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Headline: Alex Jamieson & Chris Francoeur Post 3-under par 68 Scores on Monday to Lead Following Day 1 of 99th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship
For Immediate Release: July 31, 2017
Alex Jamieson (below) & Chris Francoeur hold first-round lead at 99th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship being held at The Orchards Golf Club.
South Hadley, MA — The New England golf season is seven months long on a good year, but playing conditions can’t keep the best-of-the-best-players from emerging to the forefront, especially this week as the 99th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship is being contested at The Orchards Golf Club.
A field of nearly 120 junior amateurs – ranging in age from 14 to 18 – are vying for a title that has been captured by the greatest players to have played the game such as Fred Wright, Ed Lowery, Ray Ouimet and more recently former PGA Tour player James Driscoll.
Those fortunate to travel to South Hadley this week are no doubt getting a glimpse at future champions as this year’s field is one of the strongest to date.
Leading the charge following the first of three rounds were two future collegians, Alex Jamieson (Marshfield CC) and Chris Francoeur (Amesbury G&CC), who both posted scores of 3-under par 68.
They currently hold a one-stroke lead over Thomas Roberts (Wianno Club) and a two-stroke advantage over a fivesome of competitors heading into the second day of competition.
99th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Tournament Quick Links
Francoeur, a recent St. John’s Prep (Danvers) graduate, will be heading to the University of Rhode Island in the fall, while Jamieson is set to start his fall golf season at the University of Notre Dame in just two weeks.
“There are a lot of good players in this field,” said Francoeur, who earlier this month advanced to match play at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and last week finished T11 at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament. “Especially in my group we had one of the strongest groups, and I kept up with everyone. It’s a great field, and we’ll see who gets it done over the next few days.”
On Monday, Francoeur was paired with Andrew O’Leary (Glen Ellen CC) and Mark Turner (Bass Rocks GC), who both fired scores of 1-under par 70. O’Leary is bound for the University of Notre Dame next year, while Turner has committed to Dartmouth College.
O'Leary and Turner are part of that fivesome - which also includes Dillon Brown (CC of Halifax), Mark Decourcey (Lexington GC) and Andrew Dipetrillo (Blue Hill CC) - who are just two back of the first-round leaders.
In the battle of friends paired together on day one, however, it was Francoeur who came out on top after a round which featured six birdies, four of which came on the front nine of a course that the Amesbury resident has very little knowledge of heading into this week.
“I am really happy with a 68,” said Francoeur. I just kept it in play all day. I hit fairways and greens and putted pretty well. I had a couple of hiccups here and there, but overall I played really solid today.”
After making the turn at 2-under par 34, Francoeur continued to display laser accuracy with his approach shots by making birdie on the 336-yard, par 4 12th and 447-yard, par 4 16th holes. His lone blemish on the back nine was a bogey on the 17th hole.
“I was just knocking it close and pretty much having tap ins for birdie,” said Francoeur. “I have also been working on my short game more than I ever have in the past, so my short game is coming along. I have been hitting the ball really well too.”
A multi-sport athlete in high school and an all-star baseball player who just completed his season less than five weeks ago, Francoeur has made a seemingly seamless transition into golf season where he has enjoyed his best summer to date.
"It has been five weeks since baseball ended, and I have been working everyday hitting balls and chipping and putting for hours,” said Francoeur. “I played hockey and baseball and they taught me to be mentally tough, which is the most important thing in golf.”
Francoeur will look to maintain that focus over the next two days as the entire field will take part in a second round at The Orchards Golf Club on Tuesday.
Following the second round, the field will be reduced to the low 50 scorers and ties. Only those competitors will continue on to the final round on Wednesday.
Jamieson is yet another future collegian who is juggling a busy playing schedule with school preparation as he will be heading to the University Notre Dame - along with O'Leary - in just two weeks.
“I am really excited,” said Jamieson, whose flight is scheduled to depart for South Bend on August 17. “I can’t wait to get out there and compete with everyone on the team. It will be really fun.”
There is no question that Head Coach John Handrigan and his staff are equally enthusiastic about Jamieson becoming a member of the Fighting Irish squad following his day-one score of 3-under par that included four birdies and just one bogey.
“I feel really good about my game right now,” said Jamieson. “I hit a lot of greens and a lot of fairways. I made the putts that I needed to make. I didn’t make any bombs or anything, which is good because that means that if I do the same thing tomorrow and a couple of those bombs go in it could be lower.”
Jamieson got off to a fast start by hitting his 6-iron approach on the 413-yard, par 4 1st hole to seven feet for birdie. He went on to reach the 515-yard, par 5 9th hole in two to make the turn at 2-under par 34.
On the back nine, Jamieson thought his way around the 423-yard, par 4 13th hole by selecting a 3 wood instead of driver off the tee. Jamieson went on to hit his 7-iron approach shot to 30 feet and make the putt.
His only miscue on the day came three holes later on the 447-yard, par 4 16th hole where he made bogey.
“I went over the green and into the hazard and chunked it out,” said Jamieson. “Actually it was a pretty good six, but other than that it was really solid today.”
Jamieson would cap off his round with a birdie – after he hit his tee shot to three feet on the 150-yard, par 3 17th hole – to secure a share of the overall lead through 18 holes.
It was a comforting start for Jamieson, who has had a season to remember already which was highlighted by a match play appearance at the 2017 U.S. Junior Amateur Championship held earlier month at Flint Hills National Golf Club in Andover, Kansas and then a first-alternate finish at U.S. Amateur Sectional Qualifying held last week at Andover Country Club.
“It was a lot, but it was really exciting, and I played pretty well in it too,” said Jamieson about his USGA Championship Proper experience in Kansas. “It gave me a lot of confidence that I can hang with pretty good players in the country. Even playing around here we beat each other up all of the time, and all of these guys can hang with everyone out there. We are pretty good in New England. I don’t think a lot of people give us credit.”
