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BELMONT, Massachusetts – What began as a field of 120 was trimmed to just 16 following two rounds of stroke play of the 100th Massachusetts Amateur Championship which is being held this week at Belmont Country Club.
Those 16 competitors will now look forward to the start of match play on Wednesday beginning at 8:00 a.m. This year’s cut line fell at 5-over par 147 with no playoff being necessary to determine the final 16.
This year marks a return to a stroke and match play format for this event, which was introduced in 1914. Weather permitting, the first two rounds of match play – round of 16 and quarterfinals – will be contested on Wednesday. The semifinals and final match will take place on Thursday.
Joining in on the celebration come Thursday will be John Nies, Jr., winner of the 1947 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship. It was a title which he won at Worcester Country Club.
Below are highlights from the second day of competition at Belmont Country Club.
He has been playing golf for less than three years, but on Tuesday at Belmont Country Club, Liam Gill made his name known in the local golf community, shooting a 3-under 68 and jumping up to second place on the leaderboard behind day one leader, James Imai, who continued his stellar play with a 2-under 69 performance that netted him stroke play medalist honors.
Playing in the second day of his first ever Mass Golf Championship, the 16-year Gill three-putted his first hole then settled down to quickly get under par and never looked back, playing well enough to lock up the second seed heading into tomorrow’s Round of 16 match play.
“I missed a tap-in inside of a foot and kind of had a blank there and wasn’t really focused,” said Gill on his first hole blunder.
He quickly rebounded, birdying four of his next six holes and adding another on his back nine to finish at 3-under for the day, building on his impressive 1-under 70 performance Monday on the same Belmont layout.
“A bunch of the kids in KOHR Academy were playing in it and Mass Golf is obviously pretty big in Massachusetts, so I wanted to come out to the Junior and see what happens,” said Gill, who played for Catholic Memorial last year but will return to Wayland for his sophomore season. I fired 70-68 in the first two stroke play rounds so it was not bad.”
With his focus set on hitting a few more putts tomorrow and adding to the number of fairways and greens that he hit heading into match play, Gill fell short to only Imai in the two-round total, who made it 31 holes before making a bogey in this year’s Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship.
“It’s definitely one of the best stretches I’ve had and that is kind of one of the mottos I’ve had this summer. Keep hitting greens, and even if I miss a green, be in a position where I can make an easy par,” said Imai, who carded 67-69-136 in two rounds of stroke play at Belmont Country Club. “I’ve been doing that well throughout the summer and I look to continue that.”
Stating that Belmont, which he played for the first time on Sunday, reminded him of his home course George Wright, Imai continued to play the course like a season vet on Tuesday, birdying the first hole, parring the next nine holes and adding two more birdies.
It wasn’t until the par-4 14th hole, his 32nd hole of competition, that the Brookline High School golfer tallied a bogey.
“I didn’t hit really hit it as well today, but I got up and down and made so many putts, so that was the only difference compared to yesterday’s round,” said Imai. “I think the difference was that I was able to ignore what the number was for match play and just keep going and just keep doing what I was doing.”
As the stroke play medalist, he’ll earn the No. 1 seed entering Wednesday morning’s Round of 16 and switch to a format that he was part of just three weeks ago when he advanced to the Round of 64 at the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship. He hopes that his recent experience in match play will be beneficial.
“It gives me more confidence knowing that the 18-hole score doesn’t matter,” said Imai on the return to stroke play. “All you have to do is beat the guy in front of you.”
In total, 16 competitors who shot a two-day score of 6-under 136 and 5-over 147 advanced to the match play portion of the Championship Proper.
The following players advanced to the Round of 16 at the 100th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship, which will kick off at 8 a.m. on Wednesday morning.
This is what the schedule looks like for tomorrow's #MassJunior Round of 16.
See ya in the morning! pic.twitter.com/lJe9ncutaL
— #MassGolf (@PlayMassGolf) August 7, 2018
At least five and possibly two additional competitors from this year’s field will have something very special to look forward to next week. Peter Bowie (CC of Wilbraham), Xavier Marcoux (Nashawtuc CC), Jack O’Donnell (Boston GC), Jared Winiarz (NEPGA JR TOUR) and Jack Tobin (Marlborough CC) have all been selected by Mass Golf to represent Team Massachusetts at the 2018 New England Amateur Junior Invitational.
