- Golfer Benefits
HAMPDEN, Massachusetts – The goal of competitors at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament each year is to make it to the third and final round at Woodland Golf Club in the Newton neighborhood of Auburndale, and have a chance to win it there. On Wednesday, that journey to Woodland began farther away than ever before as GreatHorse became the first course in Western Massachusetts to host the first two stroke play rounds of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament.
In total, 107 players completed the first 18 holes of the 55th edition of the Ouimet, which is Mass Golf’s lone exemption-only stroke-play event on the schedule and is the only one to feature divisions for men, senior men, and women. The tournament began in 1968, one year after the death of Francis Ouimet, the Brookline native who shocked the world with his victory in the 1913 U.S. Open.
“I think it’s really cool to be the first course to be in Western Mass to host this,” said Guy Antonacci, the owner of GreatHorse. “I was talking to the Ouimet Fund back in 2014 about hosting a round or two of this, and I’ve played in the event five times now, so we definitely wanted to be able to host this one year.”
After Round 1, two defending champs are in the lead. Steve Tasho (Thorny Lea Golf Club) is leading the Lowery Division, while Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club) is ahead in the Women’s Division. Fellow junior golfer Ryan Downes, a member at GreatHorse, is leading the Championship Division. All three players hold a one-stroke lead.
Thursday’s Round 2 will also take place at GreatHorse. The Championship Division field will be cut to the low 30 and ties, while the low 12 and ties will advance in the Lowery Division and Women’s Division.
Ryan Downes is fully aware he has a bit of an advantage heading into this year’s Ouimet Memorial Tournament. Not only is the 16-year-old playing some of the best golf of his life, he’s been playing here since he was 6 years old, and his father, Billy Downes, is the head golf professional. Following Wednesday’s opening round, Downes holds the lead with a 3-under-par 69 as he seeks his first Mass Golf victory.
“I know the reads probably better than anyone out here, [and] I know where to hit hit, so it’s definitely a good thing,” said Downes, the runner-up at the Mass Amateur earlier this month. “I’m definitely happy with how I played and excited for the next few days.”
Playing in his third Ouimet Memorial Tournament, Downes got off to a solid start with birdies on his first two holes. While Downes said he didn’t hit driver well most the day — he played 3-wood off the tee on his final hole — he made up for it with solid iron play. Despite a bogey on the 11th, Downes got some seperation with birdies on hole 13 and 14. On the 14th, he hit a 3-wood into the left bunker, but hit his third to three feet to give him a short birdie putt.
“It was probably one of the best shots I hit today,” Downes said of the bunker shot.
More like Ryan Up-and-Downes. Back to back birdies has him atop the leaderboard in the Championship Division. #MassGolf
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) July 27, 2022
Crossing the street to play the par-3 15th, his tee shot sailed past the flagstick on the top-right side green and was just off the back of it. But Downes confidently stepped over the 25-foot putt and knocked it home for his fifth and final birdie on the day.
Downes, who finished T10 last year, is now looking to hold his ground through the next round and be in a prime position to win it at Woodland, where he hung in well until the final hole where he made double bogey to finish 3-over 74. However, it was still good enough for a T10 finish.
“I hope to build off that this week and maybe get a win,” Downes said.
Also pursuing their first Ouimet title is Andrew DiRamio, who has found a grove in recent weeks. Last week, DiRamio sank eight birdies in the last round of the New England Amateur to shoot 66 and earn a top 10 finish.
“I was 8-under through 14 holes, and that just unlocked something in my brain…just don’t be afraid to step on the gas,” DiRamio said after his opening round Wednesday.
DiRamio accelerated early with three birdies on the front nine and another on the back to finish 2-under 71. Despite a bogey on the 13th, he was able to make par the rest of the way to stay in the hunt.
“I feel like when I start off well I feel like it really helps,” said DiRamio, who played in the U.S. Amateur last year. “I’ve been hitting it well the past 2-3 weeks. I just sort of found something. I have a good swing through and I just feel good over the ball.”
It also helps that GreatHorse is one of his favorite courses.
“I love this course,” he said. “The whole atmosphere here is so different than any other course around. It translates well when you’re out here and you feel good over the ball.”
Ethan Whitney (Oak Hill Country Club) and Ricky Stimets (Worcester Country Club), who finished T7 at the New England Amateur last week, finished the day two back at 1-under. Chris Bornhorst (Brae Burn Country Club) and Woodland member Cooper Griffin carded a 71. Griffin, who was medalist in U.S. Open Local Qualifying at Foxborough Country Club in May, had the most steady round with two birdies and a bogey. Stimets, meanwhile, made six birdies, but a double-bogey on the par-3 3rd prevented him from holding a share of the lead.
With two weeks to go before her return to the U.S. Women’s Amateur, Molly Smith began her title defense at the GreatHorse, a course that’s suited well for her long drives off the tee. On the par-4 16th, Smith nearly drove the green, leaving herself a short wedge in to set up birdie. In total, Smith poured in five birdies to hold a one-stroke lead over Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club.)
“From the tees we’re playing on a few holes, I can actually get my tee ball out past the trouble,” said Smith, who will compete at Chambers Bay beginning August 8. “I feel like if I can take advantage of those holes where I have short distance in, it gives me some room to play on the harder holes because there are some tough holes out there.”
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) July 27, 2022
Smith ran into some trouble on the par-5 18th, as she hit her drive long into the penalty area and had to take a drop in the left rough, which was blocked out by a tree guarding the hole. Not having a great number in, she clubbed down and played it out to the right, and was able hit a putt to 4 feet and make par to finish 1-under.
