled with a sore right hip and carded an 80, even with birdies on Hole 10 and 17.
“I have fond memories here. It’s always nice to play in Worcester, ”said Parajeckas, who started with a 76 in Marlborough.
Other area pros from Central Mass. Who made the cut were Patrick Beahn of Blackstone National (75-73), Patrick McDole of Wachusett CC (69-82), Hal Jacobs of The Haven CC (78-73) and Christian Comeau from The Port (74-77).
“This is our big championship,” said Mike Higgins, Executive Director of NEPGA and Worcester CC Member, “and I and the entire Section are very proud to be hosting it here on my home course, a great and historic Donald Ross design. “
—Contact Jay Gearan at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @tgsports.