The annual event features teams of top junior amateur golfers from the six New England states who compete for a team and individual title. The format is the best-of-seven scores for 54 holes played over a two-day period.
“We are excited to select these outstanding five golfers to represent our state at this prestigious tournament next week,” said Jesse Menachem, Mass Golf’s Executive Director/CEO. “We will make our final two selections following the completion of this year’s Junior Amateur Championship but this group of five is certainly a strong start to what will be an impressive team for the Bay State.”
To Menachem’s point, the final and complete team roster of seven will be officially announced following the conclusion of this week’s 100th Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship.
This year’s team will look to continue what has been an impressive stretch of dominance for the Bay State in this event. Team Massachusetts has captured the overall title five times in the last seven years including back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017.
The newest squad, which includes junior amateurs under the age of 19, will not only look to secure a third straight title but they will look to do so on their home turf as this year’s New England Junior Amateur Invitational will be held on August 12-14 at Longmeadow Country Club.
In addition to its team success, the individual medalist honor – which goes to the golfer who posts the lowest individual gross score through three rounds – was captured one year ago by James Imai.
Below are snapshots of the five confirmed members of Team Massachusetts.
Pete Bowie: A recent graduate of Wilbraham & Monson Academy, Bowie will attend and play golf at Bryant University. This past season, Bowie advanced in his first attempt to qualify for the U.S. Junior Amateur Golf Championship.
Bowie Quotable: “It is an honor to represent Team Mass. I’m excited to compete in the New England Junior Amateur, and I will do everything I can to help Team Mass win. All of my hard work is starting to pay off, and I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Xavier Marcoux: A rising senior at Lexington High School, Marcoux has committed to play golf for Rutgers University in the fall of 2019.
Marcoux Quotable: “It is an honor, I have been waiting for this for the last couple years. I have had a couple friends play on the team and it is going to be an awesome week out over at Longmeadow… It is definitely up there in the top three. I’ve done a lot of good things this summer and being on Team Mass is obviously up there.”
Jack O’Donnell: A rising junior at Boston College High School, the Cohasset resident was named the Boston Globe Golf Athlete of the Year after a high school which saw him capture the Division 1 South sectional individual title. He was also the 2014 Young Golfers’ Amateur Champion.
O’Donnell Quotable: “It is a huge achievement to be named to the Mass team and to rep Mass. It is going to be very fun.”
Jack Tobin: A rising senior at Algonquin Regional High School, Tobin carded an even-par 70 this past fall to help his team finish third in the Division 1 State Tournament and earn the title of Hometeam Golfer of the Year. It was the lowest round in a state tournament in school history and the lowest round by a Central Mass. golfer in any of the three 2017 divisional state tournaments.
Tobin Quotable: “To compete against the best seven kids from the other states is pretty awesome. To be able to say that I am one of the top seven that got named to be on the junior team is probably my biggest accomplishment as a golfer.”
Jared Winiarz: The 2018 graduate of Norton High School will compete for the University of Hartford in the fall. Winiarz will be making his second appearance for Team Massachusetts. He longtime participant in The First Tee of Massachusetts program, Winiaz represented the program at the 2017 PURE Insurance Championship, an official PGA TOUR Champions contested at Pebble Beach Golf Links and Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, California.
Winiarz Quotable: “It’s a cool event. Last year I played it, it was my first time so I kind of didn’t really know where I was going with it, so I was following everyone but this year it is kind of cool being leader of the team.”
In addition to this year’s Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship marking the 100th tournament since Raymond Ouimet won the inaugural championship in 1914, this year’s host – Belmont Country Club – is also celebrating a historic milestone. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the club, which was originally established in 1918, and hosting such a historic event with such deep ties to golf is just one of the many ways that the club is celebrating the century mark.
“It’s been very exciting for us,” said Belmont Country Club’s Director of Golf, John Fields, who has been with the club for more than 25 years. “When we were asked to hold the 100th Junior Amateur Championship, and when we took it to our board of governors, they were overwhelmed and approved it. It is a very special honor for us to be able to do that.”
He added, “We are very proud of our golf course and facility here, so to host that event means a great deal to the membership at Belmont.”
