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KINGSTON, Massachusetts – Aidan Emmerich (Kernwood Country Club) is making a habit out of sinking clutch putts late in rounds this summer. In June, a dramatic putt at George Wright Golf Course in Hyde Park got Emmerich into the U.S. Junior Amateur. On Monday at Indian Pond Country Club (par-72, 6,600 yards), he did it again.
Emmerich sunk a long birdie on his final hole of the day to enter the clubhouse as the stroke-play leader after round 1, shooting 4-under-par 68. Joey Lenane (Kohr Golf Center) came in just behind him at 3-under 69. In total, five players finished under par. Sascha Robinson (Plymouth Country Club) and Zach Pelzar (Weston Golf Club) share the lead in the Pre-Junior Division at 2-over 74.
The field of 114 Monday and Tuesday will compete in 18-holes of stroke play, with the low 16 advancing to match play beginning Wednesday. The first day will feature the Round of 16 and the Quarterfinals, and Thursday will be the Semifinals in the morning followed by the Final match in the afternoon. All match play rounds are 18-holes.
The Junior Amateur also features a Pre-Junior Division for competitors between the ages of 14 and 15 years old. At the end of stroke play, the lowest pre-junior finisher will be recognized at the Pre-Junior Champion and awarded the Joseph M. Batchelder Memorial Trophy. Pre-Junior competitors are eligible to compete in match play alongside the rest of the field.
As Aidan Emmerich stood over his ball on the 9th green, his final hole of the day, he was tied with Joey Lenane at 3-under-69. Despite missing the fairway on the 9th (par-4, 403 yards), Emmerich made the green in regulation but was staring at a long putt of 30-plus feet for birdie.
The 17-year-old took a crack at the putt and the ball rolled from the right side of the green, slightly downhill, and fell into the cup after a significant right to left break.
“I hit a tee ball that I thought was going to be in the fairway, it wasn’t and it almost ended up going in the bunker,” Emmerich said. “I had about 165, I hit 7-iron, I just wanted to two-putt and make par. I was standing over it and then I stepped off because it was going right and I knew it was going to come back left at the end. I just kind of rolled it in.”
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) August 2, 2021
The putt was the perfect way for Emmerich to cap his round and it got him into the clubhouse as the day one leader. He knocked in six birdie putts for the round, three on the front and three on the back, on his way to leading the field.
“I felt pretty confident coming in,” Emmerich said. “I’ve been working on my putting a lot. It’s been bad this year. I haven’t been playing that well, so I’ve just been trying to stay patient and it finally paid off a little bit. I started to roll some in today.”
Emmerich was knocked out in the first round of match play at last year’s Junior Amateur on an 18th hole putt birdie by A.J. Gilpin, but he was the stroke play co-medalist shooting 4-under-par 68, the same mark he once again hit today. Emmerich said he’s comfortable in stroke play, and while there’s still another day left to play, he’s put himself in a comfortable position heading into Round 2.
“Some people’s games suit match play, my game kind of doesn’t,” Emmerich said. “I don’t make too many doubles, it’s just like like if I’m playing bad, it’s all birdies and no bogeys. I’ve been working on trying to just fight away those bogeys and make more birdies.”
Joey Lenane turned 18 on Monday, and he celebrated in fashion going 3-under-par 69 to grab solo possession of second after round one. Lenane was up and down to start his day, sandwiching a pair of birdies in between two bogeys, but he caught his groove afterward, sinking four more birdies throughout the round.
“The putter started to get rolling a little bit,” Lenane said. “I started making a couple of putts and all around I gave myself a lot of pretty good chances for birdie. I hit probably 15 greens, just kept giving myself looks, and eventually some of them dropped. It was a pretty steady round the whole time after the start.”
Lenane played well through his round, but he had a personal goal in mind that he wanted to obtain as he closed out his day on the ninth hole.
“I knew I was 2-under-par 72, so I wanted to break 70,” Lenane said. “I knew I needed to hit a solid tee shot and I hit it right where I was trying to up the right side and just short of the bunker. I had 135, split it in there, landed about five-feet and just stuck there. I made the putt, it was a little bit of a slider, but I got it done, so I’m excited about that.”
