Francoeur, Walsh Wins First Ouimet Titles; Vana Wins Lowery Again - MASSGOLF

Francoeur, Walsh & Vana Win Their Divisions At 53rd Ouimet Memorial Tournament

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JULY 31, 2020

AUBURNDALE, Massachusetts – Chris Francoeur, of Amesbury Golf & Country Club, made birdie putts on the 17th and 18th holes to capture his first Championship Division title at the 53rd Ouimet Memorial Tournament on Friday at Woodland Golf Club. Anne Walsh, of The Country Club, secured the Women’s Division title with a four-stroke victory, and Frank Vana, Jr., of Marlborough Country Club, earned his second Lowery (Senior) Division title in three years, winning by a commanding 10 strokes.

From left, Frank Vana, Jr, Chris Francoeur and Anne Walsh stand with their championship trophies following Friday’s final round at Woodland Golf Club. (David Colt)

The first two rounds took place Wednesday and Thursday at Framingham Country Club with the final round being played, as always, at Woodland Golf Club. Woodland was the first club 1913 U.S. Open champion Francis Ouimet joined. The tournament is named after Brookline native Ouimet, a six-time Mass Amateur champion as well as a Mass Open champion and an inaugural member of the Mass Golf Hall of Fame.

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CHAMPIONSHIP DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS: FRANCOEUR SINKS TWO CLUTCH BIRDIE PUTTS TO WIN IT

Just seven minutes after Nick Maccario pumped his right fist after making a tying birdie putt on the 18th hole, Chris Francoeur stepped up to the same green and hit his 25-foot birdie bid toward the hole. As it rolled toward the cup, it seemed like it was going to roll to left by inches, but instead, it caught the lip, spun around the back and dropped into the hole.

After stepping onto the 16th tee tied with Xaverian Brothers High School standout Joey Lenane (KOHR Golf) and Maccario at 8-under, Francoeur got hot with the putter and finished with to clutch putts to earn his first individual Mass Golf Championship title.

Chris Francoeur‘s short game carried him to victory down the stretch. (David Colt)

“I knew I had to make something happen coming in, and I just happen up birdie 17 & 18,” said Francoeur, a rising senior for the University of Rhode Island men’s golf team. “There’s a ton of great players, pretty much the same as the Mass Am. It definitely feels good to grab a win in the summer.”

For Maccario, it was another agonizing finish as the defending Mass Mid-Amateur finished runner-up remarkably for the third consecutive week. Maccario fell to Matthew Organisak (Nashawtuc CC), the 2019 Ouimet champion, in the Mass Amateur final match and lost a playoff with John Broderick (Dedham C&PC) in the New England amateur. Neither Maccario nor Francoeur had standout rounds Wednesday, but both shot 67-66 to finish out the tournament.

Francoeur made the turn at Woodland two strokes back of Maccario and Lenane, and was one back of Kyle Tibbets (Framingham CC). But Francoeur rallied with five birdies on the back nine. After just missing his birdie putt on the 16th, Francoeur crushed his driver down the middle of the fairway and then hit a wedge to the back of the pin to set up a 10-foot downhill putt.

An errant tee shot on the 18th cost Francoeur a chance at making the Mass Amateur final two weeks prior. On Friday, he hit his tee shot into the left-side fairway bunker at Woodland on the 18th. Still, he lifted his shot out and onto the green to give himself a chance to win it.

“Thankfully, I had a good lie and hit a good shot in there,” Francoeur said.

Lenane, 16, also put himself in solid position to win, as he shot a bogey-free 2-under on the front nine. Despite a birdie on the 16th to pull even, he came up short on his approach shot on the 17th and couldn’t make his uphill par putt. He also made bogey on the 18th to drop to 6-under total and finished solo third.

Kyle Tibbets was the only tournament player to shoot under par all three days. (David Colt)

Tibbets was the only tournament player to shoot under par all three days. He sat in third place through nine holes but couldn’t find a birdie on the back nine and finished fourth at 5-under total for solo fourth.

As for Francoeur, the win is also a little sweeter since the Atlantic 10 Conference has postponed all fall sports.

“Hopefully I’ll try to practice as much as I can in the fall, and then we’ll see what happens in the spring,” Francoeur said.

WOMEN’S DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS: WALSH THE DECISIVE WINNER

Anne Walsh said she was much more prepared for Woodland this time, and it showed.

Walsh, who will attend Columbia University in the fall, shaved 10 strokes off her final-round score last year, shooting a 2-under 69 Friday to win the Women’s Division title for the first time.

Call it redemption? “For sure, yeah!” Walsh said.

“Last year I didn’t play that great here,” added Walsh, whose three-day total was 3-under 212. “It was nice to get out and play my own game and have a few good shots to pull it all together.

Anne Walsh finished with 14 birdies and an eagle over the course of three days to win the Women’s Division title. (David Colt)

On Friday, she kept her foot on the gas early on, going up-and-down for birdie on the downhill third hole, and then landing a shot two feet from the pin on the par-3 fourth to pad her 1-under front nine. To top things off, she carded an eagle on the par-5 11th and added two more birdies to keep her lead over Virginia-bound Rebecca Skoler (Pine Brook GC), who shot a 1-under 70 Friday to finish runner-up.

