Mass Amateur: Four Players Share First-Round Lead In Tough Conditions - MASSGOLF

Rain & Fog Make For Stop And Go First Round At 115th Massachusetts Amateur Championship at Essex County Club

For Immediate Release: July 10, 2023

MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, Massachusetts – The Massachusetts Amateur Championship always serves as the most difficult test for state’s best amateur golfers. To nobody’s surprise, Essex County Club showed its teeth on Day 1, but being patient with the inclement weather conditions proved to be Monday’s biggest test.

A four-hour fog delay in the morning, followed by a two-hour rain delay in the afternoon made for a stop-and-go opener of the 115th edition of the state amateur, while those with afternoon tee times held out the whole day, just to play a few holes. 

Still, four golfers — Wellesley’s John Broderick, of Vanderbilt University; Brookline’s James Imai, of Northwestern University; as well as Boston’s Jesse Zorfas of and Gloucester’s Mark Turner — were able scratch their way to the top of the leaderboard at 1-under-par 69, finishing their first rounds nearly 10 hours after they hit their opening tees shots in the early morning.

For a while, it also appeared Westford teen Molly Smith would have to wait another day to make her historic appearance as the first woman to play in the Mass Amateur. However, the 18-year-old University of Central Florida commit got her opportunity at 5:51 p.m., sending her opening tee shot to the right of the wide fairway of Hole 1. She finished the day 1-over through 8 holes. 

Play was suspended due to darkness at 7:49 p.m. Round 1 resumes at 7:30 Tuesday morning, with the second round of stroke play to follow. If there is a tie for the final 32 spots in match play, there will be a playoff immediately after the stroke play round ends.

Online: Mass Golf Championship Central | Round 1 Scores | Round 2 Starting Times | Photo Gallery | Past Champions

Tricky weather conditions greeted Joey Lenane and the rest of the field in the opening round of the 115th Massachusetts Amateur Championship. (David Colt)

James Imai (KOHR Golf) certainly isn’t unfamiliar to long days, especially having played in U.S. Open Final Qualifying (aka Golf’s Longest Day) several times. Making his first Mass Amateur appearance since 2020, Imai’s putter got hot at the end as he made birdie on three of his final five holes, including a 25-footer for birdie on the 17th to earn a share of the lead in the clubhouse.

“I’m just glad I’m done and survived all the delays,” said Imai, who finished with six birdies in his twice-interrupted round. “It’s just turning the mental grind on and off, especially for a couple hours sitting around. You try to get moving, but you really don’t know when you can warm up.”

Jesse Zorfas, 31, a member of Framingham Country Club, had the best start of the day, shooting a bogey-free 2-under-par on the opening nine, that included birdies on the 6th and 9th. Despite a few lip-outs, the former Franklin & Marshall standout has set himself up in position to make match play for the first time at the Mass Amateur.

“Pretty happy to be done, it was a long day, but overall, very good, very happy,” Zorfas said. “It’s all about patience, getting back in the flow and not totally feeling like you’re restarting each time. I think everything was pretty decent. You keep the hole in front of you, and everything can fall into place.”

Mark Turner, who just finished his graduate year as a co-captain at Dartmouth College, made an eagle on the par-5 5th, only one of two such holes at Essex, helping him to a share of the lead. Meanwhile, Mass Junior Amateur champion John Broderick, had a roller-coaster opening nine but shot 1-under par on the front (final nine) to close out his day.

James Imai made six birdies in his first Mass Amateur appearance since 2020. (David Colt)

Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club) showed up at Essex just as the second weather delay began. After a long weekend of playing in Long Meadow Golf Club’s club championship, the extra rest was rather welcome. After having lunch with friends and family Monday, Smith got ready and pulled driver from the bag, tended to by her youngest sister Maddie. Playing third out of her group with Nolan Skaggs (Plymouth Country Club) and Owen Egan, Smith sent her tee opening shot flying into the gray sky and it rolled out into the right rough.

Despite a bogey on holes 1 and 3, Smith bounced back with birdies on holes 5 and 7, and got up-and-down for par just as the horn sounded to end the day.

“I’m definitely glad I got to get out there and get a few holes in, but I haven’t really had this happen this many times,” Smith said when asked about waiting to get her historic round started. “I’m glad I was in the early afternoon wave and I was able to get eight holes in, instead of 2-3 holes in. The up-and-down on eight makes me leave the course feeling better than how I felt on the 5th tee.”

Molly Smith readies for her opening tee shot at Essex County Club. (Mass Golf)

Also off to a strong starts is Thomas Hackett (George Wright Golf Course), who finished the front nine 2-under before play was suspended. Joshua Shepard (Country Club of Pittsfield) and 2009 champion Bill Drohen (Bradford Country Club) finished the day at 1-under but still have more holes to play in the opening round.



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

  • Essex County Club most recently hosted the Mass Amateur 1993 and 2005. During those years, the stroke play cutline was 148 (8-over) and 149 (9-over), respectively. When Flynt Lincoln won in 1993, he shot 6-over in stroke play, while Frank Vana Jr., who is in this year’s field, finished 5-over to qualify for match play.
  • Among 10 past champions in the field, Mike Calef (2012 & 2013) and Bill Drohen (2009) are the only ones currently even-par or better.
  • The players and their caddies had a variety of ways to pass the time during the delays in play Monday. Among them: cards, naps, driving range (off-site), work, watching Wimbledon on TV.
  • While many alternates waited around at Essex on Monday, Brendan Kelleher (Hopedale CC) was officially the last player in the field. Kelleher managed a birdie on the par-3 14th but had a string of bogeys on his final nine to finish with an 80.
  • The par-5 5th was the best hole for scoring Monday, as it ceded 2 eagles (Mark Turner and Alex Landry) and 22 birdies for a stroke average of 4.86. The par-3 4th was the most difficult, though, with Jack Boulger (Walpole Country Club) recording the lone birdie.


  • This is the hardest round of golf I’ve ever played. — Ethan Whitney, a Round of 16 finisher last year, on his round Monday.
  • I putted really well and hit my wedges well which you have to do here in soft conditions, which aren’t often at Essex. When I made a mistake I shook it off and for the most part bounced back. — James Imai on his opening round at Essex.
  • I love it. Mass Golf always puts on the best events. I’ve been fortunate to play in a bunch of events hosted by other state organizations, but Mass Golf is above them all. It really doesn’t get much better, so hopefully it goes my way by the end of the week. — James Imai on his return to the Mass Amateur for the first time since 2020.
  • I had Mackenzie Whitney here so she makes it a little bit easier to pass that time. — Molly Smith passing the time before her opening round.
  • I think the greens changed a little bit between breaks, but overall I’ve had a few rounds here so I felt pretty comfortable. — Jesse Zorfas, on reading the softened greens Monday.


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