Country Club for a record 11th time on Monday, and following the completion of the first round of stroke play, Amesbury’s Chris Francoeur holds a one-stroke lead over Halifax’s Dillon Brown and Kingston’s Herbie Aikens, the 2018 runner-up. In total, nine of the 144 competitors in the field finished below par as the field will get cut down to the top-32 competitors by the end of play Tuesday.
behind a 4-under 67 effort on Monday that saw him edge out both Aikens and Brown by one stroke on the leaderboard.
Starting from The Country Club’s 10th tee in the morning round, the 20-year old carded his only bogey of the day on that opening par-4, then rebounded with a birdie on the subsequent par-5 11th hole and an additional birdie on the par-3 17th hole to make the turn at 1-under. On that 17th hole, the most famous of The Country Club layout, Francoeur was able to take a lesson from a recent practice round and apply it to his approach today.
“I think the big hole for me was 17,” said Francoeur, who two weeks ago advanced to the Round of 16 at the Rhode Island Amateur. “Last week, I played that hole too aggressive in the practice round and I played it conservative today, and ended up making birdie.”
Once making the turn, Francoeur carded back-to-back birdies on the par-4 first and second holes to move down to 3-under for his round and then put the exclamation point on his performance by birdying the par-4 ninth hole.
“It feels good,” said Francoeur regarding his round one performance. “I mean the goal coming in obviously was just to make match play, but being in the lead right now feels good.”
Just behind Francoeur on the leaderboard were Dillon Brown, a former Massachusetts Junior Amateur champion who will be entering his sophomore year at the University of Maryland, and Herbie Aikens, who fell to Patrick Frodigh in last year’s championship match, 4&3.
While not on the top spot, both were happy where they finished as they look to advance to the match play portion of the Championship.
Credit to David Colt/Mass Golf
In his first nine, Brown made par on each hole before heading to the second half of play, where he carded three straight birdies on the back nine, before eagling the par-5 14th hole to move to 3-under 68 for the day.
“I went out there today and knew there was going to be a lot of good guys out here,” said Brown following his round. “I just wanted to make 18 pars. I parred every hole on my front nine, was playing well, wasn’t hitting the ball great but I was putting the ball really well.”
He added, “I’m happy to get out there, shoot a good score, and get ready for tomorrow.”
Just like Brown, Aikens too was happy with how the first round panned out. The 37-year old tallied six birdies to three bogeys through his first 18, putting himself in a good position to net a top-seed for match play if he can repeat the performance.
“I was pleased with the round,” said Aikens following his six birdies on the day. “I putted really well, but it all kind of off shoots and I missed a few coming in that I could have easily made.”
He says that while his putting was good, it was actually a save for par on the opening hole that helped pace him for the remainder of the round.
“I hit a terrible chip shot to like 25 feet and made it for par,” explained Aikens. “It was a tough putt downhill with some good break in it so honestly that one there just kind of settled me right away and I just kind of was able to get right in the swing of things.”
All 144 competitors in the field will return tomorrow for the second round of stroke play. Following the completion of the stroke play portion of competition Tuesday, the Harry B. McCracken Stroke Play Medalist will be awarded to the competitor(s) with the lowest combined score for the 36-hole stroke play portion of the competition.
Country Club Connection
Photo credit to David Colt/Mass Golf
For two members of this week’s Amateur Championship field, The Country Club is a familiar place. TCC member Aengus McAllister is the lone representative playing on his home course this week, while 2015 Massachusetts Amateur champion Nick McLaughlin has been working as a caddie here for the better half of three months while finishing up his master’s degree at UMass Boston. This marks McLaughlin’s first year playing in the Amateur championship since regaining his amateur status after a three-year professional tenure while McAllister qualified for the main event, his first career Amateur Championship, at nearby Brookline Golf Club in June.
Both competitors hope their local knowledge of the course will allow them to both advance through the stroke play portion and into match play, where they’ll look to make a run towards the Massachusetts Cup, which will be awarded following the 36-hole championship match Friday.
“Everyone keeps on telling me I should be able to win this thing, but it’s hard,” joked McAllister in response to being the lone TCC member in the field. “Some parts [of playing TCC] are good and some parts are bad. I know where to hit it and hopefully a lot of people don’t know that already.”
