Imai Shoots 65; Walsh, Vana Have Division Leads At Ouimet Memorial Tournament - MASSGOLF

56 Players Advance To Friday’s Final Round At Woodland

For Immediate Release: July 30, 2020

FRAMINGHAM, Massachusetts – After two warm, sunny days of competition at Framingham Country Club, the remaining field has been determined for Friday’s third and final round at Woodland Golf Club. Woodland, located in the Newton neighborhood of Auburndale, was the first home course for the late Francis Ouimet, the 1913 U.S. Open champion, and the person the tournament is named after.

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After 36 holes, 32 players are left in the Championship Division, while 13 made the cut in the Women’s Division and 12 are remaining in the Lowery (Senior) Division. James Imai (George Wright GC) and Joey Lenane (KOHR Golf) share the Championship Division lead at 6-under. In total, 11 players shot under par in the Championship Division, while two more were even-par 72.

Meanwhile, Anne Walsh (The Country Club) is 1-under overall for three-stroke lead in the Women’s Division, and 2018 Lowery champion Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough CC) maintains a six-stroke lead on the field at 3-under.

The first groups will tee off at Woodland at 8 a.m. Friday morning.

WATCH: ROUND 2 VIDEO RECAP

CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS

Northwestern University sophomore James Imai (George Wright GC) seemed surprised by the frequency he was able to make birdie putts Thursday. When he rolled in his ninth birdie putt of the day on the 17th green, it looked to be rolling past the hole. Instead, it dropped down, and he looking up seemingly in disbelief of his break.

“I thought I hit that kind of firm, and I was kind of hoping to hit the hole, and it went in,”  said Imai, a three-time Mass Junior Amateur Champion. “It was kind of a ‘thank you.'”

After shooting a 1-over 73 on the first day, Imai surged into a share of the lead with Joey Lenane (KOHR Golf) by shooting a 7-under 65. Imai’s score was the first 65 in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament since Jack Whalen hit the mark in the first round of the 2014 tournament at Dedham C&PC. Hopkinton native John Curren, a PGA TOUR pro, owns the overall course record at Framingham with a 61.

James Imai sank nine birdies en route to a 7-under 65 on Thursday and Framingham Country Club (Mass Golf).

Thursday wasn’t Imai’s low score — he shot a 60 in the 2018 Bay State Conference Championships at Presidents GC in Quincy — but his score puts him in position to win his first Mass Golf even, aside from the Junior Amateur.

Imai made eight of his birdies through 14 holes, including five on the front nine. Aside from a pair of bogies on the 16 and 18, Imai said he was cleaner off the tee and was able to play in more fairways.

“It definitely felt good to go low today,” Imai said. “My game’s feeling good. I’m just waiting for the putter to get hot, and the putter was hot today, which is good.”

Lenane, a senior at Xavierian Brothers High School, started the day at 3-under and shot 2-over on the front nine following a double bogey on the 9th. However, he plowed forward with his best stretch of the day, with five birdies on the last seven holes. He had consecutive birdies from 14-16 and finished his round with one more.

After shooting even-par on Wednesday, Chris Francoeur (Amesbury G&CC) fired a 67 and is tied at 5-under with Wednesday’s co-leader Mike Calef (Pine Oaks GC). Nick Maccario (Bradford CC), the runner-up at this year’s Mass Amateur and New England Amateur, also shot a 67 to move to 4-under with Framingham CC’s Kyle Tibbets.

Calef had five birdies and was 2-under on the day through 12 holes. After making bogey on the 14th and 15th, he had a key par save on the 16. After hitting out a fairway bunker, he chipped from the right fringe and made the par putt.

After lipping out his birdie on the 17th, he hit his third shot on the 18th about 20 feet above the pins and sank it to finish 1-under. With at least a dozen players in contention, every stroke counts.

“It’s a strong top of the leaderboard for sure, and I’m right where I want to be,” Calef said. “Today was sloppy…but I scored fairly well so I’ll take that going into tomorrow and we’ll see what happens.”

If Maccario, the Mass Mid-Amateur champion, is able to win Friday, it’ll be at Woodland, the place he says is his favorite course.

“I could play there every single day,” said Maccario, who lives a few short miles from the course. “I love that golf course. You can play every club in your bag. The greens are always awesome.”

Alex Jeffers will get to represent his home course Friday after shooting consecutive 74s in Rounds 1 and 2 for the second straight year.

WOMEN’S DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS

Anne Walsh (The Country Club) shot 1-under and maintained her three-stroke lead despite an up-and-down day with six birdies and five bogeys. And now she has a chance at redemption.

For the second consecutive year, she enters the final round at Woodland with the lead. She shot a 79 on the final day last year and finished T4 with Rebeca Skoler (Pine Brook CC), who was her playing partner for the past two days.

“I didn’t play my best but I’m excited to have a second shot at it,” said Walsh, who will attend Columbia in the fall. “I’m a little bit more familiar with the layout.”

Skoler, who will attend the University of Virginia in the fall, had the low-round score of 2-under 70 in the Women’s Division. Skoler said some early-morning putting practice was key. Despite starting with a bogey, she made par or better the rest of the way and is 2-over for the tournament.

“I wasn’t super confident over the putts, and I just wasn’t really making anything,” Skoler said. “And today, I felt a lot more confident, so that definitely helped.”