Following this month’s play for Jamieson, as well as Francoeur and many others in this talent-laden field, there is no hiding that the future is on display here in South Hadley.
But for right now, Jamieson is just savoring the experience of what will be one of his final junior events of the summer.
“I was just talking to some of the guys and this tournament is usually in the dead middle of my summer but now it’s one of the last tournaments that I will play all year as a junior,” said Jamieson. “It’s pretty sad to see it end so soon, but also it’s one of my favorite tournaments to play in.”
In addition to the overall championship, there are 16 competitors in this year’s field who are also vying for the Pre-Junior Division title which includes those who are 14 and 15 years old.
Leading the way following day one were Michael Thorbjornsen (Nashawtuc CC), Tucker Gullbrants (Brockton, MA) and Charles Ma (Harmon GC), who all posted scores of 1-over par 72.
Thorbjornsen has a golf resume that defies his age. He was the 2015 Massachusetts Young Golfers’ Amateur Champion, was twice named the U.S. Kids Golf National Player of the Year and won the 14-15 age group at the 2016 Drive, Chip and Putt Championship.
This year, Thorbjornsen is taking on the best of the best and has delivered. He finished as co-Low Amateur at the 2017 Massachusetts Open Championship and most recently finished T11 at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament.
“I have been hitting my driver and irons well,” said Thorbjornsen. “Towards the beginning of the day today my driver wasn’t working well, but I made a quick adjustment and then later I was bombing drives down the fairway.”
Thorbjornsen, who one year ago finished T4 overall at this event, got off to a rocky start by making double bogey on the 413-yard, par 4 1st hole. He would make five straight pars before suffering another bogey on the 8th hole.
“I hit my tee shot into the water on the first,” said Thorbjornsen. “I hit it into a small creek that I didn’t really think that I would reach. From there I was just trying to fight back and then had an unfortunate bogey on 7 and was 3 over at that point with 12 holes to go."
He responded with a birdie on the very next hole to make the turn at 2-over par 38. Through his next eight holes, Thorbjornsen played 3-under par golf and was even par for the day following a birdie on the 150-yard, par 3 17th hole.
“I was running out of holes and wasn’t really doing too well, but I hung in there towards the end,” said Thorbjornsen. “I finally got it back to even and then three putted on the last hole. It was a long uphill putt.”
Although he ended his day with a bogey and a score of 1-over par for the day, Thorbjornsen has a bright outlook on the next 36 holes.
“That is what I love about these tournaments that have three or four rounds,” said Thorbjornsen. “You can have a bad round; everybody does. It can come on the third day or fourth day. I feel like the best one to have it on is on the first day because you can only improve from there.”
And his thoughts on the next round?
“I need to focus on lag putting,” said Thorbjornsen. “I had four three putts today and that was definitely the problem out there. That and I will hit 4 iron off the tee on the first hole and get it into the fairway.”
It doesn’t happen all that often that Tyler Senecal (Orchards GC) can enjoy his own bed and a short ride home after a round of championship golf, but that is exactly what is happening this week.
Senecal, a resident of South Hadley, is the lone member of The Orchards Golf Club to be in this year’s Championship Proper field. Although he finished as alternate (one shot off the pace) at the July 6th qualifier held at Amherst Golf Club, Senecal received a call the very next day informing him that he would be a part of the field come July 31st.
“I originally found out that it was here before I even qualified and had my hopes set on making it,” said Senecal, who will be a junior at the Williston Northampton School in the fall. “I thought that it would be that much more fun to play another weekend round at my course, and it turned out even better and I made it here.”
After making it through the first holes with undoubtedly a few extra nerves, Senecal played his final 16 holes at 1-over par to finish with a score of 5-over par 76. He currently stands T38 with the low 50 scorers and ties to return for a third round on Wednesday.
“It took a while to find my groove, but eventually I found it which was nice," said Senecal, who finished with two birdies on the day. “I had a couple of hiccups out there, but I tried to throw it behind me and finish strong.”
Regardless of how tomorrow plays out, Senecal will have memories for a lifetime and fans cheering him every hole in South Hadley along the way.
“This is the only place that I have really played at,” said Senecal. “I have seen a lot of volunteers out here today who I have played with on weekend mornings. It’s great to see them out here. I Iove to see everyone incorporated and being a part of this.”
6276 - approximate yardage being played this week
266 - entries received (a record number) for the Championship Proper
103 - years over which this event has been contested (click here to read the 2014 MassGolfer magazine feature story celebrating "100 years" of the Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship.
99 - times the event has been contested
73 - total number of towns represented
16.9 - average age of this year's starting field
16 - pre-junior eligible competitors in the field
14 - age of the youngest player (Will Campbell, Charles Ma, Conner Willett)
8 - the number of players named "Jack" in the field
6 - competitors who hail from Wellesley (the most represented town)
5 - number of competitors who play out of Marshfield CC (the most represented Member Club)
1- the number of champions who will be crowned on Wednesday
Tuesday, August 1
Round 2 - 18 Holes
*The low 50 scorers and ties after 36-holes will continue play on August 2
**If there are no 14-15 year old competitors who fall within the 50 lowest scorers and ties in the Junior Division, the Pre-Junior Champion will be determined based on the 36-hole scores. In the event of a tie, Co-Champions will be designated.
Wednesday, August 2
Round 3 - 18 Holes
The MGA Junior Amateur Champion will be the low scorer after 54-holes from the Junior Division (14-18). The 14-15 year old low scorer will be the Pre-Junior Champion.
Any tie for first place in either division (after 54 holes) will be decided immediately by a hole-by hole playoff.