Of the course, he says, “It is playing really pure. The greens are so good and the fairways are so tight. They’re rolling fast. It’s tough.”
Like McAllister, McLaughlin has been building local knowledge of the course from his time carrying the bag and helping others with their play over the last three months.
“It’s really beneficial. I’ve seen enough rounds to know where to hit it and where not to hit. A couple reads on the greens today that I wouldn’t have had today if I hadn’t seen putts there before. Hugely beneficial and until 18, I did a good job not hitting in the spots you’re not supposed to.
Following the first round, McLaughlin sits at T7 after carding a 1-under 71 while McAllister is T44 after his 4-over 75 finish.
Photo credit to David Colt/Mass Golf
Keeping Up With Weston Jones
For the second Mass Golf championship in a row, Sudbury’s Weston Jones (Charter Oak CC) is the youngest in the field. At 15 years, 10 months, he is a month older than the second youngest competitor – Colin Spencer – of Cape Cod’s Cummaquid Golf Club. Despite being the youngest in the field, the rising junior at Lincoln-Sudbury High School says that he feels no pressure facing some competitors that have many more years of golf experience under their belts than himself.
“I definitely felt a lot more pressure going into the Mass Open Championship because it was a professional event and my first real Mass Golf event,” said Jones, who is a member of his school’s high school team. “After getting through the Open, it was a great experience and I feel totally calm here [at the Amateur] and I feel that I’m going to back it up here tomorrow.
Jones tallied four birdies to three bogeys to card a 1-under par 70 on Monday, a score that sees him T7 on the leaderboard – a score that shows no indication that this week is Jones’ Massachusetts Amateur Championship debut.
“In the grand scheme of things, I think I hit 15 greens today, so my ball striking was good and it took the fescue out of play, said Jones. “Every Mass Golf is a well-run event and it’s all about experience. I’m still in the early age of my golf career, so just getting this experience is great.”
One Amateur to Another
For many in this week’s field, the 111th Massachusetts Amateur Championship, being contested at The Country Club through Friday, is the marquee event of the summer – the epitome of one’s golfing season. But for seven members of that field, however, the opportunity to compete in this week’s championship proper is yet another opportunity to prepare for the next biggest thing: The U.S. Amateur Championship.
Beginning August 12 at North Carolina’s Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, the 119th U.S. Amateur Championship will begin and to date, the national field features nine Massachusetts residents, including Steven DiLisio (Swampscott), Christian Emmerich (Swampscott), Brett Krekorian (Andover), Nick Maccario (Manchester), Xavier Marcoux (Concord), Matt Parziale (Brockton) and Jacob Zaranek (South Deerfield), all of whom are guaranteed two rounds of stroke play at the historic club this week. The Country Club has hosted 16 USGA championships, including most recently the 2013 U.S. Amateur.
While still a few weeks away, this week’s Massachusetts Amateur championship, where the best of the best from across the state are competing, will be a good test for the U.S. Amateur Championship, where the stakes are even higher and the best of the best from across the country will be in the field.
For South Deerfield’s Jacob Zaranek, this week provides the opportunity to focus in on certain aspects of his game.
“I’m striking the ball really well and I’m giving myself a lot of opportunities, so I just need to be able to capitalize on them,” said Zaranek, who last Monday qualified for his first career U.S. Amateur championship at Longmeadow Country Club. “I feel like my putting is good, but I just haven’t been able to get the putts to fall yet. Hopefully I can get that going forward the rest of the week. I feel like if there is one thing that I need to prep for, that is it. Anytime you get tournament reps in, it is good preparation.”
Credit to David Colt/Mass Golf
Much like Zaranek, Swampscott’s Christian Emmerich, who will also be making his first career appearance at the U.S. Amateur next month, is using this week to build up his preparation for next month’s Championship.
“It’s always good to play in tournament golf and to feel the same pressure,” said Emmerich, who qualified at Metacomet Country Club on July 8. “Definitely driving the ball will be a big factor [at the U.S. Amateur] there as it is here because the rough is so high and so penal. Also, the greens will be fast like these. It’ll be a good prep.”