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NORTON, Massachusetts – There will be no shortage of Massachusetts representatives walking the grounds of The Country Club of North Carolina (Cardinal Course/Dogwood Course) in the village of Pinehurst this week for the U.S. Junior Amateur.
Out of 264 total competitors, eight players from the Bay State qualified to compete in the Championship Proper: John Broderick (Dedham Country & Polo Club); Aidan Emmerich (Kernwood Country Club); Weston Jones (Charter Oak Country Club); Alex Landry (Andover Country Club); Joseph Lenane (KOHR Golf); Nolan Skaggs (Plymouth Country Club); Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club) and Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club).
*UPDATE* John Broderick has made the Round of 64 and will compete in the first round of match play beginning Wednesday, July 21. Broderick finished T20 overall in the 36-holes of stroke play and will face William Sides in his first match.
Monday, July 19 (Round 1, 18 holes, stroke play)
Tuesday, July 20 (Round 2, 18 holes, stroke play)
Wednesday, Aug. July 21 (Round of 64, match play)
Thursday, July 22 (Round of 32/Round of 16, match play)
Friday, July 23 (Quarterfinals/Semifinals, match play)*
Saturday, July 24 (Championship Match, 36 holes, match play)**
*TV: Peacock, 3-5 p.m.
**TV: Golf Channel, 5-7 p.m.
For Rutgers-bound Weston Jones, this is his second trip down to Pinehurst this summer. Last month, Jones played in the High School Boys Golf National Invitational at Pinehurst No. 6, No. 8, and No. 9, and was joined by a number of other Massachusetts players. Among them was Alex Landry, who split medalist honors at the U.S. Junior Amateur Qualifier at George Wright Golf Course.
Jones, 17, said he’s excited to play two courses that a regularly rated among the best in North Carolina.
“Once you get used to the course, you start getting familiar with where to miss and where to hit it,” Jones said. “From there, you start taking it lower, so the more rounds you get the better for sure.”
Jones has prior experience competing in Pinehurst, but the Junior Amateur will be his first-ever USGA event. That may come as a surprise given his already extensive golf resume at a young age. Jones won the MIAA Division I State High School individual title in 2019, he teamed with John Broderick to win the 2021 Massachusetts Amateur Four-Ball, he made the quarterfinals in this year’s Mass Amateur and has also qualified for the U.S. Amateur at Oakmont Country Club in August.
The Junior Amateur will provide an opportunity for Jones to test his game against others his own age. That’s something he’s done a few times, but not as often as he’d like due to committing to other select amateur events.
“They’re the best players in the world for juniors,” Jones said. “It’s going to be a really hard competition on a really tough course. I’ll come back, play Ouimet Memorial Tournament and the Mass Junior Amateur, and I’ll probably feel good going into those events because of that.”
Like Jones, Alex Landry will be able to fall back some familiarity in the Pinehurst area. Landry played well at the National High School Golf event, finishing up his three rounds T21. Landry shot 78-74-73 for a three-day total of 225.
For both players the goal is simple: Be within the top 64 that gets into match play and play it out from there.
At the George Wright qualifier, Alex Landry and Ethan Whitney were both co-medalists at 2-under 68. Landry, a rising senior at St. John’s Prep School, paced the field for much of the day. Whitney will begin his collegiate playing career at Temple University in the fall and was able to do enough to keep up with the Andover native.
Making the cut meant a little extra for Whitney as this was the last year he was eligible for the U.S. Junior Amateur, and he was finally able to qualify for his first USGA event. Last April, Whitney spent a night down in Pinehurst but didn’t actually get to play the course. Now, that will change.
“Everything I’ve heard about these golf courses is just over-the-moon good,” Whitney said.
Whitney pointed to the competitiveness at George Wright as a good lead-up for the actual Junior Amateur. Joseph Lenane and Aidan Emmerich shot 1-under 69 to tie for third and Nolan Skaggs and Weston Jones shot even par-70 to round out the top six and a cut line of even.
There was no shortage of drama with Emmerich needing to knock in a long birdie putt on the 18th green to move himself to 1-under and avoid a potential playoff for one of the final remaining qualifying spots. That level of intensity and competition should only serve to help the Bay State natives when the pressure builds on the course at Pinehurst.
“The competition is going to be much tougher down there, but there’s definitely a lot of good players playing in that tournament,” Whitney said. “I knew if I was ahead of Weston [at George Wright] I was in a good spot because Weston’s just a really, really good player.”
The Bay State players agreed that getting the chance to share the experience with a number of friends will also make the week worthwhile. “
“All the kids that are going down from that qualifier and from the one in Connecticut, all of us are good friends,” Whitney said. “We all hang out together, so I’m super excited to have all those boys down there with me. I’ll keep an eye on their scores for sure.”
With only three spots available, both Colin Spencer and John Broderick stepped up to make the cut at the Quinnatisset Country Club Qualifier in Thompson, Connecticut to join the six qualifiers from George Wright.
Spencer carded four birdies, including two to close out the round on the 17th and 18th holes, to finish at 3-under-par 69 and in sole possession of second place. Broderick had two birdies on his way to finishing 1-under 71.
Broderick, the Mass Golf Junior Player of the Year in 2020 and Vanderbilt University commit, found himself in a four-for-one playoff for the final slot in the Championship Proper. Broderick made quick work of it, knocking in a birdie to immediately advance.
Broderick won’t be able to defend his New England Amateur title this week, but he’s excited to see how the Massachusetts players perform on a national stage.
“I think that all of us have the capability to make match play and go far in match-play,” Broderick said. ” I think we’re just a tight-knit group and we’ll definitely have a good time.”
Of the 42 states represented at the U.S. Junior Amateur, Massachusetts is tied for the sixth-most players at the Country Club of North Carolina. The top of the list includes California (26), Florida (19), Texas (19), North Carolina (15), Georgia (13), Massachusetts (8), and South Carolina (8).
Massachusetts has seen a U.S. Junior Amateur champion just recently. Michael Thorbjornsen (Wellesley Country Club) won the event in 2018. Just 17 at the time of his victory, the Stanford University standout defeated Akshay Bhatia, 1-up, in their 36-hole final at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.
Thorbjornsen’s win earned him an exemption into the 2019 U.S. Open where he would go on to make the 36-hole cut.