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CONCORD, Massachusetts – The first round of the 2018 Ouimet Memorial Tournament was held on Wednesday at Concord Country Club. Today’s round was the first of three scheduled over the next three days for an event that will crown three divisional champions – Championship, Lowery (Senior) and Women’s – following 54 holes.
New for 2018, the first two rounds will be contested at one venue – Concord Country Club – while the third and final round will be played at Woodland Golf Club, the home course of the event’s namesake, as it has been done since the event was introduced in 1968. See below for a complete history of this event which is – for the first time in history – being fully managed by Mass Golf.
Following the first 36 holes this week there will be a cut to the low 30 & ties and the Championship Division and the low 12 & ties in the Lowery and Women’s Divisions. Only those competitors will compete at Woodland Golf Club on Wednesday
Here are highlights from each of the three divisions.
Getting off to a good start was a goal of Jackson Lang (Nashawtuc CC) heading into this week, but making birdie on his first five holes at Concord Country Club took that aspiration to a whole new level.
Lang, who last year became the first golfer in Davidson University history to win an Atlantic 10 Men’s Golf Individual Championship, was 5-under par through five holes and 6-under par through 13 holes. He finished his round at 4-under par 66 which gives him a one-stroke lead over the field heading into Thursday’s second round.
“When you get a hot start like that you are thinking that you are going to shoot really low,” said Lang. “You think that you can’t do anything wrong, but then you realize that it’s the same old same old for the next whatever it was 13 holes.”
Although the birdie train did eventually end for Lang, it was a stretch to remember.
After finding the green in two and two putting for birdie on the 479-yard, par 5 1st hole, Lang made birdie putts of 15 feet, 35 feet and 15 feet on his next three holes. On the 448-yard, par 4 4th hole, Lang scrambled after his drive sailed right but managed to make a 15-footer for birdie. Incredibly, Lang could have been 6-under through five holes as his approach on the 457-yard, par 4 5th hole nearly holed out for eagle leaving him a two-foot birdie tap in.
One bogey and three pars later, Lang made the turn at 4-under par. He padded his lead over the field of 51 Championship competitors by making two more birdies – on the 11th and 13th holes – to put him at 6-under par through 13 holes. His nearest competitor at the time was at 2-under par.
“It was a good start to have,” said Lang. “It was a good feeling, and it really came down to rolling in a few putts.”
Today’s round is a continuation of outstanding play for Lang this summer. Two weeks ago, he was co-medalist at the 2018 Massachusetts Amateur Championship and then delivered a T6 finish at last week’s New England Amateur Championship.
“The putter has been a big change for me this year,” said Lang. “I am doing some new stuff with my putter and changing my routine a bit. I put a line on the golf ball, and I have been working really hard at it. I have committed to good lines and am using this AimPoint thing to read putts too. It’s a lot of different stuff and I am getting better at it, but it is cool to see that it has been translating into some low rounds for me.”
Two bogies through his final five holes allowed the field to pull closer to Lang, but it was not enough to dampen the positives taken from the fast start.
“It makes it a lot easier on yourself for sure,” said Lang. “You don’t have to go out and do anything crazy over the next two days to be in contention whereas if you start off poorly or shoot a bad round in the first round you feel like you have knuckle down and every shot matters a little bit more. So I can just go out and be relaxed over the next two days and put up some numbers.”
One competitor who like Lang is building on recent success is Chris Francoeur (Amesbury G&CC), who is one back of the lead after posting a 3-under par 67 on Wednesday.
Francoeur, a rising sophomore at the University of Rhode Island, advanced to the quarterfinals of this year’s Massachusetts Amateur Championship and is making only his second appearance at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament.
“This is an amazing tournament to play in,” said Francoeur. “I’m just really happy that I am able to be here to compete with the best guys in the state. Hopefully I will have a good finish here to use it as confidence going into the fall.”
After making the turn at even par 35, Francoeur made four birdies on the Concord CC back nine including birdies on three of his final five holes.
“It was a pretty solid day all around,” said Francoeur, who made late-round birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th holes. “It was just kind of a boring front nine, a couple pars and a couple of birdies and then I started making a couple long putts on the back.”
His strong finish was especially impressive given that one day earlier he played in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier held at Pawtucket Country Club. Although Francoeur was not able to secure one of the three available qualifying spots at that site, he did finish just three strokes off qualifying pace
“It definitely helped. I hit the ball really well yesterday, so I just told myself to keep hitting it well and make a few more putts and I’ll play a good round,” said Francoeur. “I think I had four birdies on the back [today]. Three of them were actually about 25 footers. I rolled in a few long ones then had a pretty easy birdie on 17 – the par 5.”
One back of Francoeur at 2-under par 68 are Jack Boulger (Walpole CC) and Timothy Umphrey (Tatnuck CC). Also finishing under par on Wednesday were Ryan Pelletier (Pawtucket CC) and Mark Turner (Bass Rocks GC), who both posted scores of 1-under par 69.
