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Headline: Thorbjornsen and Francoeur Heading Into Third and Final Round of the 98th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship at Kernwood CC
For Immediate Release: August 2, 2016
The Charles E. Mason Trophy will be awarded to the winner of the 2016 MGA Junior Amateur Championship on Wednesday at Kernwood Country Club.
Salem, MA — Following 36 holes at Kernwood Country Club, the starting field of 144 has been reduced to just 55 competitors, who will return on Wednesday to compete in the third and final day of competition at the 98th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship.
While Mother Nature has brought nothing less than pleasant conditions to Salem, the historic Donald Ross layout is challenging even the best junior golfers from the Bay State. To wit, no player has posted an under-par round through two days and the average score for the field is 80.694.
98th MGA Junior Amateur - Day 2 Quick Links
Leading the way with two-round scores of 2-over par 142 are Michael Thorbjornsen (Nashawtuc CC) and Chris Francoeur (Amesbury G&CC). They will be paired together on day three and the two stand two strokes ahead of day-one leader Noah Peterson (CC of Wilbraham).
The final day will no doubt be an exciting showdown as the top 11 competitors are separated by just five strokes. Tomorrow not only represents the first time that the co leaders have held the lead at an MGA Championship, but it is also the first time that either has competed in the MGA Junior Amateur Championship.
Despite the new situation that will present itself to them tomorrow morning, both Thorbjornsen and Francoeur are hoping that their unique playing backgrounds will guide them to a state title.
Francoeur is a rising senior at St. John’s Prep in Danvers and plays many of his high school matches at Kernwood Country Club, while Thorbjornsen was a divisional winner at the 2016 Drive, Chip & Putt National Championship held at Augusta National Golf Club this past spring.
“It definitely helps playing in big tournaments at an early age,” said Thorbjornsen, who is 14 years old. “Being a co-leader or somewhere close to lead doesn’t phase you as much. Before it would, but now after some practice and just being comfortable with your game it doesn’t as much.”
For Francoeur, this represents his final year of eligibility as he will turn 18 years old in January.
“This is definitely a big one for me,” said Francoeur. “It would be great to pull it off tomorrow.”
When Thorbjornsen stepped off the 18th green on Tuesday, there was a clear look of frustration. Although his approach to the perched green landed 20 feet from the hole, he was unable to convert and thus produce an under-par round. He tapped in for an even par 70 that was still good enough for a share of the overall lead.
“We have been under par at points throughout the tournament,” said Thorbjornsen. “When we miss we have been missing on the wrong side of the hole. I feel that if you miss on the right side of the hole, you can probably scramble for par but make no worse than bogey.”
Thorbjornsen, who would become the first pre-junior competitor to win this title since Nick McLaughlin accomplished that feat in 2009, got off to a fast start by making birdie on three of his first five holes.
He first stuck his approach on the 420-yard, par 4 2nd hole to seven feet and then his approaches on the 3rd and 5th holes to inches. He made the turn at 1-under par 35 after bogeys on the 6th and 9th holes, but once again bounced back with another solid approach to set up birdie on the 404-yard, par 4 11th hole.
“Today I was probably even closer,” said Thorbjornsen of his iron game. “I had tap-in birdies to two or three feet on most of them.”
Thorbjornsen was 2-under par through 14 holes before he sent his approach on the 14th hole over the green which led to a double bogey. He would then make bogey two holes later.
“Unfortunately my drive hit a cart path and the went into the water on 16,” said Thorbjornsen. “I bounced back with a birdie on 17 and a par on 18.”
When asked what it will take to win on Wednesday, Thorbjornsen was quick to say that it will take a score in the 60s. That is something that even this pre-junior has accomplished many times over. Just last week, Thorbjornsen fired a first-round score of 4-under par 66 to lead following day one of the Ouimet Memorial Golf Tournament.
He is looking for a similar round tomorrow in Kernwood to secure what would be his first state title.
When Francoeur arrived at Kernwood Country Club on Monday, he had one clear goal in mind: to make a statement on the course where he plays much of his high school golf.
