- Golfer Benefits
TOWNSEND, Massachusetts — For the second consecutive year, Swampscott’s Aidan Emmerich (Kernwood Country Club) is setting the pace through Round 1 of the Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship Powered By KOHR Golf.
After carding a promising score of 3-under 67 on a humid Tuesday at Northern Spy Golf Club, Emmerich holds a two-stroke lead over the field as he attempts cap off his summer in style before heading off the Michigan State University. Before that, he’ll caddy for his brother, Christian Emmerich, in the U.S. Amateur at Ridgewood Country Club in New Jersey.
The 107-player field is competing in 36-holes of stroke play over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday, with the low 16 advancing to match play beginning Thursday. On Thursday, the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals will be played, with the semifinals Friday morning followed by the championship 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. Northern Spy member Josiah Hakala (Northern Spy Country Club) is holding the lead in that division at 2-over 72, followed by Savar Bhasin (Pleasant Valley Country Club) at 3-over 73. At the end of stroke play, the lowest pre-junior finisher will be recognized awarded the Joseph M. Batchelder Memorial Trophy. Pre-Junior competitors are eligible to compete in match play alongside the rest of the field.
On his final tee shot of the day, Aidan Emmerich put a small crack in his ball as it struck the cart path and rolled to the greenside rough in front. Though the 18-year-old wasn’t able to close out with a birdie, there’s little to be disappointed with in his opening round.
After going bogey-free 1-under through his first 13 holes, Emmerich choked down on a driver on the par-5 4th and left himself an 8-iron into the green. He then hit it to 2 feet for an easy tap-in eagle to bring him to 3-under. His one blunder was going left on the short, 300-yard, par-4 5th, but he made up for it with a birdie on the 8th to take the lead.
“I’ve felt good about my game all year,” said Emmerich, who made it to the Round of 32 at last week’s U.S. Junior Amateur at Bandon Dunes in Oregon. “I’ve gotten a lot better since last year. I think I’m more solid on the greens.”
This was also Emmerich’s first time seeing the countryside course, located about 50 miles northwest of his club in Salem.
“There are some wild holes,” Emmerich said. “You can usually hit 3-iron or 4-iron off the tee and then go from there.”
If all stands pat Wednesday, Emmerich will set his sights on deeper run compared to years past. In 2020, he was co-stroke play medalist and last year was the No. 3 seed, but both have results in losses in the Round of 16. No matter what, Emmerich said he’ll have to dig deep these next few days.
“I’m a little gassed from seven straight days of golf last week,” he said. “This summer has been a little bit of a beat down on the body, but after this I don’t have anything until college.”
John Broderick (Dedham Country & Polo Club), who played with Emmerich at the U.S. Junior Amateur last week, is also in a good spot after shooting 1-under 69 in the opening round. Broderick had a double bogey on the front nine, but regained some confidence with three birdies on the back nine, including the 18th.
“I played the back nine the way I want to play tomorrow,” Broderick said. “I had probably four putts inside of 10 feet that just lipped out, but it was the kind of spots to be in. It’s going to be a fun match play course because you can play super aggressive, which is hard to do in stroke play.”
Ryan Keyes (MIAA) will remember his first Mass Junior Amateur not just for the experience, but for his opening round score. Keyes, the MIAA Division 1 champion for Wellesley High School this past fall, broke 70 for the first time, sinking his birdie putt on the final hole. To even have a chance at 70, Keyes first had to hit out of the fairway bunker on the 8th, but was able to hit it about 150 yards into the green to get up-and-down.
“It was just a lot of less mistakes than I usually have,” Keyes said with a smile. “I had good green percentage which is tough because the course is so tight. Staying focused and not worrying about the out of bounds and the trees and everything definitely made it a little bit easier.”
