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CUMBERLAND, Maine – After the first two rounds of action at the New England Junior Amateur Championship, the Massachusetts teams finds themselves well in contention at Val Halla Golf Club. The Mass Golf Boy’s currently lead the team division after shooting a total of 18-under-par across the two rounds. On the other side, The Mass Golf Girl’s hold a two-stroke lead after shooting 24-over-par.
In individual play, Massachusetts has four players in the top ten of the leaderboard on the boy’s side and all three girls find themselves top ten. Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club) led the charge after shooting 70-64-134 to reach 8-under-par and grab solo possession of second place. His afternoon mark of 64 tied the Val Halla course record. For the girls, MacKenzie Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club) is in solo first after shooting 78-74 for a two-round total of 10-over-par-152.
The following players are representing Massachusetts at the event: John Broderick (Dedham Country and Polo Club), Daniel Brooks (Dudley Hill Golf Club), Ryan Downes (GreatHorse), Weston Jones (Charter Oak Country Club), Joey Lenane (Kohr Golf Center), Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club), Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club), Annie Dai (MIAA), Keira Joshi (Nashawtuc Country Club) and MacKenzie Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club).
The New England Junior Amateur Championship is contested as both a team and individual event. The invitational calculates team scores by taking the best 5 out of 7 scores each day for the boys division and best 2 out of 3 scores for the girls. The low 54 hole team score will be named the team champion.
As for the individual honor, the low 54 individual will be named the champion, with separate divisions for the boys and girls. Each state golf association is represented by 5 boys and 3 girls.
The Massachusetts boy’s catapulted themselves to the top of the leaderboard thanks to a well-rounded effort from their guys. Amongst a number of strong performances, it was Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club) who stole the show by firing a mark of 7-under-par 64 in his afternoon round. Not only did Spencer tie the Val Halla Course record set by Tom Hanson in 1993, he also gave his team a huge boost in the standings.
“It’s cool,” Spencer said after his round. “This is the first one I’ve ever tied. At my home course I was two off of it, so it was obviously very cool and a fun day.” Spencer played well in the morning going under par, but his 7 birdie performance in the afternoon was a completely new level of play.
“The morning round was really boring,” Spencer said. “Then, the second round was good. I think I was even through 5 or 6, then the last 12 holes I made a lot of birdies which was fun. The putts that I was making for par saves on the first 18, I was making for birdies on the second. I’m excited for tomorrow. We had an awesome couple rounds today and as a team, we’re looking really good.”
The Massachusetts boys did indeed build themselves a comfortable cushion. Connecticut stands in second place and they trail the Mass boys by 22 strokes. Like Spencer, Weston Jones (Charter Oak Country Club) also got hot in his afternoon round. After shooting 3-over in the morning, Jones dropped in eight birdies on his way to shooting 6-under 65 in the afternoon.
According to Jones, what changed was he tightened up his accuracy in the afternoon.
“I was missing my tee shots,” Jones said of his morning round. “I had about three or four really bad tee shots. In the afternoon I really improved off the tee and with striking the ball well. I was putting the ball well in the morning, so it was about as good as I could have done with how I was hitting the ball, then when I started hitting it really well it all just kind of came together.”
Between Spencer and Jones, the afternoon round for the boys was outstanding. Jones drew inspiration from seeing his own guys do well, as well as the competition around him.
“At the end of the day, you’re playing for your team and you’re playing for yourself,” Jones said. “When you see guys going lower and lower, you’re going to want to go lower. Everyone kind of channels each other’s energy which is nice.”
The tone for the day was set in the morning courtesy of John Broderick (Dedham Country and Polo Club). Broderick led Massachusetts shooting 4-under 67 (tied for best round of the morning) and followed that up shooting 3-under 68 in the afternoon.
“This morning I hit it great actually,” Broderick said. “I had six birdies and five of them were almost gimmes, so that really helped me not have to be stressed on putts. It allowed for some great opportunities. I did definitely set the tone that you could shoot a good score on this course and it helped our team out.”
