Headline: Joe Harney Claims Early Lead at 105th Massachusetts Amateur Championship; Fires 2-under par 68 During Round 1 at Longmeadow Country Club
For Immediate Release: July 8, 2013
|Brian Higgins (left) and Andy Drohen enjoy a light moment during the first round of play at the 105th Massachusetts Amateur Championship being held at Longmeadow Country Club.|
Longmeadow, MA — It has always been said that the best golf courses challenge even the toughest of competitors.
That was certainly the case on Monday at the 105th Massachusetts Amateur Championship where a field of more than 140 competitors met a formidable challenge during the first round of play at Longmeadow Country Club.
Following the first of two days of stroke play, only three golfers - Joe Harney (Granite Links GC), Colin Brennan (Indian Ridge CC) and Bram Daly (Miacomet GC) - posted under-par rounds.
While those competitors were fortunate to escape the first round with scores that placed them comfortably atop the leaderboard, others were not so fortunate as the entire field averaged a score of 77.12 on the par-70 layout.
2013 Massachusetts Amateur Championship Quick Links
Designed by Donald Ross beginning in 1922, the golf course was restored by renowned architect Ron Prichard in 1999. Its current championship length of 6,735 may not seem long compared to some newer courses, but eight of the course's par 4 holes are nearly 450 yards long and it is playing to a par 70. In addition, one of the two par 5 holes is 601 yards from the back tees.
"You have to drive it well and for me I have to hit a lot of good mid irons," said Brennan, the 2012 Richard D. Haskell MGA Player of the Year, who posted a score of 1-under par 69. "It is probably longer than most Mass Amateur courses I have played, but it rewards good shots and the greens were really good."
One shot ahead of Brennan and leading the way with a first-round score of 2-under par 68 is Harney, who is a former Catholic Memorial High School standout who turned 21 years old this past spring. Harney finished with three birdies and just one bogey on the day.
"I have been playing a lot of golf this summer - almost 36 holes a day," said Harney. "I was really looking forward to this event and have really high expectations. I hope that I can fulfill them."
Harney got off to a great start on Monday on a front nine that he says suits his eye very well. He began the day with three straight pars before making birdie on the 134-yard, par 3 4th hole. He made the turn comfortably at 1-under par 34, and then came inches from carding an eagle on the 483-yard, par 5 10th hole. Following his drive off the tee, Harney had just 195 yards to the green and watched as his approach shot trickled towards the hole. He tapped in that putt for his second birdie of the day.
"The course is nice, and it's not too long for me," said Harney, who has played college golf at Johnson & Wales (FL) and St. Thomas Aquinas College. "I am a long player, and I felt that it is a nice advantage for me. I didn't have to hit too many drivers, and I had short irons into the holes."
While distance control was a non factor for him on this day - he hit 16 out of 18 greens - Harney relied on a hot putter down the stretch. He first drained a 25-foot uphill putt for birdie on the 140-yard, par 4 16th hole. After making bogey on the 17th hole, Harney responded with a remarkable save on the 393-yard, par 4 18th hole.
His drive off the tee found the right bunker and then he "chunked" his second shot to leave him with 50 yards to the green. He managed to get up-and-down by sinking a 20-foot, right-to-left par putt.
"The putter really helped me a lot today," said Harney. "I like this set up because I hit a left to right ball and this course helps with the cut. I thought it suited me well."
It also helped that Harney took a semester off from college this past winter and played and lived alongside two former amateurs who made Bay State headlines earlier this year.
Evan Harmeling and Chris Fitzpatrick finished first and second, respectively, at the 2013 Massachusetts Open Championship. Harney has been friends with both for many years. He played golf with Fitzpatrick first at Catholic Memorial High School and then at St. Thomas Aquinas College.
In fact, it was Harney who carried Fitzpatrick's bag at Woodland Golf Club where he watched Harmeling defeat Fitzpatrick in a three-hole aggregate playoff.
"That was a good experience," said Harney, who plans to turn pro following the 2013 U.S. Amateur Championship. "It really has helped with my competitive game and to get my game fine tuned. They have taught me to stay on track. They were always focused in. I sometimes get a little unfocused and lose it and have a bad stretch of holes. They showed me that you need to stay fine tuned for all 18 holes."
With one solid round under his belt, Harney is hoping to remain focused for another 18 holes on Tuesday and then convince Fitzpatrick to travel to Longmeadow on Wednesday to return the favor during match play.