Two names that may not be found at the top of leaderboard but will no doubt sneak their way up as the tournament rolls along are Patrick Frodigh (Dedham C&PC) and Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC).
Frodigh captured the 2018 Massachusetts Amateur Championship at George Wright Golf Course earlier this month, while Parziale, the reigning U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, has enjoyed a whirlwind season which has included well-covered appearances at the Masters Tournament and U.S. Open Championship.
In addition to winning both the Massachusetts Amateur Championship and U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship in 2017, Parziale also won another big title that season… the Ouimet Memorial Tournament. He made sure to include this event in his busy schedule which will include – in August – his wedding and a trip to the U.S. Amateur Championship.
“I always like playing in this tournament,” said Parziale. “The course is in great shape, so it’s really good to be here for two days. I don’t even think about defending. It was a year ago. A lot of things have changed. It’s a new tournament, but I’m happy with how I finished today.”
Parziale’s finish should make competitors nervous. He made the turn at 3-over par 38 after a double bogey on the 2nd hole and a bogey on the 9th hole. The back nine was a tale of a different story as he carded four birdies including three through his final five holes to post an even par 70. He stands T8 overall.
“It could have gotten out of hand,” said Parziale, who shared low amateur honors at the 2018 U.S. Open Championship held at Shinnecock Golf Club (NY). “I was playing pretty poorly on the front, but I had a good back nine there.”
The new format which will see the second round played in Concord for a second day in a row is something that Parziale welcomes.
“I like playing it a lot,” said Parziale about the host site. “It’s difficult. It isn’t easy. The wind was up today and there were a lot of shots that were affected by the wind. I made a mess of it on the front, but other than that it was pretty good.”
Playing alongside Parziale all day long was Frodigh, who defeated Parziale in the quarterfinals en route to winning his first career Massachusetts Amateur Championship title. On this day, Frodigh struggled to find his rhythm and carded an uncharacteristic triple bogey on the 375-yard, par 4 8th hole to finish at 2-over par 72 for the day.
“I didn’t play that great today,” said Frodigh, a recent graduate of Elon University. “I was struggling with my speed putting, but I like the course a lot and I know I like Woodland. I just have to play well tomorrow and hopefully post a low number and try and get myself towards the top of the mix for Friday.”
Posting low numbers has been a habit for Frodigh as of late. Immediately following his victory in Hyde Park, Frodigh turned in a T6 finish at last week’s New England Amateur Championship. Earlier this week, he punched his ticket to the U.S. Amateur Championship by posting a two-round score of 11-under par 133 to capture medalist honors at a sectional qualifier held at The Ledges Golf Club in York, Maine.
“I really feel that my game is at a good place right now,” said Frodigh, who plans to go pro this winter. “Going from the Amateur to the New England Amateur was good. I had a few days rest, but I could tell the last day of the New England Amateur which was 27 holes I was kind of running on fumes and the legs got a little heavy. Then I had a few days off after that and then went up to Maine and stayed really patient the whole day and tried to hit as many greens as I could up there. I was lucky enough to hit some close and to make a few longer putts.”
With 36 more holes to go this week, Frodigh is confident that his recent experience will pay dividends come Friday.
“Moreso now, I’m more mentally strong [than I was in past years] because I’ve been playing so much golf since the Mass Am,” said Frodigh. “A 36-hole day feels normal. Coming out and just having an 18-hole day like today doesn’t feel too strenuous on the body.”
For Falmouth native Hannah Ghelfi, a rising junior on the University of Michigan Women’s Golf Team, this week’s Ouimet Memorial Tournament is one final run through ahead of the 115th playing of the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, for which the 21-year old will be looking to defend her title as a state champion next week at George Wright Golf Course.
On Wednesday at Concord Country Club, where the first two rounds of the 54-hole tournament will be contested, Ghelfi jumped out to an early lead over the field of 14 competitors in the division. Ghelfi, of Pocasset Country Club, fired a 2-under par 70 to hold a slight lead over Norton’s Shannon Johnson. It is a lead she says she hopes to build on as the week continues.
“It was a good day. A lot of birdies,” said Ghelfi, who was exempt into this week’s field as a result of her finish in the 2017 Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, as well as her place atop the Anne Marie Tobin Player of the Year standings this past season.
After making par on the 1st hole at Concord, she made birdie on the 2nd hole, the 5th hole and the 7th hole, but made the turn at 1-over par after her short game caused her some trouble.
“The front nine I definitely struggled with the greens,” explained Ghelfi following her round Wednesday. “On the back nine, I kind of learned from the front and that is definitely what helped me.”
On her later nine, Ghelfi made birdie on the 10th and 13th holes, a pair of par-4’s, then tallied back-to-back birdies on the par-5 16th and 17th holes to card a 33 and finish the day at 2-under 70.