Both teens will tee off in the final group with Merrimack graduate Krystal Knight (Bradford CC), who shot an even-par 72 Thursday is seeking a turnaround of her own. Knight competed in a sudden-death playoff in the final round last year with Sophie DiPetrillo but lost after playing the wrong ball.

“I’m just happy I was able to pull that off and be in contention tomorrow,” Knight said. “I’m just trying to hit fairways and greens, no three-puts, stay out of the trees, and just sort of focus on myself and just block everything else out.”

Knight had a nice bounce back after making bogey on the first and double bogey on the second. On the par-3 6th and par-3 11th, she saved par with 20-plus foot putts. She then made birdie on the 12th and 18th.

“I knew it was hitting it well, it was just poor putting,” Knight said. “The greens were rolling faster, so I just had to take some speed out of my putting stroke.”

EDDIE’ LOWERY DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS

With a 2-over 74 on Thursday, Frank Vana Jr (Marlborough CC) ironically shot the highest score in his group with Jack Kearney (Westover GC) and Jim DiBiase (Woodland GC), who each shot a 73.

But it didn’t matter much for Vana, who still has a six-stroke lead at 3-under for the tournament. He’s now on the verge of winning his second Lowery title in three years.

“I feel good,” Vana said. “My routine feels good. Today I had a couple of little hiccups and made bogey on those. Sometimes you still get away with pars, but today I made a few bogeys.”

Vana found plenty of birdie chances during his second round, rolling in four total, and making three straight from holes 10-12 to start his back nine. 

As for getting to play a Woodland for a potential seventh title (5 Championship Division, 1 Lowery Division), “Woodland’s great. They’ve done such a good job for the last 10 years at the golf course, and it’s fun to play. I enjoy that being the final day.”

Still, he can’t sleep on DiBiase, who won the Lowery back in 2017 at his home club. Though he has double the deficit to make up this time around, he appreciates the ability to play on his home course in this event.

“It is a very special tournament here,” DiBiase said in 2017. “The fact that we get to host the third day of the tournament here every year is very important to the membership here at Woodland and everybody here does a great job from the pro shop staff to the superintendent. I know that they like to make sure that we put our best foot forward because this is such a special event.”

DiBiase played steady golf on Thursday, making one birdie on his front nine. Despite making bogey on the last two holes, he has some momentum entering the final round.

Hovering within contention as well are both Mark Chylinski (Berkshire Hills CC) and John McNeill (Amateur Golf Tour) as they both sit at 4-over overall.

NEWS & NOTES

CHARLES RIVER – 2021

Mass Golf announced today that Charles River Country Club in Newton Centre will host Rounds 1 & 2 of the 54th Ouimet Memorial Tournament next year. Charles River will be celebrating its centennial in 1921 and will co-host the Ouimet with Woodland for the first time since 2011. For more details, CLICK HERE

MOST IMPROVED

Jared Winiarz (Norton CC) played himself into the final round Thursday by shaving off 10 strokes off his first round. Winiarz, a rising senior for the Hartford University men’s golf team shot a 2-under 70 with five birdies, including three consecutive between holes 6-8.

WAITING IN THE FAIRWAYS

Mike Dunham focused on the action from his spot in the shade in between holes 13 and 14 on Thursday, doing his best to help out if needed. For the former NHL goaltender, it was a change of pace from his day job.

Dunham, also a 2002 silver medalist for Team USA hockey, has been a goalie development coach for the Boston Bruins since August 2017, working mostly with goaltenders at the minor league level. After years of playing on the state’s amateur circuit, Dunham is taking on a new role as a Mass Golf Volunteer Rules Official.

“I enjoy being around the golf course and enjoy being around competitive golf,” said Dunham, who has been a member at Concord Country Club for the past decade. “But I’m not getting any younger, and it seems like the players are and so I wanted to find another way to enjoy that outlet of competitive golf and kind of helping out and giving back and staying around the atmosphere of competitive golf.”

FILE–Mike Dunham, a former NHL goaltender, has competed for many years in Mass Golf amateur events. Now he’s taking on a new role as a Volunteer Rules Official. (David Colt)

Like most hockey fans, Dunham is anxious for the start of the Bruins season on Sunday, but there’s also a chance his time on the links could be limited. Bob Essensa is currently with the Bruins in Toronto, and if Essensa has to leave the team for illness or another cause, Dunham said he would get the call to join the team.

Still, Dunham said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen from the NHL protocols so far.

“It’s a lot of wondering how it’s gonna work or what’s going to happen,” I’ve watched a couple of exhibition games, and it seems like the players are ready to go. I think once the puck’s dropped and once you see a few big hits on the ice, I think everything else kind of comes back naturally for them, so it’ll be it’s gonna be fun to watch.”

Dunham, who grew up in Johnson City, New York, was introduced to golf at an early age as her father was a PGA Professional at Vestal Country Club in Binghamton, New York.

“Hockey was always my No. 1 (sport), but I always had a golf club in my hand I used to I grew up working in the, in the bag room, picking up the range, cleaning carts, cleaning clubs, so I was always around golf and golf has been part of our family.”

Dunham isn’t the only former hockey player in the Ouimet. Former defenseman Ryan Whitney (Old Sandwich) made the cut in the Championship Division by shooting 2-over (72-74–146) over two days.

“Ryan’s really worked hard,” Dunham said of Whitney. “He’s really gotten serious about it, and it’s good to see he’s been playing well this summer.

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