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FRAMINGHAM, Massachusetts – The first round of the 53rd Ouimet Memorial Championship marked the first time the 54-hole, stroke-play championship was played at Framingham Country Club since 2008. The 102 total participants competed across three divisions (Championship, Lowery [Senior] and Women’s) and completed their first 18 holes. Clear and sunny conditions helped 18 of the competitors shoot even par or better.
Brett Krekorian (Indian Ridge CC) and Mike Calef (Pine Oaks GC) share the lead in the Championship Division; Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough CC) is leading the Lowery (Senior) Division; and Anne Walsh (The Country Club) leads the Women’s Division.
All competitors will return for the next 18 holes tomorrow at Framingham before the field is cut down for Friday’s third and final round at Woodland Golf Club in Auburndale (Newton). After 36 holes, there will be a cut to the low 30 & ties in the Championship Division and the low 12 & ties in the Lowery and Women’s Divisions. Woodland was the first home course for the late Francis Ouimet, the 1913 U.S. Open champion, and the person the tournament is named after.
Wednesday also marked the third year Mass Golf has operated the event and made it both a Championship and Women’s Championship event.
WATCH: ROUND 1 VIDEO RECAP
CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS
Mike Calef (Pine Oaks GC) is still feeding off some energy from last week’s finish at the New England Amateur at Concord Country Club (MA). Calef climbed nearly 40 places last week after sinking eight birdies in the final round with a 66 to finish T6.
Wearing a Concord CC hat Wednesday, he hit all 18 greens for a bogey-free round of 4-under 68 to share the lead with Brett Krekorian (Indian Ridge CC).
“My golf game is kind of rounding into form, and it feels really good right now, especially the putter feels really good,” said Calef, whose last Mass Golf victory came in the 2019 Mass Four-Ball Championship. “It was good to see the ball going in. I worked with a buddy of mine on some swing stuff just yesterday and feel pretty good.”
Calef started the day with a birdie on the uphill and narrow par-5 and finished with two birdies on the front and back nine.
Krekorian also played a bogey-free round, going 1-under on the back nine before sinking three consecutive birdies on the 12th, 13th and 14th. Krekorian, who made the Round of 16 at the Mass Amateur is also seeking his first win in the Ouimet Tournament.
Kyle Tibbetts represented Framingham Country Club well by shooting a 3-under 69 to finish T3. Tibbetts caddied at Framingham growing up and said local knowledge came in handy. In fact, he mirrored Krekorian with birdies on the 12th, 13th and 14th. He said holes 14-16 can be the most difficult, and in that span, he finished 1-under.
“I got a nice groove,” Tibbetts said. “Playing the three of them at 1-under is pretty good. I hit all three greens, made a couple of good two-putts on 15 and 16, and I hit it to about a foot and a half on 14 and tapped that one in.”
Tibbetts said he’s been looking forward to playing this event all year and is hoping home-course advantage can keep him in contention moving forward.
“I definitely have an advantage, knowing the club,” Tibbetts said. “I’ve got to use that to my advantage and put two good rounds together and then hopefully move on to Woodland and see what happens there.”
A pair of teenagers, Conner Willett (Charles River CC), 17, and Joey Lenane, 16, (KOHR Golf) also had strong performances.
Lenane, a rising junior at Xaverian Brothers, matched Tibbetts at 3-under, starting his round by making a 30-foot eagle putt on the first hole and adding four more birdies throughout his round. He almost holed out on the second but tapped in for birdie.
“It was pretty steady from there,” said Lenane, who is making his second appearance at the Ouimet Tournament. “I hit a lot of greens and had a lot of chances. I know there are a lot of strong players, especially at the. top, so hopefully I play well tomorrow and I have a chance to play the third day.”
Willett, Georgetown commit, finished 5-under on the front nine with four consecutive birdies on holes 5-8, including a 45-foot putt on the 6th. However, a triple bogey on the 16th dropped the Belmont Hill School rising senior to 2-under.
‘EDDIE’ LOWERY DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS
Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Frank Vana, Jr. is leading. The six-time Ouimet champion (5 Championship Division, 1 Lowery Division) shot the best score of the day with a 5-under 67 and holds a four-stroke lead over the rest of the Lowery field.
