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HARWICH, Massachusetts – The first eight players punched their ticket to match play in the first round of the 102nd Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship, which began on a windswept Monday at Cranberry Valley Golf Course. Winds gusts hovered around 20-25 mph, aided by Tropic Storm Isaias heading up the coast.
Because of COVID-19 safety measures and possible inclement weather Tuesday, half of the 168-player field played 18 holes of stroke play, with the top eight advancing to match play in Bracket A. The other 84 players will play 18 holes Tuesday, with the top eight moving on to Bracket B. Match play will begin on Wednesday with the Round of 16 and Quarterfinals. The Semifinals and Championship Match will take place Thursday.
Max Hutter (Weston GC) was kicking himself after missing a three-footer for par on the opening hole Monday. He made up for it quickly, though, making hitting a 20-foot eagle putt on the next hole and adding another eagle on the back nine en route to a 6-under-par 66, the low score of the day.
“Everything was on today,” said Hutter, a Weston native and a rising senior at Roxbury Latin. “The putter was hot so that was definitely great. I was able to scramble and get up and down on a few holes.”
Hutter advanced to Bracket A of match play along with Plainville’s Spencer Dumas (Franklin CC), who was solo second place at 2-under. Jack O’Donnell (Boston GC), Raymond Dennehy IV (Oak Hill CC) and 2020 New England Amateur champion John Broderick (Dedham C&PC) also shot 1-under to advance. Rounding out the cut at even-par were Brian Glennon (Cohasset GC), Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill CC) and Owen Egan (Winchester CC).
Hutter made match play for the third consecutive year, reaching as far as the quarterfinals in 2018. His ball-striking was particularly effective, tackling the par-5 14th by hitting a driver then nine-iron to set-up a five-foot eagle putt.
Broderick, last year’s stroke play medalist and Pre-Junior Division (14-15) winner, and O’Donnell, a University of Michigan-bound freshman, rallied in a similar fashion, going from over-par to under-par by making birdies on holes 14-16. Both players competed against each other in match play last year, with Broderick winning 3 and 2.
All the qualifiers will no wait to see who advances from Tuesday’s stroke-play portion and will begin match play Wednesday. The mid-week break is a rare phenomenon for the match-play qualifiers.
“This is a new thing for me,” Hutter said. “I’ll probably go out and practice. My game is in good shape, so I’ll just be looking to play well and make a deep run into match play.”
Here are the Bracket A quarterfinal matchups, which will begin at 7 a.m. Wednesday:
Match 1 (7 a.m.): 1-Max Hutter vs. 8-Owen Egan
Match 2 (7:10 a.m.): 3-Jack O’Donnell vs. 6-Raymond Dennehy IV
Match 3 (7:20 a.m.): 2-Spencer Dumas vs. 7-Ethan Whitney
Match 4 (7:30 a.m.): 4-John Broderick vs. 5-Brian Glennon
Markus Pierre (Kittansett Club) finished his round with a birdie on the par-5, double dogleg 18th hole to card a 1-over 73 and secure a share of the Pre-Junior Division title, which includes golfers aged 14-15. Pierre will split the Joseph M. Batchelder Memorial Trophy with Tuesday’s low scorer in the Pre-Junior Division.
Pierre, a 2020 Mass Amateur qualifier, recovered from a double bogey on the seven by making birdie on the 15th and 18th. He also made birdie on the second hole.
Galen Fowles (The Ranch GC) perhaps had the best comeback of the day after starting his round with a triple bogey. He proceeded to make birdie on the next two holes and finish with six total for a round of 3-over 75. Matthew Hua (KOHR Golf) was solo third in the Pre-Junior Division at 4-over 76.
Just over a year ago, two tornadoes touched down on Cape Cod within the span of 24 hours leaving a cleanup effort totaling over $3 million in the region.
Cranberry Valley was supposed to host the Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship the following week, but the aftermath of the storm left 200 fallen trees in playable areas. Extensive damage on holes 15 and 16 added to the roughly $100,000 of damage to the course. However, thanks to the Town Of Harwich, which owns and operates the course, the driving range opened about a week later, followed by the back nine on August 1 and the full 18 holes exactly one year ago today.
And on Monday, the top Junior Amateur players in the state were able to showcase their skills on the same course.
“It was fantastic,” said Roman Greer, Head Golf Professional at Cranberry Valley. “It was sweeter because it was in jeopardy with the hurricane up the coast, and it was like ‘here we go again.'”
“The course is in fantastic shape,” he added. “The skill levels of the players is unbelievable.”
Greer said he’s been working for years to get the Junior Amateur Championship to Cranberry Valley, the site of the MIAA Division III Fall Championships this past year.
“The goal was to support junior golf statewide,” Greer said. “I wanted to see Cape kids compete for a state championship. We hope to continue doing this in the future.”
Another Format Change: When Mass Golf hosted the 100th Junior Amateur Championship in 2018, match play was reintroduced to recognize the Championship’s original format prior to World War I. Before then, the Championship consisted of 54 holes of stroke play with the low score winning.
During the past two years, the competitors have played 36 holes of stroke play, with the top 16 progressing to the match-play bracket. Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, not all 168 competitors are allowed on the course at once, so stroke play was reduced to 18 holes, with half playing today and the other half tomorrow. The top eight players from each day advance to match play. Qualifying was also canceled, but anybody any player registered to compete in a sectional qualifier was allowed entry, in addition to exempt players.
First Ace For Pagano: Sometimes great things happen when you least expect them. After a three-putt bogey on the 12th, Worcester’s John Pagano (Worcester CC) hit a 6-iron with a three-foot cut on the 160-yard, 13th hole. The ball hit about a foot from the hole and bounced into the cup. Pagano, 16, who’s been play golf since age 5 said it’s his first ace. “It’s a pretty hilarious, funny surprise,” said Pagano, a rising junior for the St. John’s (Shrewsbury) High School golf team. “I did not go into the hole expecting to make a hole-in-one. I just go into par 3s expecting par or birdie.” Unfortunately for Pagano, he finished 2-over and didn’t make the cut for match play.
Tuesday Lookahead: The second stroke play qualifier will see seven players who made match play last year compete. Conner Willett (Charles River CC), a semifinalist last year, will play along with Joey Lenane (KOHR Golf), who is coming off a third-place finish at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament. James Robbins (Renaissance), Matt Epstein (Hopkinton), (Cohasset GC) and Cooper Griffin (Woodland GC) will also play Tuesday.