Final Round Set for Friday at Woodland Golf Club
Brookline, MA_ The highs and lows of golf are always accentuated in July, and Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC) is experiencing it first hand.
Two weeks after winning the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and less than seven days after missing the cut at the New England Amateur Championship, the Brockton native finds himself atop the leaderboard at the 50th Francis Ouimet Memorial Tournament.
Parziale, who won this event in 2009 and 2013, bettered his 1-under par 71 at Brae Burn Country Club on Wednesday with a day-low score of 5-under par 66 on Thursday at The Country Club.
Following Thursday’s round, the starting field was reduced to the low 40 scorers. Those competitors – along with the low nine scorers from the Lowery Division – and the six Women’s Division competitors will compete in a final round at Woodland Golf Club on Friday.
Parziale currently holds a one-stroke lead over Bobby Leopold (Coventry, RI) and a two-stroke advantage over Billy Walthouse (Longmeadow CC) and Dylan Siebenaler (Richmond, TX) and John Hadges (Thorny Lea GC) heading into the third and final round.
“I felt like it wasn’t a great day yesterday, but I was able to get through it ok,” said Parziale. “Today after the first hole everything went well.”
A bogey on his first hole of the day at The Country Club soon became a distant memory as that would prove to be his only miscue on the day. On the very next hole, Parziale nearly drove the green on the 287-yard, par 4 2nd hole and then followed that up with a second birdie on the 310-yard, par 4 6th hole.
“I had good up-and-downs on 3 and 5 and that helped to keep it going,” said Parziale, who made the turn at 1-under par 34. “I had another good up-and-down on 9, and then I hit it close the whole back nine.”
He began his back-nine barrage by making a 12 footer for birdie on the 10th hole. He reached the 499-yard, par 5 11th hole in two and then drained a 20-foot birdie putt on the 485-yard, par 4 15th hole.
“I felt good and had good numbers and was able to be aggressive which is key,” said Parziale, who also made birdie on the 13th hole to post a back-nine score of 4-under par 32. “It’s not that I know how to get good numbers, but I got lucky to get good numbers.”
Parziale’s stellar round on Thursday was a continuation of his performance two weeks ago en route to capturing the 2017 Massachusetts Amateur Championship just four miles away at Charles River Country Club.
After five straight days of grueling competition, Parziale missed the cut after two rounds at the New England Amateur Championship and then had to withdraw from Monday’s 36-hole U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifier at Crestview Country Club after the first day was suspended due to weather.
Although the qualifier was eventually completed on Tuesday, Parziale could not compete as had to return home for work.
“I don’t know how I would have felt if I had to play both of those days,” said Parziale, who works for the Brockton Fire Department. “You never want to miss a cut, but rest is always good too at this stretch of the year.”
Through the highs and lows, Parziale is looking at the bright side of every situation these days and he hopes for another high before July comes to a close.
“I have been lucky enough two times before, but there are a lot of good players,” said Parziale about a possible three-peat. “I just have to try to get myself in contention with a chance down the stretch.”
Leopold Savoring Every Ouimet Moment
As a result of the merit-based eligibility requirements that will be put in place next year, competitors who do not hold a USGA/GHIN Handicap Index with an MGA Member Club will not be eligible.
While the changes will open the door to many more competitors, there are a few who might be left behind. Included in that group is Bobby Leopold (Coventry, RI), a longtime Rhode Island Golf Association golfer who currently stands second with a score of 5-under par 138 heading into the final round of competition.
“It’s always nice to play totally different courses that you would never play especially coming from Rhode Island,” said Leopold. “I just had to play TCC. I have only played it once in a member-guest, and it played totally different. This place is pretty special, and it’s nice that the last time I will get to play in this thing I get to play here.”
Leopold made the most of his opportunity on Thursday morning as he made two birdies on the front nine to make the turn at 2-under par.
“We got kind of lucky with the wind,” said Leopold. “On the front nine it wasn’t calm but it wasn’t like it is now. It was raining on us a little bit this morning, but flip flop you get one or the other and I’ll take the rain over the wind. I took advantage as much as I could and those holes are hard coming in.”
On the 429-yard, par 4 5th hole, Leopold sent his approach shot to two feet to set up his first birdie of the day. Three holes later he made a solid putt for birdie.
The winds began to pick up and the temperatures dropped as Leopold’s group made their way around the back nine. Despite the increasingly challenging conditions, Leopold stayed the course and carded one final birdie – on the 485-yard, par 4 15th hole – and signed an error-free scorecard to leapfrog up the leaderboard.
“I was really happy with 3 under,” said Leopold. “I’ll take that every time.”
Just last week the 32-year-old Leopold captured the 2017 New England Amateur Championship at Metacomet Country Club. It was his first career New England Golf Association title.
“That was unexpected somewhat,” said Leopold, who staged a come-from-behind victory on the final day to best Billy Walthouse and Kevin Silva by one stroke. “I have been playing good but you never know when you are going to win again. You get older and kids get younger and better. I don’t hit the shots like I used to five or six years ago. I don’t have the same kind of arsenal, but I know what I can and can’t do and that is sometimes to my advantage.
“I will take the middle of the green instead of going for a flag I shouldn’t go at. I have been using what I did last week to just try to play some steady golf. I am a little tired, but my game is at a good place so I think that I can just keep going around and around and around shooting a good score.”
Now that he has one monkey off his back after winning the New England Amateur Championship, Leopold is eying a chance at another elusive title.
“It would be a nice one to try and win,” said Leopold. “I have never won the Ouimet, and my father in law lost in a playoff and finished second years ago. But it’s more about putting yourself up against the best field. I chose this over the [RIGA] Stroke Play event because the field here is better… this draws a good field being an invitational and a lot of New England guys want to play in it.”
Yet another bonus to winning on Friday for Leopold would be a lifetime exemption. It is an exemption category that includes all “Past Ouimet Memorial Champions” regardless of state/club affiliation.
As a result, Leopold has 18 holes left at Woodland Golf Club to win yet an elusive championship title and keep his dreams of playing in this event alive for years to come.