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Vana Relishes Role as a Rookie at Minikahda August 30, 2017 | Minneapolis, Minn. By Dave Shedloski

Assisted by friend and U.S. Senior Amateur veteran Jack Kearney (right), Frank Vana Jr. (center) is making the most of his championship debut. (USGA/Chris Keane)

Frank Vana Jr. was expecting to have a good time this week in the U.S. Senior Amateur, and so far he hasn’t been disappointed.

And he hasn’t disappointed himself, either.

“I had a frame of mind of coming here and playing well, yeah,” Vana said Tuesday night after winning twice and advancing to the quarterfinals of his first U.S. Senior Am. “Jack Kearney, who caddied for me [and competed in the championship], we’re best friends, and he has been telling me he has a blast every time he comes to one of these. So I’ve been biting at the bit to get into this. It’s been a lot of fun so far.”

Vana is playing in his 32nd USGA championship, but it’s his first since the 2010 U.S. Amateur at Chambers Bay. He turned 55 nine days ago. In other words, he couldn’t wait to get older so he could feel younger.

“Yeah, I’m the young guy. Can you imagine? It’s great,” said the Boxford, Mass., resident, who has 14 Massachusetts Golf Association titles and has been inducted into the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame.

Vana isn’t the only young guy doing well at The Minikahda Club; he is one of five newcomers to the championship among the eight men to advance to the quarterfinals. He is taking on John Pierce of San Antonio, Texas, in the last of the four Wednesday morning quarterfinal matches.

“You come, you put all this effort into it, you want to keep going,” Vana said. “You know 45 to 55 is a no-man’s land in amateur golf. The Mid-Amateur is difficult, playing against the 25-year-old guys. I’m starting over, but I also know a lot of these guys out here, and they are good players.

“It’s been an emotional roller coaster, but it feels good.”

Kearney, another veteran of dozens of Bay State and USGA events who lost in the first round of match play, has made it even better by assisting his friend. “It’s great having him on the bag. It gives you a lot of confidence to have someone like that with you,” Vana said. “He was enthusiastic and positive, and he knows what he’s talking about.

“I’ve been lucky to play in a lot of these,” he said. “I want to keep going. I hope I can. But it’s already been a great run.”

Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to USGA websites.


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