While hosting the Junior Amateur Championship is part of the festivities to celebrate the centennial year, it is far from the only thing the club is doing to celebrate the milestone. In fact, a special event is slated for September that will bring together several different groups of people who’ve been involved with the club over the years.
“We are doing a pro-member and party on September 7th,” said Fields. “We’ve got a lot of our members participating in that event. We have well over 100 members in participation, as well as 32 pros coming from all over the area. Lot of former employees of the club, as well as people who have worked here over their careers, are coming back to participate. It will be a very exciting night for us.”
Most famous for its Greenwich Velvet green complexes, Belmont Country Club has been the host site for numerous golf championships on the national level, including the 1916 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the 1937 Men’s PGA Match Play Championship, and most recently, the constellation Senior Players Championship in 2015. It has also served as the home course for Belmont High School, the Belmont Hill School, Buckingham, Browne and Nichols School, as well as Tufts University for several years.
Additionally, Belmont Country Club has served as the host site for top local golf tournaments, including six Massachusetts Women’s Open Championships, five Massachusetts Open Championships and four Massachusetts Amateur Championship. It also hosted the New England Open in both 2013 and 2014.
While the club is known for its tremendous golf, it also offers other top-amenities that makes it one of the most sought after clubs in New England, with state of the art tennis facilities, multiple pools and a full-service fitness center.
Heat Wave Continues: It was a second day of intense and unrelenting heat on the course in Belmont. The temperature reached a peak in the mid 90s but weather.com reported that the conditions felt more like “97 degrees” during the afternoon hours. Mass Golf staff had coolers with complimentary water bottles set up every three holes on the golf course from start to finish.
Brother Support: Timothy Umphrey, a rising sophomore at the University of Connecticut and a regular Mass Golf competitor, took time to cheer on his younger brother Matthew Umphrey this week. This past fall season, Matthew Umphrey earned medalist honors and led Algonquin Regional High School to the team championship at the Central Mass. Division 1 Tournament. Back in May, Timothy Umphrey teamed up with fellow Huskie Jimmy Hervol to win the Massachusetts Four-Ball Championship.
Constellation: Three years ago, Belmont Country Club hosted the Constellation Senior Players, which is one of five major championships on the PGA Tour’s Champions Tour for eligible professionals age 50 and over. In Belmont that year, Bernhard Langer became the first player since Arnold Palmer to successfully defend his Senior Players Championship. It marked the first time the Champions Tour had made a return to Massachusetts since the Bank of America Championship in 2008, which was won by Jeff Sluman.
Home Course Advantage: Although his club affiliation says Charles River CC, Connor Willett enjoyed a home-course advantage this week. Willett plays on the golf team at the Belmont Hill School, which is one of three local schools which uses Belmont Country Club as their home course. Willett practices and plays all of his home high school matches on the Belmont layout.
Injured Reserve: Two names missing from the final list of competitors on Tuesday were Andrew O’Leary (Pawtucket CC) and Mark Turner (Bass Rocks GC). O’Leary, who last month advanced to the semifinals of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship, withdrew prior to the event due to a wrist injury suffered just prior to the start of the tournament. Turner, who will be a freshman at Dartmouth College in the fall, withdrew after the first round of this event after further aggravating a strained bicep.
Pro Sighting: On Monday, Connor Piecuch had a special follower on course – his father. Kevin Piecuch is the longtime golf professional at the Country Club of Greenfield who is also considered one of the most prolific golfers in the history of Westfield State College. A graduate of East Longmeadow High School, Connor Piecuch clearly has his father’s golf genes as he will attend and play golf at Mercyhurst University in the fall.
MIAA Student Member Program Reigns: In its second full year, the Mass Golf’s MIAA Student Member program has opened the door for juniors to obtain a Mass Golf/USGA GHIN Handicap Index directly through Mass Golf at no charge. This complimentary service provides junior golfers with the ability to become more connected with the sport during a time when they might not have a direct connection with a local course. This year’s Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship field includes six golfers who obtained a GHIN Handicap Index through this program. Member Clubs that sent five golfers each to this week’s event include Beverly G&TC, Brae Burn CC, Harmon GC and Marshfield CC.