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Also among the players chasing the top spot is Hingham’s Nick McCabe (Cohasset Golf Club), a rising senior at Boston College High School, who was the only other player to finish 1-under. McCabe, who missed the cut for match play last year, overcame two early bogeys on Tuesday got to even-par with birdie on 16 and 18, followed by a birdie on the 1st to put him at 1-under. After a bogey on the 7th, McCabe also closed out his round by making a birdie on the 9th.
Wellesley’s Emil Nielsen (Weston Golf Club), who is also making his Mass Golf championship debut, had a tale of two nines, but shot even-par 70 and is still in solid position to make match play. Playing in the first group off the 1st hole, Nielsen made a pair of putts between 15-20 feet to card a 4-under 31 on the front nine. Though he couldn’t find any birdies on the back nine, Nielsen said he feels confident that he can go low on this course.
“I didn’t give any shots away on the front nine,” said Nielsen, who attends IMG Academy in Florida. “I made two 15-20 footers on the front. It wasn’t anything special, just no stupid mistakes. This course is really demanding off the tee, which is not really my type of course, but I kept it in play today, which was huge.”
Nielsen moved to the Bay State six years ago, but has had the privilege of playing all over the world. His family is from Iceland, and he plans to be there in 10 days.
“I’m looking forward to going there, chill and have fun,” Nielsen said.
Josiah Hakala may have some home course knowledge as a three-year member of Northern Spy, but he said Tuesday was an experience like never before.
“It’s playing a little bit differently,” said Hakala after making his Mass Junior Amateur debut. “There’s a couple of different tees than I normally play, but the course is in great shape right now. The greens are just so much quicker than they normally are, which makes the whole course play way different.”
Hakala stumbled a bit in the beginning, but with consecutive birdies on 16 and 17, he finished with a 72 for the top spot in the division at the moment. Heading to Round 2, Hakala said he’s hoping to hit some better tee shots and give himself some more birdie looks.
“This course is all about precision golf, playing to your spots,” he said. “Hopefully I can just get off to a good start tomorrow.”
One shot back is Millbury’s Savar Bhasin (Pleasant Valley Country Club), who finished 3-over with a pair of birdies on the first hole. Bhasin has competed in Junior Hurricane Tournaments in recent years and will have a chance to notch his first Mass Golf accolade Wednesday.
Derek Fors has seen Northern Spy Golf Club develop before his very eyes. Growing up a few miles down the road from the club, he remembered kids riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers where sand pits once filled out the land where the course now sits.
The 18-hole, par-70 championship course designed by Mary Mills, the 1963 U.S. Women’s Open champion, and Ted Manning, is a magnificent layout spread over 140 acres that wind through the countryside. With four sets of tees ranging from 4,685 yards to 6,231 yards, the course challenges all skills levels and especially makes players think hard about their tee shots. The course is tight throughout, save for a double green shared by the 9th and 18th.
Fors, 41, now the general manager and director of golf, cleaned carts at Northern Spy when it opened as Townsend Ridge Country Club in 1996, and he’s been with the course for all but three years since then.
He’s recently overseen the club’s boldest transformation to date. At the beginning of 2020, the club changed its name to Northern Spy Golf Club and became a private club. But the transition has paid off. Not only does the club have a growing membership approaching 400 members, it has made new investments in the club, including a complete bunker renovation and redesign. (Phase 1 began this year with bunker updates on 1, 3, 12, and 17).
“It’s all about great golf here,” said Fors, who played for head golf professional Tim Bishop at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. “With the atmosphere and the social aspect, we felt like we could offer a private club experience without all the extra-curriculars, and it would be successful and kind of remove ourselves from really any club that was like us in the area. It’s been super successful because we’ve been able to reinvest in the club and the conditions.”
When it came to renaming the course, Fors said members came up with many suggestions. However, Fors said the final decision was to go back to Northern Spy, which was what the course was originally going to be called back in the 1990s. A Boston Globe article in 1990 even featured the name.
Then there’s the logo, a silhouette of a person on horseback carrying golf clubs under a crescent moon. As Fors explained, the inspiration came from nearby North Middlesex High School, whose mascot is the Patriots, so the club decided to select a tribute to Paul Revere’s midnight ride.
