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NEWTON, Massachusetts – The first two rounds of the 54th Ouimet Memorial Tournament have been completed, and after a gusty Thursday at Charles River Country Club, the field advancing to Friday’s third and final round at Woodland Golf Club has been determined.
A total of 58 players have advanced, including 34 in the Championship Division who made the top 30 and ties. Also, 14 are through in the Lowery (Senior Division), while all 10 players in the Women’s Division are competing Friday.
Since the tournament began in 1968, the final round has always been played at Woodland, located in the Newton neighborhood of Auburndale. Woodland was the first home course for the late Francis Ouimet, the 1913 U.S. Open champion.
The round of the day Thursday belonged to Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club). The 16-year-old shot 6-under-par 68 as she surged to the top of the leaderboard. She began the day on hole 10 (par-5, 438 yards) and eagled it, and then she continued the momentum and birdied 11 (par-4, 229 yards) and 12 (par-4, 312 yards).
By the time the Westford native finished her first nine, she had recorded three more birdies and stood at 7-under 31 for the round.
“On the scorecard for the back nine, there’s a lot of holes that you go, ‘Oh, I can hit this hole in regulation,’” Smith said. “So I eagled 10 and birdied 11. Then, I hit a wedge that landed deep on 12 and spun back to like three feet, so I was 4-under through three holes. That kind of got things off to a hot start and then I made a few putts on the backside.”
Smith’s outstanding round didn’t come without a few hiccups. She had back-to-back double-bogies on the 5th (342-yards, par-4) and 6th (340-yards, par-4), but she responded nicely with a birdie on seven before finishing her round out with consecutive pars.
“On seven, I kind of blocked my tee ball out there, but it ended up pretty good,” Smith said. “I only had 170 yards in, and it set me up for a pretty good five iron, which actually hit hard right and took a big kick off the mound. It ended up being on and I two-putted that. That was kind of big to get my head back into gear.”
Smith credited her driver as one of the keys to success in her round. Now as her attention shifts to Friday, she’ll look to improve on her T11 finish at the 2020 Ouimet.
“I’m feeling good,” Smith said. “Hopefully I can just keep doing a lot of the same things that I did today and kind of just clean a few things up around the green. I really like Woodland as a golf course. I feel like it suits my eye pretty good.”
Keeping up the same pace from yesterday shooting 1-over 75 and finishing in solo second was Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club). Charles River member Pam Kuong, the 2015 winner, shot an even-par 75 to finish in third. Both Johnson and Kuong finished their rounds with two birdies each.
For the second consecutive day, Chris Francoeur (Amesbury Golf & Country Club) didn’t do himself any favors in the opening stretch as he started 3-over through the first three holes. But once again, the defending champion found a way to rally. Francoeur shot 3-under on the back nine with consecutive birdies on the par-5s 15 (505-yards) and 16 (553-yards) to finish in the lead at 4-under 136.
“I was happy with the way I was able to bounce back with some nice birdies on the back,” said Francoeur, who’s transferring to the University of Louisville in the fall.
Francoeur finds himself one stroke ahead of Kyle Tibbetts (Framingham Country Club) and University of Maryland senior Dillon Brown (CC of Halifax), as all three will be in the final group Friday at Woodland.
Francoeur, who defeated Tibbetts in the Mass Amateur quarterfinals two weeks prior, capped off a thrilling victory at Woodland last year by making consecutive birdies, including a 35-footer on the 18th to finish with a 5-under 66. Francoeur said he’s confident as the event flips to Woodland.
“I Iove Woodland,” Francoeur said. “I got a good game plan there, so hopefully I’m going to try and play it the same as I did last year.”
Tibbetts conceded that Francoeur is longer off the tee, but he said he’s confident shifting to the more level Woodland Golf Club, where the better short game often makes the difference.
“That place isn’t a bomber’s paradise, so if I can snake a driver, where he’s hitting 3-wood or hybrid, I’ll be right up there, and we’ll have a shootout with irons from there,” said Tibbetts, who finished with an even-par 70 on Thursday.
Tibbetts had the short game going early with birdies on the par-3 12th (235-yards) and par-3 14th (187-yards). After hitting a 3-wood onto the fringe, he converted with the putt, and then almost aced the 14th with a 4-iron and had a tap-in for birdie. Tibbetts then made his last birdie on the second, and was able to finish in striking distance.