“It’s definitely nice to finish with a five to keep the round under par and not finish on a bad hole,” Smith said. “If I can just learn from that and clean that up for tomorrow, that should be good.”
Buck finds herself a stroke off the lead as she pursues her first Ouimet Memorial Tournament win. Playing the course for the first time since the New England Women’s Amateur in 2019, Buck started with a 15-foot birdie putt on the opening hole but truly got dialed in on the back nine, where she went 2-under. Despite finding the fairway bunker and making bogey on the 17th, Buck bounced back with a little “luck” on the 18th. With a ball above her feet at 140 yards for her approach, Buck clubbed up in an attempt to punch it out to the fairway, but it stayed up on the left side of the green, giving her a makable birdie putt, which she converted to finish even-par.
“That was definitely a nice way to finish,” Buck said. “But the rest of the day was pretty stress-free, so it definitely feels good.”
Buck, who won her third consecutive Mass Women’s Four-Ball Championship with Shannon Johnson last week, said the Ouimet is one event she looks forward to every year.
“This is always one of my favorite tournaments, just the history of it,” Buck said. “It’s cool for us girls to be out here and see all the guys too and see those friends out here that we normally don’t.”
Baseball Swings ⚾️
Birdie Putts 🐦
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) July 27, 2022
Victoria Veator (Plymouth Country Club), who played alongside Buck, finds herself three strokes off the lead at 2-over, as she made three birdies. Veator advanced to the quarterfinals of last year’s Mass Women’s Amateur.
Steve Tasho has played GreatHorse before, but was appreciative this time to be playing from senior tees, which were about 500 yards shorter than the Championship tees on Wednesday. As a result hit almost every green in regulation, and with a string of birdies on holes 12-14, he finds himself on top of the leaderboard once again in this competition.
“The last time we played in the back, and it was really difficult, and it’s difficult anyway,” Tasho said of GreatHorse. “I was fortunate to be on the right side of pins most of the day, and I had some good attempts.”
Tasho, the winner of the Lowery Division winner in 2019 and 2021, ran into some trouble on his final hole, the par-3 9th, as he tee shot hit the front and rolled several yards back. Tasho got above the pin for a par putt which sailed past, but he made the comebacker to stay in red figures.
“I didn’t want to end with a double-bogey on that hole,” Tasho said. “I hit a pretty good shot coming up to it, it just caught the ridge and it just kept rolling back, and I hit a good second shot, but [when] you get above the pin there and it’s just really severe.”
Making his debut in the Ouimet Tournament was Dean Godek (Agawam Municipal), who kept a simple card with 16 pars, one birdie and one par. But his round was anything but simple. Godek got up and down for par several times to bail him out. On the par-5 second he had to punch out of the rough with a 9-iron but made the par putt from 12 feet. He might’ve saved his best for last as his approach shot rolled into the front of the greenside fescue on the 18th. Godek chipped out to the other side of the green, and then made the 20 footer to save par and keep him even for the round.
“I played solid and stayed away from big numbers because this place can grab you quick,” Godek said.
Eagle Watch: Out of the entire field, only two players made eagles the entire day. Patrick Frodigh (Dedham Country & Polo Club), the 2018 Mass Amateur champion, made his on the par-5 8th to move to even-par where he finished. Meanwhile, Liam Gill (Wayland Country Club), a standout for Seattle University, made his on the par-5 14th, helping recover from a double-bogey on his second hole of the day (par-5 11th).
New Driver On The Road: In addition to his solid round Wednesday, Ryan Downes, 16, became a licensed driver over the weekend, passing his road test on Saturday. “It’ll be a little easier getting to the golf course now,” he said.
Dai Trending Up: Annie Dai put herself on the map by winning the Mass Girls’ Junior Amateur last year, but the 16-year-old from Longmeadow has also had several promising results since then. On Tuesday, she came close to winning the Hartford Women’s Open, but 2019 Mass Women’s Amateur champion Angela Garvin won the title in a playoff that went two holes.
Start The Countdown: Exactly one month from today, a couple players in the Lowery Division will compete in the opening round of stroke play in the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship at The Kittansett Club in Marion. During Monday’s qualifier at Charles River, Frank Vana and Don Foberg qualified for the national championship taking place in the Bay State. For Vana it’ll be his 33rd USGA championship appearance, making the semifinals at the 2017 U.S. Senior Amateur, and returning to the championship every year since (2020 canceled due to COVID-19). “It’s in Massachusetts, so you really don’t want to miss it,” said Vana, a member of the Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame. “It was exciting. I hadn’t played a lot so far this summer, so it was fun to do that, be under the gun and hit some good shots. I would’ve been bummed out if I didn’t make it.” On Wednesday at GreatHorse, Foberg shot 2-over, while Vana was 4-over.
GreatHorse Results: The host club had five players in the field, including Downes. Among them, Pat Pio finished even-par 72. Course owner Guy Antonacci shot 78, while Michael Petrick shot 77, and Joe Brosseau finished with a 79, good for T12 in the Lowery Division.
Next Year’s Co-Host: The first two rounds of the 2023 Ouimet Memorial Tournament will take place at Oakley Country Club in Watertown. It’ll be the first time the club is hosting a portion of the event since 1998. Back then, Oakley hosted for the first time along with Weston Golf Club and Woodland Golf Club.