Mass Amateur: Zelmati Sets Pace In Round 1 At Concord - MASSGOLF

Former Mass Mid-Amateur Champ Arthur Zelmati Shoots 67 In Opening Round At Concord Country Club

For Immediate Release: July 11, 2022

CONCORD, Massachusetts – Arthur Zelmati had to sit out last year’s Massachusetts Amateur Championship due to an injury. During that time he watched from afar wishing he could be competing alongside the best amateurs in the state.

On Monday, he made a triumphant return as his bogey-free round of 3-under-par 67 lead the entire field of 144 players in the opener of the 114th Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Concord Country Club. Matthew Naumec (GreatHorse) is one back at 2-under 68, while three players, including Georgetown University’s Conner Willett (Charles River Country Club), finished with a 1-under 69.

“Last year, I just watched and I think that that whole experience to watch other people, you definitely want to be there,” said Zelmati, a 34-year-old from Boston who won the 2020 Mass Mid-Amateur title. “You want to make match play. I made match play two years ago, so I’m just trying to get back there and hopefully do one better.”

Only eight players shot even-par or better on Monday, as the lightning-quick and firm greens and gradually increasing winds made going low extremely difficult. The field will compete in 18 more holes of stroke play Tuesday to determine the 32 spots for match play, which begins Wednesday.

ONLINE: MASS GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP CENTRAL | ROUND 1 SCORES | ROUND 2 STARTING TIMES | PHOTO GALLERY | PAST CHAMPIONS

If nothing else, Zelmati played the most mistake-free golf on Monday. He was able to birdie both par-5s (1 and 17) and on the difficult stretch of holes 2-5, he went 1-under with a birdie on the 4th. The rest of the holes were pars.

“I got a little nervous at the end,” Zelmati said. “I just was trying to keep it together, not waste any shots. I made a lot of good putts today, so that was the real key.”

Zelmati had a strong opening round in last week’s U.S. Amateur Qualifier at Winchester Country Club, firing an even-par 71. During that qualifier he played with last year’s Mass Amateur finalist Matt Parziale, who ended up earning a spot.

“I feel like it’s getting better throughout the season, and I’m getting more comfortable with the distances of the shots,” Zelmati said of his game. “I played with Matt last week and realized I have to up my game. He’s just hitting it so much better, so that’s kind of inspiring.”

Arthur Zelmati lead the way in round 1 of the 114th Mass Amateur Championship. (David Colt, file)

Just like last month’s Mass Open, Matthew Naumec (GreatHorse), of Wilbraham, finds himself in contention in a Mass Golf Championship. The low amateur at Longmeadow Country Club said he’s playing more golf than earlier in the season and is feeling confident about his game.

“I just joined Framingham Country Club, so it’s been great out there,” Naumec said. “The greens are great so it was a good lead into today because the greens are fast and firm here. I’ve been lucky to play on the weekends with friends and family so it’s been good.”

Naumec had a tough start Monday as an errant drive on the 2nd hole led to a double bogey. But when playing the tough stretch on the front, he got up-and-down from over the green the 3rd hole, and then he birdied the 4th and 5th to get back on track. Down the stretch, he birdied the 15th and 17th to finish in red figures.

“Getting up and down gave me some momentum moving into those next couple holes,” Naumec said. “[On the back nine] I was playing pretty boring golf, but that sometimes is good.”

After a stint of professional golf, Matt Naumec made his first appearance in the Mass Amateur since 2018. (David Colt)

Three college-affiliated players find themselves at 1-under 69 through Round 1. Georgetown standout Conner Willett (Charles River Country Club), Elon University’s Will Frodigh (Dedham Country & Polo Club) and Wagner University coach Nick Drago (Plymouth Country Club) made three birdies apiece. Willett started his day with birdies on the 1st and 4th and added another on the 17th, while Drago was bogey-free 34 on the front nine. Frodigh made birdie on the penultimate hole (par-4 8th) to move to 1-under.

Now all three will try to get into Mass Amateur match play for the first time.

Christian Emmerich (Kernwood Country Club), who qualified for the U.S. Amateur last week, finished even-par 70 alongside Brandon Parker (Worcester Country Club) and Xavier Marcoux (Nashawtuc Country Club), the 2019 New England Amateur champion and rising senior at Rutgers University.

Parziale, the 2017 champion who made it to the final match at last year’s Mass Amateur, shot a 75, as did 2009 champion Bill Drohen (Bradford Country Club) and 2001 champion Brendan Hester (Pleasant Valley Country Club).

Round 2 begins at 7:30 Tuesday morning. If there is a tie for the final 32 spots, there will be a playoff immediately after the stroke play round ends.

Xavier Marcoux, who lives in Concord, shot even-par 70 on Monday. (David Colt)

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NOTABLE

Here are some other tidbits from Day 1 at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship. 