"I sure hope so," said Harney when asked if he could persuade his friend to carry his bag if he advances to match play for the first time in his career. "He went to Martha's Vineyard, so I hope that he will come back for me."
Nipping at Harney's heels are Daly and Brennan with scores of 1-under par 69. For Brennan, this is a chance for him to return to match play where he enjoyed success just one year ago.
In 2012, Brennan advanced to the quarterfinals at the 2012 Massachusetts Amateur Championship. He went on to post a T5 finish in the 2012 New England Amateur Championship and then win both the 2012 North Shore Amateur Golf Championship and the 2013 Tarlow Invitational. He set tournament records in both of the latter events.
On this day, Brennan battled through a tough first nine holes (he started on the 10th hole) to make the turn at 1-over par 36. He made the most of the course's front nine by carding three birdies - on the 3rd, 4th and 9th holes - and just one bogey to finish with a score of 1-under par 69.
"I started on 10 and I didn't hit it well for the first 9 holes," said Brennan, who recently graduated from Johnson & Wales (FL). "I was able to limit the damage when I wasn't playing well and then took advantage of a stretch on the front nine where you can make birdies. The stretch from 3 through 7 is a fairly gettable stretch compared to the other holes."
Just one stroke back of Brennan with scores of even par 70 are six competitors including two former MGA Champions in Andy Drohen (The Ranch GC) and defending Massachusetts Amateur Champion Mike Calef (Brockton CC).
"I hit it in the left rough on the first hole and then just figured that I would play smart," said Drohen, who most recently won the 2012 Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Championship. "I chipped out and took my par and just tried to stay away from the short-sided pins and hit to the middle of the green."
Much like the competitors who finished ahead of him, Drohen was able to stay out of trouble and comfortably set himself up for Tuesday's second round. Drohen made the turn at even par 35 (he made two birdies and two bogies) and then carded one birdie (4th hole) and one bogey (6th hole)
"It was a stress free round with nothing crazy going on," said Drohen, who qualified for and will compete at next week's 2013 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship. "I went to The Ranch [Golf Club] this morning and found my tempo and hit it really good over there.... [on the first day] you are just trying to have something stress free and not make stupid big numbers and keep yourself in it."
Following the second round of play on Tuesday, the field will be reduced to the low 32 scorers and only those players will continue on to match play, which begins on Wednesday.
Seven competitors in this year's Massachusetts Amateur Championship field felt right at home on the first tee. After all, they all call Longmeadow Country Club their home course.
Included in that list of "homers" are: CJ Denmark, Joe Henley, Flynt Lincoln, Billy McClure III, AJ Oleksak, Michael Ryan and Mike Trombley.
Longmeadow Country Club was the most represented MGA Member Club at this year's Massachusetts Amateur Championship. Second in that category was Thorny Lea Golf Club with five golfers in this year's field.
Following today's first round, however, Ryan was the one who earned bragging rights as he posted an LCC low score of 1-over par 71. He carded three bogies and two birdies (on the 6th and 16th holes).
Another LCC member who is still very much in the mix is Lincoln. Not only is the now 55-year-old Lincoln a former champion of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship (he won the title in 1993 at Essex County Club), he also advanced to the final match when it was last held at Longmeadow Country Club in 1992.
"I don't think about it as much as you would think," said Lincoln when asked if memories of that experience were going through his head on Monday. "It is totally different now, and I was thinking more about when I won it the next year at Essex than being runner up here. I don't have any expectations [this week]. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and hope you don't shoot your toes off."
When not playing golf on his home course, Lincoln is trying to help his fellow players perfect their games. He is a master fitter for Edel Golf, which produces custom fit putters, wedges, & irons.
Being on the pulse of the latest technology coupled with his unmatched experience here at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and his knowledge of the host site will certainly give him an edge heading into the second round of stroke play.
"It was a great feeling," said Lincoln of winning this title. "It is hard because it's a lot of golf so it is mentally almost more grueling than physically. A lot of these kids are in really good shape, so 36 holes is not a big deal, but the ebb and flow of match play is different than in stroke play. There aren't a lot of match play events for the younger guys, so there is an advantage for the older guard who has that experience. That is what we play every weekend."
Following a first-round score of 5-over par 75, Lincoln once again finds himself in the mix and maybe in a position to make history once again on his beloved home course.
"Every time I play it, I say 'wow this is great'," said Lincoln. "You never get tired of it."