Walsh, the runner-up in last year’s Mass Women’s Amateur, was the steadiest on the women’s side by far. Over 54 holes, she had 14 birdies, plus Friday’s eagle and had just one double bogey on the first day.

“It’s been a while since I’ve won a stroke-play event so it definitely finishes pretty good,” said Walsh, who was runner-up at the 2018 Girls’ Junior Amateur played at Framingham CC. “There have been a lot of runner-ups so it’s nice to come on top.”

Krystal Knight (Bradford CC), last year’s runner-up finished top-3 again has she was solo third at 8-over. Megan Buck (Thorny Lea GC), the 2020 New England Women’s Amateur champion, finished T4 at 10-over, matching Jen Keim (Dennis Pines GC).

LOWERY DIVISION HIGHLIGHTS: VANA FEELS BACK ON TRACK

Frank Vana Jr continued his impressive run in the Ouimet, as he now stands as the only player in Ouimet Memorial Tournament history to win the event multiple times in both the Championship and Lowery Divisions.

“I feel like I’ve been struggling a little bit the last couple years, squeaking out something here or there,” said Vana, a 2016 inductee in the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame. “But I feel like things are starting to fall into place. I’m healthy. I feel good. I’m hitting a lot of good shots. Hopefully, I can keep this ship headed in the right direction.”

More from Vana: “I tell my buddies all the time it’s hard to win. I’ve been lucky enough to have my share of wins, but every time it’s enjoyable and it’s fun and you feel good afterward. It’s one of those things, you don’t get tired of it.” (David Colt)

For now, it’s nothing but smooth sailing for Vana, who was in complete command of his game this week. Through three rounds he totaled 15 birdies, with five of those coming in his final round 3-under 68 at Woodland Golf Club.

“I wasn’t happy with my finish yesterday (2-over 74),” Vana said. “But today I stayed focused and hit a lot of good shots. It’s nice to play stress-free golf with good weather, good guys, and a great tournament.”

One of those “good guys” Vana had the pleasure of being paired up with all three days was Woodland member Jim DiBiase, who joined Vana in the final group today for the Lowery Division. After a 74-73 performance at Framingham CC, DiBiase finished with a 78 at his home club, putting him in solo sixth for the tournament.

Finishing behind Vana was Keith Smith (Franklin CC) who totaled a three-day mark of four over par. Smith finished in the red at Woodland as he shot 1-under par 70, which included four birdies on the scorecard

Woodland Upgrades Get Rave Reviews

After winning the Ouimet Memorial Tournament on Friday, Chris Francoeur said he didn’t know that the bunker that used to be alongside the road that divides the 18th fairway was no longer there.

The filled-in bunker is one of many changes made to Woodland’s course over the past five months. Greens chairman Chris Simon said the club hired Delaware golf architect Tyler Rae, for a $1.2 million project to reshape bunkers and other elements of the course. The project took place from March 1-July 1 and finished just in time for the club to continue its tradition of hosting the final day of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament.

Woodland’s bunkers had a much different feel at this year’s Ouimet Memorial Tournament. (David Colt)

“I think he’s gonna be a superstar young architect,” Simon said of Rae. “He said what he was gonna do and he did it, and he did it under budget, and he did it on time, and everyone’s really happy.”

The original course was built as a 9-hole layout in 1901 and just six years later became an 18-hole facility. In the 1920s, both Donald Ross and Wayne Stiles had a hand in redesigning the layout. Ross’ bunkering and course routing was largely intact until the 1960s when Geoffrey Cornish conducted a hole-by-hole redesign of the course.

Simon described Rae as a “Donald Ross disciple”, and accordingly redesigned the bunkers back to Ross’ shapings. Rae raised the third green, added 1,000 sq. feet to it put in some undulations. He also took out several bunkers behind holes, also a Ross principle.

He created some different looks as well, adding runoff on holes 2 and 14, a punch bowl green on the 8th and a fairway cut behind the 15th. Rae also opened up several more front entrances on fairways to make it more playable.

To me, it looks like a new course,” Simon said. “The members love it, and I’ve talked a lot of players today and they really like the new look.”

Lowery Division champion Frank Vana, Jr. was among those who agreed.

“Both golf courses were literally perfect,” Vana said of Woodland and Framingham.

“The course was in really great shape,” added Anne Walsh, the Women’s Division champion. “Around the greens was where most of the scoring happened, so it was a nice transition (from Framingham CC).”

These changes live up to the motto on Woodland’s website, “One hears it over and over: You never get tired of playing Woodland.”

UP NEXT

Mass Golf will have several more Championships and Women’s Championships throughout the next few weeks, including the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur championship.

Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship
Aug. 3-4 at Hatherly Country Club, Scituate
(36 holes stroke play)
Homepage: https://www.massgolf.org/championships/2020girlsjunioram1/

Junior Amateur Championship
Aug. 3-6 at Cranberry Valley Golf Course, Harwich
(18 holes stroke play, followed by match play)
Homepage: https://www.massgolf.org/championships/2020-junior-championship/

117th Women’s Amateur Championship
Aug. 11-14 at Essex County Club, Manchester-by-the-Sea
(36 holes stroke play, followed by match play)
Homepage: https://www.massgolf.org/championships/2020-amateur-w/

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