  • Several golfers and caddies in the field donned blue ribbons on their caps and other apparel Monday in support and solidarity for Conner Willett. Willett’s father Rick sadly and unexpectedly passed away two days prior to the Mass Amateur. Rick Willett was an immense supporter of junior golf who hosted many of the top junior amateur players in the state and supported many of their travels. Ethan Whitney, one of Willett closest friends (Willett caddied for him in the Mass Open), made a handful of blue ribbons with the initials R.W. on them to honor his friend’s father.
  • Concord Country Club has hosted the Mass Amateur previously in 1995 and 2007. During those years the stroke play cutline was 145 (5-over) and 148 (8-over), respectively.
  • Nick McLaughlin (Far Corner Golf Club), the 2015 Mass Amateur champion, had the best finish of the day, and it got him back in contention for match play. Despite going 6-over through the first 13 holes, McLaughlin birdied the final five holes to finish 1-over 71. His score was the best of the afternoon wave.
  • Two senior competitors in the field, Keith Smith (Franklin Country Club) and Doug Clapp (Old Sandwich Golf Club) recently returned from overseas as they competed in the R&A Senior Amateur Championship at Royal Dornoch in Scotland. Clapp found himself in the top 10 early on with a 1-under 69 in the opening round, and he ended up T13 overall. Smith, meanwhile shot 76 in both rounds, and failed to make the cut. However, both said it was the trip of a lifetime and an experience they’ll cherish.
  • Peter Gardella (Ferncroft Country Club) ended up as the final player in the field as he got into the championship as an alternate when a spot opened up Monday. He finished with an 80. Jacob Finard (Pine Brook Country Club), a rising sophomore at Georgetown University, got in the day prior via the alternate list and finished 2-over 72 in the opening round.
  • The 451-yard, par-4 2nd hole was the No. 1 handicap hole Monday as it surrendered just three birdies. …The hole also produced 64 bogeys, 30 double-bogeys, and 10 instances where a golfer took 7 strokes or more to complete the hole; competitors had the most success on the 532-yard, par-5 hole 17, where 59 made birdie and four shot an eagle. …The front nine at Concord is reputed to be much more difficult than the back nine, but the field of 144 averaged 38.87 on the front, while it was 38.22 on the back. 

QUOTABLE

  • “He was a really good man. He was really good to all of us. People do stuff like this all the time. It was quick and easy to do, but I knew it meant the world to Conner and (his wife) Beth.” — Ethan Whitney on making the blue ribbons worn to honor the passing of Rick Willett.
  • “I’m so proud of him for being here and the fact that he played so well. It’s just the icing on the cake. I’m just super pumped for him.” — Ethan Whitney on Conner Willett shooting 1-under 69 in the opening round.
  • “I think they’re just so pure. If you hit it on line, they’re not going to surprise you too much. I think just having the confidence that if you hit a good putt, it’ll do what it’s supposed to do.” — Arthur Zelmati on the greens, which were rolling between a 12-12.5 on the Stimpmeter on Monday.
  • “Jake, Matt and I were all talking on the 8th hole, and we looked at one another and said, “Hey do you guys still get nerves on the first three (holes) or do the nerves come back after playing professionally, and all of us unanimously said yes.” — Matthew Naumec on playing alongside Jake Shuman (Blue Hill Country Club) and Matt Cowgill (Granite Links Golf Club), all of whom recently regained their amateur status.
  • “This is where we’ve been since we moved from Canada when I was six. So it’s pretty nice. Being from Concord, it’d be nice to make match play and get some Nashawtuc Country Club people here because it’s so close.” — Xavier Marcoux, a rising senior on the Rutger University men’s golf team who lives in Concord.
  • “We only have good thing to say about this place. This golf course is unbelievable. It’s in perfect shape. It’s definitely a test, especially that stretch on the front nine (hole 2-5).” — Xavier Marcoux on Concord’s course conditions.
  • “It was pretty much survive and advance today. The afternoon wave was tough. The wind really picked up, greens got firm, but you have to take the stroke play mentality out of it and just try to get to the top 32 for match play. It all starts over on Wednesday, so I just have to get it in the house somewhat decent and get after it tomorrow.” — Ricky Stimets (Worcester Country Club), on his afternoon round of 3-over 73.
  • “It’s a bucket-list thing. I never really intended to go, but with the exemption I figured if I’m going to do it once, do it. So we had a good time. It wasn’t convenient to get to, but once you’re up there, it’s just beautiful. You’re at the mercy of the weather, and I think the high for the week was 66, but the wind was blowing 30mph every day. It was fair but challenging.” — Keith Smith on playing in last week’s R&A Senior Amateur.
  • “All I remember is my wife carrying the bag for 36 holes, and that’s pretty amazing. I got into match play and won my first match. I don’t really play in the state amateur much anymore, but the qualifier was at Westover this year, and it was a course I grew up on.” — Dean Godek (Agawam Municipal Golf Course) on playing in the Mass Amateur after playing in it at Concord back in 1995. Godek shot 3-over 73 on Monday.

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