Vana (Marlborough CC) said his focus was sharp upon arrival to Framingham. He started with a birdie on the first hole and got fire on the back nine with four birdies, including a short tap-in on the 18th.
“I felt pretty good when I got to the course today,” said Vana, who won the Lowery Division in 2018. “I felt calm. I got on the range and was hitting it pretty good. I hit a few putts and felt good. I hit a lot of fairways and a lot of greens and I made some putts today, which was good.
“More importantly, I was focused. I’ve been in and out of being focused lately, and today I was pretty much focused for 18 holes, which was nice.”
Framingham is also special to Vana, as it was his home course when he went to Marion High School in Framingham. He also won several Father Son titles with his father and won the 2012 Mass Mid-Amateur title on this course.
Speaking of Framingham, club member David Gottler, of Natick, is currently in second place at 1-under. Gottler moved to 3-under through 16 by making birdie on the 12th, 14th and 16th, however, he made double bogey on the final hole. Mark Chylinski (Berkshire Hills CC) is one shot back at even par.
Steve Tasho (Thorny Lea GC), the only defending champion in the tournament, finished 3-over but had a steady finish with pars on holes 12-18.
WOMEN’S DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS
Anne Walsh (The Country Club) leads the way after Day 1, as she cruised to an even-par 72. Walsh, who will attend Columbia in the fall, made the turn at 2-under par and rolled in four birdies on her first round.
“My shots off the tee were pretty consistent,” said Walsh, a finalist in the 2019 Mass Women’s Amateur Championship. “I struggled a little bit with putting as we got to the back nine, but I felt like overall I was hitting the ball.”
Sitting just behind her in solo second is Jennifer Keim (Dennis Pines GC). Keim shot a 1-over par 73 to keep the pace and put herself in a good position. Keim also rolled in four birdies on her first round and shot a 1-under par 35 on her back nine to grab some momentum.
Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC), the 2020 New England Women’s Amateur Champion, is also in the hunt. She sits in solo third place after a 2-over par 74 has her right in the mix. Dual 37s on her front and back nine, that included one eagle and one birdie, respectively, has her positioned for moving day run in day two.
Five players are tied for fourth at 4-over, including Rebecca Skoler (Pine Brook CC), who won the Girls’ Junior Amateur at Framingham back in 2018. Krystal Knight (Bradford CC), last year’s Ouimet runner-up is also tied for fourth with Kris Henderson (Bedrock GC), Gabrielle Shieh (MIAA) and Pamela Kuong (Charles River CC), the 2019 Anne Marie Tobin Mass Golf Women’s Player of the Year.
COURSE CHANGES OVER TIME
It’s easy to guess when Framingham Country Club first opened for play just by standing at the facility. A 1902 flag flies out front and there are symbols to its starting year all over the place.
But like many courses in New England, much has changed over time.
The course was originally nine holes and stretched out closer to where Route 9 is today. Donald Ross helped restore the course in the early 1920s and is responsible for much of the current green undulations seen today. The configuration changed when Route 9 was built, but one relic includes the original eighth green remains today as a chipping green.
In 1960, the course expanded to its current 18-hole layout.
The Ouimet Tournament last came to Framingham in 2008, and according to Framingham CC’s website, “In 2010 the club brought in Renaissance Golf Design and Architect Bruce Hepner to restore the original design intent so that the course not only works in harmony with the natural surroundings but also challenges players of all abilities.”
Graham Cunningham, the Head Golf Professional at Framingham, said some of the changes to the course included cutting down pine trees near the fescue on the first hole to open up the course and allow more players to try to reach the green in two shots. More trees also came down near the 10th to open it up. Other changes included the redesign and combining of some bunkers, as well as changes in teebox elevations.
“Once all the work started to take place, the golf course has played awesome,” Cunningham said. “It’s nice for those who weren’t familiar with it to see it. They’ll find it more challenging than it looks on paper.”
