John A. McNeill, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI, survived two qualifying rounds and two rounds of match play to reach quarterfinals of the Massachusetts Amateur Tournament, the premier championship for the state's amateur golfers, on July 12. He was the only player from Central Massachusetts among this elite group of eight golfers.
CONCORD, Mass. – The Massachusetts Amateur Championship is a grueling test for the state's best amateur golfers. This year, more than 140 players started out the competition at the Concord Country Club. After two days of qualifying matches in the July heat and another day featuring two rounds of head-to-head match play, only eight golfers remained to face the final four rounds of match play that would determine the tournament champion.
Among that stellar eight was John A. McNeill, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI. McNeill, the only golfer from Central Massachusetts in the final eight, says he finds time for golf only during the summer when he isn't teaching. Despite that handicap, he shot two 18-hole rounds of 74 to reach the match play phase of the competition. The made him the 32nd and final person to make the cut.
In his first match, he faced No. 1 seed Adam Rainaud, a senior at the University of Louisville who plans to make a career of golf. McNeill lost the first three holes, but rallied to bring the match "all square." He finally clinched the game with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole. That afternoon, with the field down to 18 golfers, he engineered another come-from-behind victory over Tom Bagley from the Concord Country Club.
On the morning of July 12, McNeill again took to the course to challenge the leader, Frank Vana Jr. of the Marlborough Country Club, the 2004 and 2005 champion. In a closely-fought match, McNeill started out with an early lead, but Vana tied it up on the 4th. McNeill regained the lead briefly, and the match remained a nail-biter through the final holes, with Vana winning by just one hole and a final score of 68. McNeill was just two strokes behind with a par 70.
By the way, McNeill also excels off the golf course. In fact, at WPI's 2007 Commencement, he was one of two WPI professors to receive the inaugural WPI Chairman's Faculty Exemplary Faculty Prize.