Michael Souliotis (Haverhill CC) - After not advancing through the stroke-play portion of the 2012 Massachusetts Amateur Championship, Souliotis stayed on at Tedesco Country Club and served as caddie for his father. Michael and his father Mark Souliotis (Haverhill CC) proved to be a formidable duo as Mark advanced to the final match where he was defeated by eventual champion Mike Calef.
Michael was looking to make a mark himself this year after finishing up another solid season at RPI. He competed in all 12 matches for the Engineers and was a Liberty League All-Academic selection. He qualified - for the second straight year - for the Massachusetts Amateur Championship after posting a 3-over par 75 at the qualifying round held at Spring Valley Country Club.
His dreams of following in his father's footsteps and advancing to match play will not be realized this year after he suffered a foot injury while vacationing on Cape Cod this past weekend. Michael is hopeful that he will be healthy enough to compete - alongside Mark - at the 2013 Massachusetts Father & Son Championship in August.
Kevin Carey (Dennis Pines GC) - Another noticeable "WD" on the scoreboard on Monday was Carey, who was forced to withdraw on Sunday afternoon. Carey suffered a sprained left wrist while doing yard work.
Carey will be missed this week as he is a two-time Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Champion and the reigning George M. Cohen MGA Senior Player of the Year.
Other Notables Who Didn't Make the Trip
In addition to those having to withdraw prior to the start of competition, there were also some recognizable names that never made it to the tee sheet.
Ben Spitz (George Wright GC) - the low amateur at the 2013 Massachusetts Open Championship - did not register for the Massachusetts Amateur Championship this year because his wife is pregnant with twins and set to deliver in July. Spitz is scheduled to compete in a U.S. Amateur Championship qualifier at Metacomet Country Club (RI) on July 22. He is also considering a run at the Massachusetts Mid-Amateur Championship title later this summer.
Chris Congdon (Highland CC) has finished as the low amateur at two of the last three Massachusetts Open Championships, but he did not register for the Massachusetts Amateur Championship. It is most likely due to his commitments as owner of the Stix Golf & Baseball Fun Center.
Another former Massachusetts Open Championship low amateur - Antonio Grillo (Farm Neck GC) - is also not in this year's field due to work commitments. Grillo graduated from Harvard University in May 2012 and has reduced his competitive playing schedule in order to focus on his career.
It was time for the player to help the coach.
Doug Hutcheson (Westover GC) called in a favor with one of his players on the varsity golf team at Wilbraham & Monson Academy. After advancing at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship qualifier held at Cranberry Valley Golf Course on June 5, Hutcheson enlisted the caddy services of Peter Bowie for the Championship Proper. Bowie was an 8th-grade letter-winner for Hutcheson's golf team at Wilbraham & Monson Academy. Click here to view a great photo of Hutcheson and Bowie on Longmeadow Country Club's 10th green.
Hutcheson has a history of producing quality golfers who perform well both on and off the course. This past January, Matthew Naumec demonstrated his commitment to giving back to the game through the Leadership Links Program offered by the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA). Through his efforts, Naumec raised nearly $1,700 for The First Tee of Massachusetts. He went on to cap off his sophomore season at Wilbraham and Monson Academy by winning the New England Prep School Golf Championship.
Click here to read more about this outstanding The First Tee of Massachusetts standout.
Monday, July 8, 2013
First Round, 18 Holes Stroke Play
— Morning Tee Times Begin at 7:30 a.m.
— Afternoon Tee Times Begin at 12:00 p.m.
Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Second Round, 18 Holes Stroke Play
— Morning Tee Times Begin at 7:30 a.m.
— Afternoon Tee Times Begin at 12:00 p.m.
(The low 32 scorers continue on to Match Play Competition. In the event of a tie, a sudden-death playoff will be used to determine the final Match Play competitors.)
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
First Day of Match Play
— Round of 32 Matches Begin at 8:00 a.m.
(Remaining 16 move on to afternoon match)
— Round of 16 Matches (Afternoon)
(Remaining 8 move on to Thursday's matches)
Thursday, July 11, 2013
Second Day of Match Play
— Quarterfinal Matches Begin at 8:00 a.m.
(Remaining 4 move on to Semifinals)
— Semifinal Matches (Afternoon)
(Remaining 2 move on to Finals)
Friday, July 12, 2013
Third Day of Match Play
— Morning 18 Holes begin at 8:00 a.m.
— Afternoon 18 Holes begin 45 minutes following the conclusion of the morning round.
(In the event of a tied match, (a) the winner shall be decided immediately by a hole-by-hole playoff, and (b) the stipulated round is deemed to extend to as many holes as are required for a match to be won.)