While his own play was on point, Broderick was most excited to see his teammates follow suite in the afternoon round.
“I was just so pumped because I love this team,” Broderick said. “I think all of us, we really want to win as a team. Obviously all of us want to win as individuals, but I think more than individuals, we want to win as a team. Team Connecticut has beat us two straight years and they’ve got a really strong team this year, but so do we. We really want to beat them and the other states of course as well.”
The group certainly positioned themselves well as they chase that goal heading into the third and final round of action on Tuesday.
Over in the girls division, the race for team honors is super tight. Massachusetts leads things shooting 24-over par, but Rhode Island finds themselves just two strokes back and New Hampshire is threatening five strokes behind the lead.
While things are tight, it was still a strong start for the girls. MacKenzie Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club) spear-headed the strong opening rounds firing rounds of 78 and 74 to put herself at the top of the individual leaderboard.
“This morning I wasn’t really hitting my irons that well, so it was kind of a grind with that in the fairway, but I was putting and chipping really well today,” Whitney said. “That helped and then this afternoon I just put it all together. My irons started going straight and everything was going straight, so it just worked out in my favor and then my putting was really good this afternoon.”
Whitney had a light hearted reason as to what shifted for her from round one to round two, where she managed to shave four strokes off of her score.
“My back has been really stiff,” she said. “Today after the first round I popped a couple of Advil and that seemed to help, but I was just trying to have fun and play good golf,” she said with a laugh.
Whitney is playing in her first New England Junior and although she was a late addition to the team, she thoroughly enjoyed her first taste of the competition and experience.
“It was so fun today,” Whitney said. “I got to play with two girls this morning, one was Kylie Eaton, who I’ve played with before in past tournaments. It was nice to have a friend and then I met two new girls today in the second round.”
Finishing up a few strokes behind Whitney was 15-year-old Annie Dai who shot 78-78-156 to finish 14-over and in solo possession of fourth in the individual standings.
Though Dai wasn’t fully pleased with her performance, she helped out her team and started to find a bit of a groove as the round went on.
“I definitely left some shots out there today, so my goal is to just improve,” she said. “I’m not worried about the leaderboard. This is my first time and it’s been really fun. I’m really honored to be part of the team.”
Late in her day, Dai figured out a couple of things she can bring into tomorrow.
“Towards the last nine my driver shots were good, but everything has just been really average, nothing stood out,” Dai said. “I will definitely work on my putting because I was having trouble with the speed today. With my driver I know if I hit well, I’ll have a lot less distance when it comes to the approach shots which would help.”
The girls will also be boosted with Keira Joshi hanging around the top half of the the leaderboard. Joshi finished the day T10 and helped contribute to what was a solid first two rounds. The girls will need a full effort from all three as they look to pull away for a win on Tuesday.
As is now customary for the New England Junior Amateur Championship, each state is represented by five boys and three girls at the Championship Proper. Get to know a little bit more about the eight players representing the Bay State.
Club: Dedham Country & Polo Club
This Summer: Broderick played in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at The Country Club of North Carolina in the Village of Pinehurst. Broderick made it into match play and defeated William Sides (Tulsa, Oklahoma) 3&2 in the round of 64 before bowing out in the round of 32.
Club: Dudley Hill Golf Club
This Summer: Brooks made match play at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship. He defeated Owen Quinn (Worcester Country Club) in the round of 32 before falling to Brae Burn Country Club’s own Chris Bornhorst in the next round.
This Summer: The youngest male competitor to make the trip up to Maine made match play in two different events this summer. Downes qualified at the Mass Amateur and the Junior Amateur Championship, which was hosted at Indian Pond Country Club in Kingston.
