- Golfer Benefits
LONGMEADOW, Massachusetts – Players at this year’s 112th Mass Open had been expecting rain. Instead, they got a picture-perfect Round 1 on Wednesday in the 112th edition of the championship, and two players matched the competitive course record.
Westminster amateur Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club), a rising sophomore at Temple University, and Michael Kartrude, a mini-tour professional from Florida making his Mass Open debut, both shot 6-under-par 64. Joe Monte also shot 64 during the 2005 U.S. Junior Amateur held at Longmeadow. The shared lead is far from safe though as 10 players are within four strokes of the lead entering Round 2 on Thursday, which begins at 7:30 a.m.
The field of 150 will be trimmed to the low 50 scorers and ties and any player within 7 strokes of the lead after Round 2. Players advancing will play in twosomes Friday for the final 18 holes, with a sudden-death playoff following, if needed.
Ethan Whitney said he knew he was on the verge of a breakthrough round. During his college season, Whitney said he worked harder than ever on his swing, and he’s beginning to see the results. Whitney advanced through U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Taconic Golf Club and despite coming up short in Monday’s final qualifier, his confidence is sky-high.
“I worked my butt off on my swing this offseason and it’s paying off; things are definitely clicking right now,” Whitney said. “I had a great group of guys to play with so I knew it was going to be a good day, or at least a fun day.”
Whitney is trying to become the first amateur to win the Mass Open since Kevin Quinn did so in 1999. If his ball-striking stays the same and he continues to hit fairways and greens in regulation, he has a chance to become the sixth player in 112 years to accomplish the feat. Sitting at 5-under on the 18th, Whitney hit another beautiful drive leaving him 80 yards into the green, which he executed to near-perfection, giving him a tap-in birdie to end the day.
“I knew the low this morning was 5-under and I was about there, and I wanted to get at least one more before tomorrow, so I said ‘Let’s just throw one in there and make a birdie to finish up,'” said Whitney, who shot 31 on the back nine with birdies on holes 10, 12, 15, and 18.
Michael Kartrude also impressed in his Mass Open debut and could very well have shattered the course record. Kartrude shot 5-under 30 through nine holes and made a pair of long putts to put him in a tie for the lead.
“The putter got hot, and I hit it really well,” said Kartrude, the West Palm Beach, Florida, native who plays Minor League Golf Tour events in his home state. “We got to play [here] yesterday. I don’t think I would’ve shot what I shot if I didn’t have a practice round.”
Similar to Whitney, Kartrude also had a thrilling finish as he got up-and-down from the rough behind the 18th green with a dangerous false front looming, and he made the 3-foot putt to tie the record. “I don’t know how I got up-and-down, but I’m happy.”
Kartrude missed the Mass Open last year due to a PGA Tour Latinoamérica event but said he plans to play the state open in Vermont and then New Hampshire, where he won in 2019. As for his first Mass Open experience, “It’s hard to come by golf associations that run a good tournament, and Mass Golf seems to have a really good grip on it.”
Matt Naumec (GreatHorse) regained his amateur status this year and hasn’t played a competitive golf championship in over a year and a half. But the former Longmeadow caddie who grew up 15 minutes away in Wilbraham, looked as strong as ever Wednesday and finds himself one stroke off the lead at 5-under 65. The former Boston College standout started his day with an eagle on the par-5 10th and after making the turn with a 33, birdied the 2nd, 4th and 5th to move to 6-under. Despite also being on pace for the course record, Naumec found the greenside bunker on the 9th and wasn’t able to save par.
“It was great to get off on a good start,” said Naumec, who won the 2014 Mass Golf Christopher Cutler Rich Junior Player of the Year. “I haven’t been playing a lot so I kept my head high and tried to hit the ball well and roll in some putts, and it just went my way today.”
In his first Mass Open appearance since 2018, Naumec said it’s a treat to be back at Longmeadow. “I grew up knowing how prestigious this place is. The golf course is always in great shape, and they always put on a good show for championship golf, so it’s special to be back here.”
Patrick Frodigh (Dedham Country & Polo Club), the 2018 Mass Amateur champion, is hoping his third time’s the charm after shooting below par for the third consecutive time in the opening round of the Mass Open. The tall lefty finished 3-under 67 on Wednesday, making three birdies on his first six holes and coming agonizingly close to getting up-and-down on his final hole, the 18th.
“I gave myself a lot of birdie looks, and I think that’s the key around here to stay under the hole and miss on the right side and you can navigate this course,” Frodigh said.
Brendan Hunter (Red Tail Golf Club), the 2016 Mass Amateur champion, also came in at 3-under, as did amateur Justin Grondahl, a Portsmouth, New Hampshire, native living in Jupiter, Florida.
“It’s just a lot of fun having everybody out here and getting to see what not only myself but the membership is super proud of and gets to play at day in and day out. We’re pretty proud of our course and our facility and all I can say is I hope everyone’s having as much fun as I did out there and watching.” — Brian Keiser, head golf professional at Longmeadow Country Club, on hosting the Mass Open.
“I had no idea I’d be able to put this good of a round together, but the confidence was definitely up so it was bound to happen.” — Ethan Whitney on his course record-tying round.
“I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong, just a couple of errant shots. Everything else was solid.” — Justin Grondahl, who shot 3-under 67 in the opening round with just one bogey.
“It’s not too often now that they’re playing in college that we all get to overlap, so it’s always a treat when we get to do that.” — Patrick Frodigh on getting to play with his younger brothers in the Mass Open.
“I think your game plans go right out the window. You don’t know how much it’s going to rain or how hard it’s going to rain, or if the wind’s blowing. If it’s pouring, you might have to back off a club.” — Michael Kartrude on Thursday’s rainy weather forecast.
“He’s got a great background in golf. And he’s a great green reader. We had a nice routine going out there, so it was great to lean back on him and his knowledge.” — Matt Naumec on his caddie, Tim Tunstall, a member of Longmeadow Country Club.
“Monday was a grind, and I was able to keep myself in it for a while. Then I got to hang around my dad [Fran Quinn], and to see him get it done was awesome. A ton of people reached out to us especially just express their congratulations. It’s pretty unbelievable. He’s 57 years old. Who qualifies for U.S. Open at 57? It just doesn’t happen. It’s going be one of the coolest weeks I’ve seen. In all likelihood it’ll be his last one. He’s never going to try to qualify again, so it’s pretty cool.” — Owen Quinn on his father Fran Quinn qualifying for next week’s U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline.
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