“I was hitting the driver really well, and when you do that around here, you give yourself a chance of birdie,” Tibbetts said.
Brown made a putter switch before Thursday’s round, but after three-putting to move to 3-over through two holes, it looked like it might’ve backfired. However, Brown fought back by going bogey-free 4-under over the remaining holes. He hit the ball well off the tee and was able to find the center of the greens.
“I finally honed in and trusted myself,” said Brown, who played in the U.S. Four-Ball Championship earlier this year.
Brown is playing in his sixth Ouimet Tournament and has made it to the final day at Woodland each of the last four years. His best finish in a Ouimet Tournament is 7th in 2018.
“It’s just a great tournament, we always have the best tracks,” Brown said. “I love Woodland Golf Club. It’s a great spot to have a tournament.”
The low rounds from Thursday didn’t come from the top group. Jack Tegan (TPC Boston) fired a 67, including an eagle on the par-5 16th, while Sean Fitzpatrick (George Wright Golf Course), shaved off 10 strokes from Wednesday with a 68 on Thursday.
The Lowery Division saw little change from the first round of action. Steven Tasho (Thorny Lea Golf Club) once again carded a 2-over-par 72 and remained on top of the division. Tasho had two birdies, with one coming on the second hole and the other on twelve.
“[Hole] two, par-5, I hit driver and hybrid,” Tasho said. “I pitched it up and made about a 12-footer. On 12, I hit a driver and had about 109 in. I hit a little punch nine-iron up behind the hole and it came back to about 5-feet in front of the hole and I made that one.”
While no one in the Lowery Division has been able to break par to this point, Tasho pointed to the challenging nature of the Charles River course that’s impacted him, as well as others in the division. Hole 18 was an example of a hole in which Tasho had to make a nice up-and-down just to save par.
“There were a few saves like that,” Tasho said. “You get just off the greens here and it’s difficult, especially if you’re short side. If you don’t, the greens are pretty big, so you need to be in the right spots to catch some breaks here and there. I had some other good attempts, but it’s not an easy course to make birdies out here. It’s a very demanding golf course, especially with the wind today and the damp conditions.”
Despite the challenge at Charles River, Tasho is looking forward to flipping over to Woodland on Friday. He won the Lowery Division in 2019, so he is very familiar with how the course plays.
“I’m just looking forward to going there and playing and competing,” Tasho said. “It’s a great venue, it’s a great event, and it’s always fun to go there and try to do your best. It’s the same thing, try to hit a lot of greens and fairways and get yourself in the right spot to make putts.”
Tasho will have to contend with fellow Thorny Lea member John Hadges, who is 6-over par through two rounds and sitting in second place. Also within striking distance is John McNeill (Amateur Golf Tour of NE) who is 7-over and in solo third.
Charles River Country Club, one of the most storied clubs in all of New England, is celebrating its centennial this year. As golf courses grew in population during the 1920s, members of nearby clubs decided Newton could manage another golf facility and retained legendary architect Donald Ross, a Newton native himself, to build the course along the banks of the Charles River. Since then it’s been considered by many to be a “Donald Ross masterpiece.”
“We have 100 years of tradition of the love of the game of golf, competition like this a camaraderie,” said Jim Hunt, president of Charles River CC.
As part of its celebration, Charles River will be hosting its club championship this weekend, with several of its other events to come shortly.
Here are some quick facts about the history and accomplishment of the members at Charles River:
Here is a summary of major local and regional events, and the winners of each, contested at Charles River Country Club.
Massachusetts Amateur Championship
1927 – Edward E. Lowery
1936 – Clark Hodder
1946 – Ted Bishop
1966 – Warren Tibbetts
1994 – Douglas Preston
2017 – Matt Parziale
Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship
1929 – Edith N. Baker
1933 – Mary Parkinson
1946 – Nancy Black
1951 – Laddie Homer
1961 – Joanne Goodwin
1971 – Patricia O’Brien
1981 – Noreen Uihlein
2010 – Pam Kuong
Massachusetts Open Championship
1925 – Tom Lally
1952 – Everett Stuart
1975 – Dick Hanscom
1983 – Dana Quigley
2006 – Geoff Sisk
New England Golf Association Amateur Championship
1996 – John Curley
2008 – Matt Broome
USGA Amateur (Stroke Play, Co-Host)
2013 – Neil Raymond, Brady Watt (Medalists0