With the women’s division of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, now in its 51st year, expanding to 54-holes from its previous format of just 18-holes on the final day, Ghelfi added that it’s a pleasure to be among the participants in the field.
“It’s really cool. The women I played with today are the women I play with a lot in the summer, but we never play in tournaments with men, so it is kind of cool to see a different atmosphere,” she added.
In addition to Ghelfi and Johnson, Allison Paik (The CC of Sharon) and reigning women’s division champion, Jacquelyn Eleey, of Quincy, placed T3 on the leaderboard at 2-over 73.
Competing in the 51st edition of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, Boxford’s Frank Vana, Jr. had a couple of items to check off the bucket list.
The nine-time Mass Golf Player of the Year has won this prestigious event a record five-times competing in the Championship division, with his most recent victory coming in 2010 when the tournament was held at The International and at Woodland Golf Club – which has hosted the final round each year in honor of its former member for who the tournament is named.
Standing in his way this year was Concord Country Club – the same club where Vana fell in the championship match of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship in 2007 to Burgess Houston, who won by a final score of 1 Up.
Back on the same course for the first time in 11 years, Vana took all the right steps for what he hopes will be another championship run – this time in the Eddie Lowery Division for the 20 senior competitors in the field. Vana, Jr shot a 3-under 67 through the tournament’s first 18 holes and leads Jon Fasick by three strokes.
“I played pretty well. I had a couple three-putts today and had some other opportunities, but the conditions were perfect. I hit a lot of good shots,” said Vana, who made par on the 1st hole and then sank one of his first of three birdies on the par-4 2nd hole.
“On the second hole, I hit the approach shot to about eight feet and then knocked that in,” said Vana, who then bounced back from a bogey on the 3rd hole with a birdie on the 5th hole before a streak of six straight pars. “Then the hole down the hill, Concord’5th hole, I had a nice drive to about 100 yards that I made from about eight or ten feet, which was nice.”
Vana used what he considered a great chip shot on the 8th hole to keep his pace steady to make the turn at 1-under, then made birdie on the 12th hole and nearly missed out on an albatross on the par-5 17th on his way to finishing the round atop the leaderboard.
With at least one and more than likely two rounds left in him this week – the top 12 in the division will advance to Friday’s final round – Vana is thrilled to be playing among the Bay State’s deepest fields.
“I love playing in the Ouimet,” he added. “Concord is a great spot, and I’ve always really liked this place. I’m looking forward to coming back tomorrow.”
Vana will once again be paired with Fasick and Dennis’ Joe Walker, who won the Lowery Division in 2016. The trio will begin play starting on the 10th tee in the 9:12 am time slot.
The inaugural edition of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament was held in August of 1968. As was explained in the Fall of 2017 edition of MassGolfer magazine, the idea for what was the de facto stroke play championship for amateurs can be credited to the event’s namesake – Francis Ouimet – as well as Tom Barrett, the Ouimet Memorial Tournament’s founding chairman and longtime Woodland Golf Club member.
Woodland’s 75th anniversary book — published in 1977 — helps to explain: “Tom talked to Francis Ouimet a few months before the world-renowned golfer died in 1967 and found him warmly enthusiastic. Francis always was a staunch believer in stroke play.”
Since that inaugural event, the Ouimet Memorial Tournament has expanded.
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. Tom Martin captured that inaugural Lowery title. The Lowery’s permanent trophy is a 21-inchbronze 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 ‘threepeat.’ 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.
In 2017, the Ouimet Fund announced that beginning in 2018 the Ouimet Memorial Tournament officially would become part of the Mass Golf Championship.
“We had 49 wonderful years with the Ouimet Memorial, but the expectations and needs of tournament management today are much more than our small staff can handle,” said Bob Donovan, the Ouimet Fund’s executive director, at the time of the announcement. “We were doing only this one competitive golf event each year, and felt the tournament and the field would be better served with the nationally-recognized [Mass Golf] team managing it.”
As a result, the Ouimet Memorial Tournament represents the third 54-hole stroke-play event offered by the state golf association — joining the Open, and Mid-Amateur — and, as such, is a World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) Counting Event.
This year’s event welcomed several changes, most notably, the event has changed its historical invitation and exemption format to one based on merit and exemptions for amateur competitors who hold an active USGA/GHIN Handicap Index with a Mass Golf Member Club.
The eligibility standards fall in line with those of the Mass Golf’s current slate of Championship events and include exempt categories for the Championship Division (18), Lowery Division (10) and Women’s Division (11). Click here to view a list of the 2018 exempt categories.
Mass Golf also expanded the field for both the Lowery Division and Women’s Division; also, the Women’s Division is now played at 54 holes (historically, it has been conducted over 18 holes).
While the event’s final round will continue to be contested — as it has for the first 50 years — at Woodland Golf Club, the 2018 tournament the first 36 holes will be held at one venue, this year’s host site being Concord Country Club.