By Dalton Balthaser
WARWICK, R.I. - Warwick Country Club’s Allen Sayles and Chris Hurd have known each other for the better part of 50 years.
They grew up in the same neighborhood and Sayles even dated Chris' sister Laurie, which Sayles joked was the real reason they spent a lot of time together during their youth.
The duo relied on their long-lasting friendship and steady play to grab a share of the lead on day one of the 26th Senior Four-Ball Championship (Gross) alongside Paul Quigley (Green Valley Country Club) and Michael Soucy (Valley Country Club) with Tuesday rounds of 2-under-par 69 at Potowomut Golf Club (par 71, 6,020 yards).
“We complement each other quite well,” said Sayles, 63, of Warwick, R.I. “Both of us are quite steady and when one of us is out of the hole, the other tightens it up and keeps us in it. We play a lot of golf together at different places throughout the course of a year. We also take a couple of trips as well.”
The wind once again brought out its teeth. Steady winds of over 20 miles per hour wreaked havoc on the field with only a total of three groups under par including the Quigley/Soucy and Sayles/Hurd pairings. The other duo being Metacomet Golf Club’s Bruce Heterick and Dean Parziale who carded 1 under 70.
“Our goals were to not over swing with these blustery conditions and stay smooth and steady,” said Sayles. “Chris and I hit the ball pretty low. Playing in the wind allows us to not lose much distance and roll.”
“We wanted to shoot under par,” said Hurd. “I didn’t have a specific number in mind for us but I wanted to break par because that is always fun. But to start the day, even par would have been great because of the conditions.”
After making the turn in even-par 35, the Warwick tandem bolted to 2 under on the day after an all-important eagle by Hurd on No. 10 (par 5, 477 yards). After Sayles lost his ball in the woods, Hurd had to step up and hit a solid drive. Which he did.
“Allen always tees off first. I don’t want to put pressure on him because I hit a bad drive,” said Hurd. “No. 10 was only the second fairway I hit of the round. I knew I had to hit my best drive of the day and I did.”
He then hit a 4-iron from 200 yards to 40 feet and converted the cross-country putt to get to 2-under-par. A birdie by Sayles on No. 15 (par 5, 507 yards) helped counteract a bogey on No. 16 (par 3, 139 yards).
“This isn’t life or death,” said Hurd, 60, of Warwick, R.I. “We have a lot of fun but we both want to do the best we can. We are competitive enough that we don’t want to let each other down. That’s the pressure, not letting your teammate down.”
Quigley and Soucy started slowly, but then stepped on the gas. After bogeying No. 1 (par 4, 402 yards), Soucy birdied No. 2 (par 4, 342 yards) after stuffing a 9-iron to six feet. Quigley answered with a near ace of his own on No. 3 (par 3, 143 yards). That 7-iron landed short of the flag and rolled out to four feet.
“The key point of the round was on No. 2,” said Quigley, 74, of Warren, R.I. “After we both bogeyed No. 1, Mike birdied No. 2 and to be able to get that shot back immediately was huge for us.”
The two have been friends since 1999 and were also members at Metacomet Golf Club at one point and time. Where they played golf together frequently.
The duo took home the Senior Four-Ball (Gross) title in 2010. Quigley also won the event in back-to-back years with Nick Cioe in 2003-04.
“We wanted to try and keep the ball below the hole and be patient,” said Quigley. “If you are above the hole and downwind these greens are very quick and it is hard to get the pace right.
“We had the two of us in almost every hole. That is the key to this format. You can’t play alone. This keeps the heat off of your partner when both of you are in play.”
They’ll rely on that experience when Wednesday comes. But as for the preparation before the final round, Soucy said he’d probably go to Valley and practice, while Quigley will either play baseball with his grandkids or go to one of their games.
“We both have the drive to want to win these events,” said Soucy, 65, of Coventry, R.I. “At the same time, we go out and enjoy ourselves and have a good time. He tells me I am an idiot when I hit a shot and vice versa. It’s all about enjoying our time on the course.”