Aside from the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, Framingham has also hosted the Mass Mid-Amateur Championship (2012), Mass Women’s Amateur Championship (2013), Mass Four-Ball Championship (2016) and the Mass Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship (2018). It has also hosted USGA qualifying for the Mid-Amateur (2011, 2017), Senior Amateur (2014) and Senior Women’s Amateur (2015).
Victor Galvani (Framingham CC) grew up in a house right along the 16th hole. Members of his family were at his childhood home checking out the action as Galvani competed in the first round of the Ouimet Tournament. Though he finished 8-over 80 in the Championship Division, he said it was nice to have support at his home club.
Galvani, who now lives in Hopkinton, said his father first introduced him to golf, and he’s been able to pass the game down to his family, who are all members.
“I’ve been playing here my whole life,” Galvani said. “It’s nice to showcase the golf course. I thought it was in great shape today and I’m hoping the players enjoy it. I wish I could have played a little bit better, but such is life, and we’ll give it another try tomorrow.”
ON THIS DATE
On July 29, 1936, members of Framingham Country Club presented Clark Hodder with an honorary membership at Framingham and gave him a set of golf clubs at the close of a dinner to honor his 1936 victory in the Massachusetts Amateur. The dinner followed a golf tournament, in which Hodder played in a foursome with Francis Ouimet, who match the previous club record with a 68.
Hodder went on to win 10 club championships at Framingham and in 1952 became President of what was then referred to as the Massachusetts Golf Association. He also helped found the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund.
Outside of golf, Hodder was a Harvard alumnus who went on to coach the Crimson’s ice hockey and golf teams.
The first Ouimet Tournament took place at Woodland Golf Club in 1968, one year the death of Francis Ouimet, the Brookline native who became a U.S. golf legend following his historic victory in the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline.
The tournament founders were a group of Ouimet’s friends at Woodland Golf Club, the first place Ouimet became a member. Ouimet joined Woodland in 1910 at age 17, seeking club affiliation so he could try to qualify for the U.S. Amateur, which he won in 1914 and 1931.
Since its founding, the tournament has always concluded at Woodland. In 1975, the tournament expanded when it came under the operation of the Ouimet Scholarship Fund, which awards millions of dollars in need-based college scholarships each year to deserving young men and women who have worked at Massachusetts golf courses. New courses were added to the event that year as Charles River Country Club hosted the first round, The Country Club hosted the second and Woodland hosted the final round.
In 1990, former Ouimet Fund Director, Trustee and President Richard Connolly donated the Richard F. Connolly, Sr. Trophy to be awarded to the Championship Division winner. The trophy is built around clubs used by Francis Ouimet, Harry Vardon and Ted Ray, each one contributed to the Ouimet Fund by noted golf historian Dr. Gary Wiren.
In 1999, the Ouimet Fund’s 50th anniversary year, the Ouimet Memorial started a senior division. Named the Lowery Division, it honors Eddie Lowery, Ouimet’s 1913 U.S. Open caddie who became a frequent Ouimet Memorial contestant. The Lowery’s permanent trophy is a 21-inch bronze figurine, crafted by sculptor Bob Pack and based on the iconic photo of Ouimet and Lowery walking during the 1913 U.S. Open. The winner receives a nine-inch version of the statue.
In 2004, the Women’s Division was launched. Alison Walshe won that inaugural year as well as the ensuing two years to become the only contestant — in any of the Ouimet Memorial’s divisions — to achieve a ‘three-peat.’ The Women’s permanent trophy is a classic centerpiece glass bowl on a wooden base; the winner receives a smaller glass version of the bowl.
Mass Golf took over operations of the event in 2018, and the format of the tournament transformed from a traditional invitational and exemption format that had preceded in the previous decades of the tournament to one that was based on merit in Mass Golf competition and exemptions. The change of operation allowed the Ouimet Fund to focus on key fundraising initiatives, such as its popular Golf Marathon, its bag tag program, and other club relations programs.
Beginning in 2018, the Ouimet Memorial Tournament featured three days of competition for all three divisions, with the first two rounds conducted at the same venue, and in remaining with the original format of the event, the third and final round for each of the three divisions has continued to be played at Woodland.