The Amesbury native posted two straight rounds of 1-over par 71 and is looking to capture his first major MGA Championship title on Wednesday.
A good showing this week would be especially sweet for Francoeur, who is a rising senior at St. John’s Prep in Danvers. Kernwood Country Club is one of the clubs that allows the local high schools to compete its matches during the fall season.
As part of the Eagles golf team, Francoeur has had an opportunity to play matches on the front nine. His comfort level there has been evident as he has played that set of nine holes at 1-under par through two rounds.
“I do know the front nine well,” said Francoeur, who began his 2016 title pursuit with an eagle on the 477-yard, par 5 1st hole.
Francoeur returned to Salem on Tuesday and got off to a fast start by making birdie there and then following it up with another birdie on the 420-yard, par 4 2nd hole.
“On the 1st hole I had a tap in birdie and then I made a 15-foot downhill slider for birdie on two,” said Francoeur. “I was rolling it then, but that was really the only putt I made all day.”
After making the turn at even par 35, Francoeur made back-to-back bogeys on the 10th and 11th holes as he struggled to find his way on the Kernwood CC green complexes.
“The back nine is a lot tougher and the greens are tougher,” said Francoeur. “The holes are also a lot different on the back. There are a lot more placement and you can miss more on the front than on the back.”
Francoeur bounced back with a birdie on the 190-yard, par 3 12th hole and finished his second round with six straight pars. While this marks Francoeur’s first experience playing in this MGA Championship, he is no stranger to winning titles.
After all, he is a two-time club champion at Amesbury G&CC. He defended his title this past season one year after becoming the youngest club champion in history when he was just 16 years old.
Francoeur represents scores of high school golf team members in this year’s MGA Junior Amateur Championship field. Thanks to the generosity of golf clubs across the state, these young players are able to compete and oftentimes practice at some of the most prestigious and historic clubs.
Kernwood Country Club, for example, hosts fall high school matches for St. John’s Prep, Pingree School and Swampscott High School as well as collegiate matches for Salem State University. In the recent past, the club has also hosted matches for Salem High School and Marblehead High School.
This week, a field of talented Bay State junior golfers traveled to the North Shore and Kernwood Country Club. While it may be the first time that many of these golfers are playing the course, there is no stranger-like feel between the club and the MGA, who has been organizing state tournaments dating back to 1903.
Just as the history of the MGA goes back more than a century, so does the history of Kernwood, which has hosted numerous MGA Championships Proper in its 102-year history.
The first, the 1922 MGA Amateur Championship, was won by no other than Francis Ouimet, one of America’s pioneering golf leaders.
In the years since, the Women’s Golf Association of Boston (1926), the MGA Amateur (1932, 2014) and the MGA Open (2007) have all been held in Salem, in addition to several additional NEPGA events.
As to what it is about Kernwood that keeps bringing these tournaments back to the North Shore site, which celebrated its centennial in 2014?
Head PGA golf professional Frank Dully said it simply comes down to the members.
“The generosity and the nature of the membership being so charitable,” said Dully, a 1989 graduate of the College of the Holy Cross. “They are so concerned about growing the game of golf and what golf means to the community, beyond just the borders of Kernwood.”
For anyone that has walked the course over the past two days, that generosity is obvious. In addition to seeing Kernwood members volunteering in various areas of the course and helping with several aspects of the championship, Kernwood also hosts several fundraisers that help raise funds for several organizations.
Giving back at Kernwood is a tradition that is as old as the course itself.
Once the fall comes around, several high school golf teams will return to the Donald Ross designed course for their home matches. The likes of St. John's Prep, Pingree School and Swampscott High School all call Kernwood home during the season while Salem High School and Marblehead will “play a match or two here or there” throughout the season, explained Dully.
“The game needs youth and any time you can offer a course or availability or access to golf for young kids, it’s only going to benefit in the future,” said Dully, who is in his 25th year at Kernwood and his 20th as head professional. “Look at how many players we have out here for this event. It’s amazing. Although golf is down right now, you’ll see that in the next 10 years, golf will start to head back up due to the amount of juniors that are playing.”