“I think our logo is phenomenal,” Fors said. “You see a lot of logos, and they’ve either got trees or they’ve got the year that the club was founded, but there’s very few that are unique, so I thought it was really cool.”
While the club has hosted Mass Golf qualifying in the past, and the 2021 Curtis Bowl Scotch women’s tournament, Fors said this first Mass Golf championship hosted here since it opened just over a quarter century ago. Since becoming Northern Spy, it’s younger members in particular have excelled. Michael Amari, who plays for Hartford University, made a deep run in the 2021 Mass Amateur; Patrick Ginnity qualified for this year’s U.S. Junior Amateur; Emily Nash plays for Siena College; and Colin McCaigue plays for Middlebury College.
“The main reason I wanted to host this event was for our junior group, with how much it’s grown and how healthy it is here,” Fors said. “About 10-15 years ago, I couldn’t say that was the case. It’s been amazing to have all that good golf from that age group being played and then having the kids that are younger than them watch that and be able to follow in their footsteps is really great.”
After making it to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Junior Amateur last week at Bandon Dunes, John Broderick was thinking about calling it a wrap on his junior golf career before heading to Vanderbilt University. But he had one more event he wanted to play first.
“I really wanted to end it at the Mass Junior Amateur,” Broderick said. “I think a lot of people don’t understand how much of a tight-knit group we are up here. Being in New England, we’re lucky to have as many Mass Golf and Challenge Cup events that we have. So you have to come back and end it in Mass.”
Along with Broderick and Emmerich, Northern Spy member Patrick Ginnity and Aidan LeBlanc (MIAA) are also following up their trip to Bandon Dunes alongside some of the best amateur players in the world with an appearance in this year’s Mass Junior Amateur.
“That was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had in golf. I’ve never played that links style. There’s almost no trees out there on the [Bandon] Dunes course, and it’s just creativity. I’m putting the ball from 60 yards. Those winds were crazy, some big gusts. One hole you’re hitting pitching wedge from 180, and the next you’re hitting 3-wood.”
Before the competition began, Broderick and Weston Jones almost won the par-3 team competition together, but the 2021 Mass Four-Ball champs made bogey on two of their final three holes and were edged out by one stroke.
But for the second straight year, Broderick made a run into match play, after shooting 69 and 72 in stroke play. After beating Patton Samuels of Ole Miss, Broderick faced off with top-seeded Keaton Vo in the Round of 32. Vo, a future University of Texas golfer, won the first hole, but then Broderick won the 3rd and 9th, both par-5s, with birdies, and incredibly the pair tied the entire back nine, giving the win to Broderick.
Though he lost in the final round to eventual champion Wenyi Ding, of China, Broderick said he’s proud with how Mass Golf players represented the Northeast, especially with Jones and Emmerich also getting into match play.
“I think sometimes kids in the Northeast get overlooked, but the reality is we aren’t worst players than they are,” Broderick said. “I think being in a little colder weather helped us out, but I think we showed there’s nobody we can’t beat.”
Powered By KOHR: Earlier this year, Mass Golf announced a multi-year partnership KOHR Golf, a state-of-the-art practice facility in Natick, as the official sponsor of all three Mass Golf junior golf championships. As part of that partnership, every player competing today earned a free trial certificate to spend a full 3 hours with one of KOHR’s expert coaches at the KOHR Golf Academy.
Defending champion: Before heading off to UConn for his first year, Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club) is in the field trying to defend his title at the Mass Junior Amateur. Spencer finds himself on the cusp of the match play cutline at the moment as he shot 4-over 74, good enough for T19.
Course Stats: The 412-yard par-4 4th played as the most difficult hole Tuesday, conceding just five birdies and 41 pars during the day. Fortunately for the players, it was soon followed by the No. 18 handicap hole, the 460-yard par-5 5th, which saw 30 birdies and 44 pars and played to a stroke average of 5.04.
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