LOWELL -- Shawn Scott joined an elite group of local golfers when he won the Lowell City Tournament last June.
The thrill of victory that comes with winning the Cities is always accompanied by the pressure to repeat. Although he will be entering the tournament with a bull's-eye firmly attached to his back, Scott is looking forward to the challenge of trying to win back-to-back crowns.
The 29-year-old Long Meadow member will begin defense of his title when the 89th Lowell City Tournament gets under way at Mt. Pleasant GC on Friday at noon.
The second round is scheduled to be held at Long Meadow GC on Saturday, and the third and final round is set for Vesper CC on Wednesday, June 25.
The Cities draws players from four clubs -- Vesper, Mt.
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"It meant everything to me to win last year," said Scott, a former Tewksbury High standout golfer/hockey player. "This is the one event if I had never won it, I would have thought about it forever. I'm looking forward to (trying to defend the title).
"I used to put so much pressure on myself to do well at this tournament. This might be the one year I say to myself, 'No matter that happens, I'm going to enjoy it for the three days.' At same time, when I tee it up Friday I'm the defending champion. Between now and Friday I'll get myself in the right frame of mind and I'll be ready to go about my business.
Scott ended Phil Smith's amazing record-setting run of seven straight City Tournament championships last year.
On the final day of last year's tournament, Scott and Smith dueled for the crown, with Scott emerging victorious by the slimmest of margins. Scott checked in at 216, while Smith (winner of 8 Cities overall) carded a three-round score of 217. Doug Parigian, winner of a record 10 City Tournaments, finished third last year.
"To play the final round with Phil and win meant so much to me," said Scott, who helps run Maplewood Landscaping in Tewksbury. "I'll always have the memory of going down the stretch and trying to knock him off. Phil is a great guy. He's a great guy to play with.
"And then to have Doug finish third. I grew up right down the street from here (Long Meadow) and watched (Parigian) play in the prime of his run. To win this, with those two finishing second and third, is something I'll remember the rest of my life. I'll look at that final result and see my name followed by two greats of this tournament, Phil Smith and Doug Parigian."
One guy who knows all about defending a City title is Smith. One stroke is all that separated him from potentially winning eight straight championships.
"Last year, I played my heart out to try and keep the streak, but it didn't work out that way," said Smith, 41, a member of Vesper's team. "I definitely would like a couple shots back from last year's tournament. But I'm sure everybody else would, too. It's 54 holes. You play them. You add them up and whoever shoots the lowest score wins. You are what you shoot.
"It was a great run. I won seven in a row. I was as good as it got for this tournament over that stretch. I think the numbers prove that. I think I averaged 213 or 214. I hope to bounce back this year, but that's still to be determined. Back when I was winning in '06, '07 and '08, I didn't have to be at my best to win. That's how strong I was. I'm certainly not that guy anymore."
But you had better believe every golfer in this year's field still views Smith as one of the favorites heading into the tourney.
Smith's eight overall City Tournament championships is third all-time behind Chick Grasse (9 titles) and Parigian (10).
"Lots of people have asked me, 'What's it like not going in with the streak?' " said Smith. "I think there's less pressure on me this year. Then again, the pressure may have just been in my own mind because I had the streak to deal with.
"The key for me in this tournament is playing steady. The tournament sets up well for me because I know all three courses very well. If I can stay consistent for three rounds and maybe get a few bounces or breaks, hopefully I can contend."
Dating back to 1994, when Smith won his first title, the tournament has featured many contenders, but only seven golfers have been able to win titles over this span.
Smith has won eight ('94, '06, '07, '08, '09, '10, '11, 12). Parigian has won six ('95, '96, '97, '98, '99, '03). Marc Chandonnet won two ('00, 01) and Dave Poehler ('02), Dan Brown ('04), Ken Gys ('05) and Scott ('13) have captured one each.
"This is the most important tournament to me and a lot of the guys who play in it," said Scott. "That's why winning it was huge. Being a City Tournament champion is like being part of an exclusive club and I'm certainly happy to be in it."
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