Lenane did indeed break 70 and not only does he find himself comfortably positioned for round two, he sits just a stroke back of Emmerich for first place. With this being his final Junior Amateur, Lenane is hoping to go out in style in one of his favorite events.
“This is a big one,” Lenane said. “Especially for Mass Golf. This one’s a lot of fun, it’s probably one of my favorite tournaments that Mass Golf hosts. It’s really fun because it’s one of the few times I get to do match play over the course of the year. Every year it’s always a good tournament.”
Last year, Lenane lost in Championship Match to Matt Epstein in 20 holes. Now, he’s in a battle to make it back to that point and he has positioned himself well in the early going. Evan Giggey (Renaissance) and Sean Dully (Kernwood Country Club) share possession of third place at 2-under 69.
John Broderick (Dedham Country and Polo Club), last year’s New England Amateur Champion, was the other player to finish under par. Broderick was 3-under through 16, but after an errant drive on the par-3 17th (201-yard), he made double-bogey to drop back to fifth.
In the Pre-Junior Division, Sascha Robinson had two birdies on his way to splitting possession of first place with Zach Pelzar.
The New England Junior Amateur Championship is coming up quickly on the calendar. Being played from August 15-17 at Val Halla Golf Course in Cumberland, Maine, the event consists of seven junior boy golfers and three junior girl golfers from each of the New England state golf associations who are selected to compete in a 54 hole team and individual stroke play competition.
The roster for Massachusetts has been decided, and all seven boys competing are also playing in this week’s Junior Amateur Championship. The boys representing the Bay State will be: John Broderick (Dedham Country and Polo Club), Daniel Brooks (Dudley Hill Golf Club), Ryan Downes (GreatHorse), Weston Jones (Charter Oak Country Club), Joey Lenane (Kohr Golf Center), Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club) and Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club).
The three junior girls playing from Massachusetts will be Annie Dai (MIAA), Keira Joshi (Nashawtuc Country Club) and Victoria Veator (MIAA). The event features a practice round on day one, followed by shotgun starts on the second and third days.
Boys and girls compete for separate team and individual titles. A team score is calculated by taking the best 5 of 7 scores each day for the boys and the best 2 of 3 scores for the girls. The lowest 54 hole team score will be named the team champion. The low 54 individual will be named the individual champion.
The Mass Golf squad is an accomplished group. Broderick, Jones, Lenane, Spencer and Whitney all played in the U.S. Junior Amateur at Pinehurst in late July, and Broderick advanced to the Round of 32 in match play.
Now, they will have another opportunity to gain more reps at a regional golf event. Ryan Downes is the youngest player (15) to make the squad, but he’s put together an impressive string of events this summer. Downes made match play at the Mass Amateur Championship, he competed in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, and he is sitting T25 through one round of the Junior Amateur.
“I think it’s awesome because I’ll be one of the youngest there,” Downes said of the New England Junior Amateur. “It’ll be pretty cool to represent the team. I’m excited for it. I just want a good experience with everyone. I want to have fun.”
Downes was extended an invitation to play just after the Mass Amateur wrapped up and the news came as a pleasant surprise.
“It was definitely a goal at the beginning of the year, but I’ve been playing pretty well for most of the summer,” Downes said. “I wouldn’t say I was expecting it, but it’s an honor to be a part of the team. I like playing in all the tournaments, I think it’s fun and good to compete.”
Like Downes, Dan Brooks has been busy this summer. Brooks, 18, played in the New England Amateur, the National High School Invitational at Pinehurst, the Mass Amateur, and the Ouimet Tournament. He also qualified for match play at the Mass Amateur and won his opening match.
Brooks, who will attend Siena College in the fall, has Downes by a few years on the age scale, but he shares similar thoughts with his younger New England Junior Amateur teammate ahead of the event.
“I feel like our class of juniors is really talented,” Brooks said. “I think we could win for sure, and that should be the goal, but have fun doing it. Individually, I just want to build off whatever I do here and have fun with it because it’ll probably be my last junior tournament.”
Brooks only just found out on Saturday that he was invited to join the group, but he’s ready to capitalize on the moment and enjoy it when the time comes.
“I was playing well all summer, and I didn’t know what to expect, but it was nice to get the invite,” Brooks said. “I’m excited. I‘ve played with all of them and they’re all great guys. They’ve qualified for big events too, so that’s great for them. We should have a pretty good team.”