Club: Charter Oak Country Club
This Summer: Jones played at Pinehurst Country Club in Pinehurst, North Carolina not once, but twice. In late June, Jones went down to play in the Boys High School Golf National Invitational. He returned in July to play in the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship where he shot a two round total of 78-74-152.
Club: Kohr Golf Center
This Summer: Lenane split medalist honors at the Junior Amateur Championship alongside Weston Jones. Lenane fired rounds of 69 and 71 to finish at 4-under-par 144. In match play, he reached the semifinals for a second consecutive year.
Club: Cummaquid Golf Club
This Summer: Spencer was the winner of the Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship. He finished in 4th place in stroke play after shooting 72-71 to go 1-under-par 143. In match play he knocked out Patrick Ginnity, Sean Dully, Joey Lenane, and finally Jack Moy in the championship match.
Club: Oak Hill Country Club
This Summer: The Temple University commit had the opportunity to play in the Massachusetts Open Championship on his home course at Oak Hill Country Club in Fitchburg. In two rounds, Whitney shot 77 and 71 to finish with a total score of 8-over-par 148.
This Summer: Dai was the winner of the 88th Massachusetts Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship played at Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley. Dai shot 71-75 for a mark of 2-over-par 146, that was good enough for a three-stroke margin of victory.
Club: Nashawtuc Country Club
This Summer: Just last week, Joshi made the cut into match play at the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship. Josh fired stroke play rounds of 77-79-156 to finish T19 and grab the No. 22 seed in match play. She lost to Morgan Smith in the round of 32, 1-up.
Club: Oak Hill Country Club
This Summer: Whitney had an outstanding achievement when she aced the 9th hole (par-4, 282 yards) while playing in a women’s four-ball match at Oak Hill Country Club. Whitney is the first player in the 100-year history of the club to ace the 9th hole. She was using her TaylorMade SIM2 Driver at the time.
2 – Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club); 70-63-134
3 – John Broderick (Dedham Country & Polo Club); 67-68-135
4 – Weston Jones (Charter Oak Hill Country Club); 74-65-139
T6 – Joey Lenane (Kohr Golf Center); 73-69-142
T11 – Ryan Downes (Great Horse); 73-72-145
17 – Daniel Brooks (Dudley Hill Golf Club); 75-74-149
18 – Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club); 71-79-150
1 – MacKenzie Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club); 78-74-152
4 – Annie Dai (MIAA); 78-78-156
T10 – Keira Joshi (Nashawtuc Country Club); 78-84-162
The New England Junior Amateur Championship was not held in 2020 due to the presence of COVID-19, but there is still a rich amount of history in the event.
The last time the event was held in 2019 also featured the first time in which the girls division was introduced to the competition. In the inaugural year, it was the Rhode Island State Golf Association team who earned a victory. In the boys division, Connecticut earned a win.
To find the last time Team Massachusetts found themselves on top, one would need to go back to 2017. The Bay State boys shot a three-round total of 9-under-par 1,071 to earn a commanding 23 stroke margin of victory. That year, the team featured Jack Boulger, James Imai, Jared Winiarz, Mark Turner, Andrew McInerney, Chris Francoeur, and Lane Bohman.
Imai earned himself the individual competition crown shooting 65-70-71 for a three-day total of 10-under-par 206. Massachusetts also won in 2016 when they collectively fired a score of 1,047 to win by 35 strokes. Jack Boulger was the low scorer for the team shooting 68-68-71 a three day total of 3-under-par 207.
Since 2010, Massachusetts has won the Championship Proper a total of 5 times and now they are looking to grab their first victory in the 2020 time period.
Mass Golf is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that is dedicated to advancing golf in Massachusetts by building an engaged community around the sport. Made up of 90,000 golfers statewide, Mass Golf is one of the largest state golf associations in the country. Presently, more than two-thirds of the 360-member clubs are public-access facilities, while nearly one-half of member golfers are enrolled at public facilities. Mass Golf offers its members services including handicapping, event access, youth programming and exciting golf content.