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LONGMEADOW, Massachusetts – Westminster’s Ethan Whitney, 19, and Wilbraham’s Matt Naumec, 25, are at different stages of their golf journeys, but both have positioned themselves to do something unprecedented — defeat some of the region’s best professionals as amateurs in the Mass Open. After early morning rain parted to make way for beautiful, blue skies on Thursday, Whitney and Naumec both shot 3-under in the second round at Longmeadow Country Club.
Whitney, a rising sophomore at Temple University, will sleep on the lead at 9-under overall, while Naumec, who regained his amateur status this year, is one shot back. The last time any amateur led entering the final day of the championship was 2014 when Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club) had a share of the lead with three others at Weston Golf Club. Other amateur luminaries who have won the Mass Open are Jesse Guilford (1919, 1929) and Francis Ouimet (1932), and more recently Kevin Johnson (1987), who is the championship’s youngest winner at 19 years, 1 month, 30 days. Whitney turns 20 in September.
Starting times this morning were delayed 2.5 hours due to lightning. The first groups began at 10 a.m., and play was suspended at 8:22 p.m. due to darkness. Play will continue at 9 a.m. Friday to determine the cut for the low 50 and ties for the third and final round. The final round will begin at 11:30 a.m.
For Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club), par saves were as crucial as the five birdies he made. Despite shooting 32 on the back nine to start his round, he bogeyed 18 and then had another bogey on the 2nd hole. Facing another difficult right-to-left breaking putt on the third, Whitney stroked it perfectly, and it dropped to keep his score at 8-under.
“That was the one that kept it together,” said Whitney, who made birdie on the 6th hole to finish at 9-under. “I was like, ‘Alright, you got this. You can make a couple coming down the stretch and just try to hold it together.'”
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Whitney also credited his caddy Conner Willet, a rising sophomore at Georgetown University, for his strong play to this point. “He’s been a huge help on the greens and just numbers coming into the greens,” Whitney said of Willett. “He was on my bag on Saturday at the Hornblower and the last two days. I’ve played a ton of golf with him, so he knows my game pretty well.”
And now Whitney finds himself in a new position of leading a state open for the first time.
“I just need to stick to the game plan, hit fairways and greens, keep everything in perspective and just focus on what I need to do and not get wrapped up in the moment,” Whitney said. “It’s a huge accomplishment, but it’s not over yet, and I have to still play well tomorrow to get it done.”
Matt Naumec (GreatHorse) has maintained a solid rhythm over the past two days of the Mass Open, which is why it’s no surprise for him to be in contention.
“I think this golf course suits any style player who’s hitting it well and rolling it well,” said Naumec, the former Boston College standout. “I think to score out here, you have to make putts and you have to be patient out on the greens. It’s great that we’re showing up against the pros.”
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) June 9, 2022
Naumec eagled the par-5 10th (477 yards) for the second day in a row, which put him at 9-under for the championship. He gave back a couple with bogeys on 15 and 17, but a birdie on the par-3 16th (144 yards) kept him one stroke off the lead. He also was able to finish just as play was suspended.
“I stayed within my bounds per se,” Naumec said. “My caddie Tim and I have a great game plan going, staying patient hitting greens and if the putts fall, they fall, and I had a couple fall today.”
Michael Kartrude, a mini-tour pro from West Palm Beach, Florida, remains 6-under and is currently the low professional in the field at third place overall. (Top prize money goes to low pro). After recording an even-par 70 during the second round, he’s three strokes off the lead.
“Great ball-striking, much better than yesterday, but it’s golf, some days they go in, some days they don’t,” Kartrude said. “But given the wind, and pin placements, I’m happy with even for sure.”
Like many others in the field, Kartrude had to adapt once strong winds picked up midway through the morning round.
“I had a lot of really good looks early before the wind and I just, I couldn’t get a ball in the hole, but I hit it really well so it kind of made up for it,” Kartrude said. “But I’m happy.”
One of Kartrude’s playing partners, Peter Knade (St. Simons Island, GA), is another pro in contention. The former University of Maryland standout was bogey-free through 17 holes. He has managed 68-69 in the first two rounds to put himself 6 strokes off the lead.
“I think I missed seven or eight putts inside 10 feet, and so to make a 70-footer on the last is kind of funny.” –- Michael Kartrude, who hit a long putt on the par-4 9th to conclude Round 2.
“It was great the extra two hours of sleep or so. We kept waking up and then got another text message saying it was delayed more, but I was just able to just come out and just play my game and do what I needed to do.” — Ethan Whitney on the delayed start this morning.
“We got hit with .99 inches of rain that fell between 4 and 8:30 a.m. this morning. I’m pretty pleased with how the course took all of that. It obviously delayed everybody, the start of play; it delayed our operations and getting out on the course, but I’m very proud that our guys pulled it together, and we got everything done that we needed.” — Pat Sisk, the golf course superintendent at Longmeadow Country Club.
“I played the Mass Open here in 2002, and it’s always nice to play here. It’s such a good straightforward test with some great par 4s.” — Billy Downes, a Longmeadow native and head pro at GreatHorse, on playing Longmeadow Country Club.
“I’m not going to be able to finish the round, so when I go home tonight and I’m going to check the leaderboard and then when I finish the round tomorrow, it’s going to be a bit more nerve-wracking knowing where I’m at. I think it will feel like a six-hole playoff.” — Jack Moy (Pleasant Valley Country Club), who played in the latest group of the day (4:40 p.m.)
“We were on the 8th green and Michael (Amari) had had his part putt and we told him to just hit it and run to the 9th tee so that we had a ball to play so we could finish because we didn’t want to come back early.” — Nolan Skaggs (Plymouth Country Club), whose group beat the airhorn and was able to finish his second round.
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