As head professional however, Dully doesn’t just get to see the history himself from afar. In fact, he is part of the history.
When Kernwood held the 2007 MGA Open Championship at the course along the banks of the Danvers River, it was the golf professional that grabbed a hold of the course record alongside his playing partner and eventual MGA Open Champion, Geoff Sisk.
In the second round, the pair shot matching scores of 64 in the second round of the stroke play tournament to tie the course record with Dana Quigley, who had beat the previous course record of 66 when Kernwood hosted a PGA National Club Pro qualifier in 1994.
“We started on the back nine and ended up both birdying the ninth hole, which was the last hole,” reminisced Dully. “He birdied it first and then I made the putt. I knew that he had tied the course record. It was a five-footer that I really wanted to make.”
As he looks back on the record, he is thankful that he gets to be part of something so special.
“At the time, you don’t really think about [tying the course record],” said Dully. “But being the head golf professional at such a great club, and being able to say that you have the course record or tied the course record, it’s definitely something that as you get older, you appreciate everyday.”
While Dully and its members will have to wait another day to see the latest chapter of Kernwood written, the crowning of the 2016 Mass Junior Amateur Champion on Wednesday, it is safe to say that they will continue to make a great team going forward.
The MGA is grateful for its member clubs who continue to graciously host Championship Propers and qualifiers. The success of these programs would not be possible without their generosity.
Every year, the host site for the MGA Junior Amateur Championship changes with locations in different sections of the state.
Last year, it was in Hopkinton and the year before that, at Oakley Country Club in Watertown. In fact, one of the efforts of the MGA Championship staff is to bring the junior amateur championship, like all of its 12 state tournaments, to various areas around the Commonwealth as a way to continue bringing top golf to the Bay State.
This year, with the MGA Junior Amateur being held on the North Shore, it is safe to say that the tournament can’t get any farther east. Kernwood Country Club, the 2016 host site, sits along the Danvers River on a peninsula that leads straight into the Atlantic Ocean, a mere quarter mile down the way.
As a result, it is understandable why the course may have a different feel for many who might not be familiar with the course itself, or who are not used to the conditions of a course directly on the water.
Such is the case for Jonny Elkins (Crumpin-Fox Club), a native of Deerfield who is competing in his second MGA Junior Amateur Championship.
He said, “Obviously the ocean side breeze and the river breeze bring [the ball] in a lot, so you have to watch it everywhere you go.”
The 15 year old, one of the field’s 36 pre-junior competitors, is one of the 13 players who have traveled the furthest, from the Greater Springfield region, to compete this week. With a long distance traveled, (Kernwood is more than 100 miles from his home course), adjustments had to be made on his behalf in order to compete.
“A lot of the courses out here are a lot older,” said Elkins, who will be attending the Taft School in Watertown, Conn. in the fall. “There are a lot more slopes on the green, and the greens are a lot firmer and faster compared to the more modern courses we have out West.”
Even with a course that plays differently than what he is used to, Elkins doesn’t have any gripes. Like any great competitor, he had to adjust to the conditions and quickly learn the lay of the land in order to turn in a good card.
He said, “It is really the lie of the course. Everyone has to play the same course. You just have to do your best against everyone else.”
This year's cut line fell 17-over par 157. Only those players will return to Salem on Wednesday to compete in the third round.
The lowest scorer for 54 holes will be Champion. If a tie for first place occurs, play will immediately continue hole-by-hole until a winner is determined.
A total of 59 out of the 146-player field made the cut this year. A total of 10 pre-junior competitors made the cut this year.
Here is a rundown on course statistics from Tuesday, August 2.
Day 2 Course Statistics
Average Score: 80.275
Low Score: 70
High Score: 97
Total # of Eagles: 2
Total # of Birdies: 181
Total # of Bogeys: 935
Total # of Pars: 1,124
Hardest Hole: #14 (average score was 5.056)
Easiest Hole: #1 (average score was 5.141)