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WEST NEWTON, Massachusetts – It’s been 14 years since Peabody’s George Zolotas (Tedesco Country Club) graduated from St. John’s University. But something on his bio page still rings true today. Asked what is the best thing about golf, he said, “On any given day, anybody can beat anyone.”
On Tuesday, Zolotas found himself beaten by nobody. Zolotas, 35, shot 6-under through his first six holes en route to a 4-under-par 68 in Round 1 of Stroke Play at the 113th Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Brae Burn Country Club (par-72, 6,650 yards). He shares the top spot with Milton’s Andy Luther (Boston Golf Club), who led the morning wave with a 68.
Zolotas, 35, regained his amateur status about 10 years prior, but the father of two said this year was a good opportunity to try to get back into the state amateur.
“This course kind of fits my eyes, so I kind of just was hoping to get into match play and see what happens,” said Zolotas, who qualified at his home course back on June 7.
Patrick Frodigh (Dedham Country and Polo Club), the 2018 Mass Amateur champion shot 3-under and is tied with Worcester County Amateur champion Owen Quinn (Worcester CC).
Round 1 was postponed Monday due to heavy rainfall, and players battled damp conditions as the championship began Tuesday. After Round 2 of Stroke Play on Wednesday, the field of 144 will be trimmed to the low 32 scorers for Match Play. Any ties for the final Match Play qualifying place(s) will be determined by a hole-by-hole playoff. Round 3 on Thursday will feature the first round of match play.
Competitors are playing for the Massachusetts Cup, which will be presented to the Champion. The Harry B. McCracken, Jr. medal will be awarded to the stroke-play medalist(s).
Zolotas came out firing early and often as he started his round with a birdie on the downhill 10th (par-5, 494 yards). The putts kept falling after that as he made another birdie on the 12th (157-yards, par-3), followed by a long putt for eagle on the 13th (486-yards, par-5).
“I wasn’t expecting much, I just hit a bunch of good shots early,” said Zolotas, who hit most of his putts inside the flag. “The putter got hot today and I sort of just rode it.”
In just his third tournament of the year, Zolotas was on pace for a course record as he shot 7-under through 14. Nick Maccario shot 8-under 64 during the 2019 Mass Mid-Amateur Championship at Brae Burn. However, the record was safe as Zolotas carded three bogeys from holes 6-8, but made par on the 9th to finish with a share of the lead.
Andy Luther had a more balanced round as he scattered six birdies in his round to earn a share of the lead.
Luther, who finished third in the 2021 Mass Four-Ball Championship with Andrew DiRamio (North Hill CC), said he was hitting the ball well but swapped in an old Spider putter Tuesday to try to make more birdies.
“I needed to look at something different,” Luther said. “We had so much rain, so the greens weren’t super quick, but I expect that to be different tomorrow.
The key for Luther was attacking the par-5s on the back nine, as he converted on the 10th and 13th to build his early lead. “Ten is pretty getable, you should make a 4 there,” Luther said.
As for his Wednesday approach, “You can put the ball in your hands [if] you get the ball in fairways.”
Owen Quinn missed the cut at the Trans-Mississippi Amateur last week, but bounced back with a solid performance at Brae Burn on Tuesday. No players finished with a bogey-free round, as only 22 players finished even-par or better in the opening round. But Quinn came the closest with his lone blemish on the 6th (156-yards, par-3).
“I just want to put two good stroke-play rounds together to get into match play and give yourself some confidence going into the rest of the week,” Quinn said.
Quinn said he spent the postponed day playing nine holes at Worcester Country Club to get loose. “I just really fined tuned everything and got ready to go.”
Patrick Frodigh, who played alongside Quinn and 2017 champion Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club), made four consecutive birdies on holes 10-14 but hit a skid toward the end by going 4-over on the final three holes.
Here are some other tidbits from Day 1 at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
“Coming out of a COVD year, I’m just trying to play a bit more this year.” — George Zolotas on returning to the Mass Amateur last year.
“It was great to have family and friends following, that always feels good. Just to walk over a couple of blocks and play golf here at the Mass Amateur is very special.” — Chris Bornhorst on playing in front of his home club.
“You would’ve thought it was way wetter than it was. But Brae Burn did a great job, the course is in great shape. There were definitely some birdies out there but you have to be careful out there and keep it below the hole.” — Owen Quinn on course conditions.
“I feel like my game has been in a good place. I played really well at the Worcester County Amateur, two really good rounds. At the Trans-Mississippi Amateur in Minnesota, I didn’t play great out there. I was just a little tired from Worcester County. To be able to just get home and relax for a couple of days and get some practice before getting over here was solid today.” — Owen Quinn on his recent play.
“The course is very gettable. I’m quite disappointed that I can’t perform better than this, but it’s a new day tomorrow.” — Michael Thorbjornsen on his first round at the Mass Amateur.
“I thought my first drive was fine. I saw it bounce, but it was just unlucky I couldn’t find it,” — Michael Thorbjornsen on his double-bogey on the first hole.
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