- Golfer Benefits
WATERTOWN, Massachusetts – The 105 competitors in the 56th Ouimet Memorial Tournament have been tested at several Donald Ross-designed golf courses throughout New England and beyond. For many of them, though, Wednesday was the first time they got to compete on the Ross’ first.
Oakley Country Club, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary of its current location in Watertown, is hosting the opening portion of the Ouimet Tournament for the first time since the club celebrated its centennial in 1998. It may be 6,000 yards from the back tees, but with its tight contours and tricky greens, “it’s 6,000 yards of all you can handle,” a common refrain according to Oakley’s Director of Golf Scott Johnson.
The championship 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. It began in 1968, one year after the death of Francis Ouimet, the Brookline native whose historic victory in the 1913 U.S. Open at The Country Club changed the course of history for golf in the United States. The vision was a stroke-play championship for amateurs that can be credited to Ouimet as well as Tom Barrett, the tournament’s founding chairman and longtime Woodland Golf Club member.
“Our club is a huge proponent of the Ouimet Fund,” said Johnson, who was granted the 2019 Ouimet Golf Professional of the Year Award. “We’ve had an outstanding caddy program, and I’m proud to be part of it and get a number of scholars to go through.”
Rounds 2 takes place Thursday. The low 30 and ties from the championship division and low 12 from both the Lowery (Senior Men) and Women’s divisions will advance to the final round Friday at Woodland Golf Club in the Newton village of Auburndale.
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Leave it to a caddy to be leading the first round of the Ouimet Tournament. Will Campbell (Bayberry Hills/Bass River), a Cape Cod native who loops at Cape Cod National and Eastward Ho!, made birdie on his final three holes for a 6-under 64. Not only was that good enough for a share of the lead, it was his career low tournament round.
Campbell sank a long 30-footer from the lower tier of the par-3 7th and then a 20-footer from the fringe on the 9th to close out his lifetime best. If Campbell was channelling Francis Ouimet, then his Methodist College teammate David D’Agostino, of Belmont, was Eddie Lowery.
“I thought he did an awesome job,” Campbell said of D’Agostino. “We were really particular especially on some of those half wedges where we were going to put the ball either below the hole or not in a place that I was going to three-putt. I thought we managed things really well all day, and I finally got a couple long ones to fall in at the end which was huge.”
It was almost a round that wasn’t meant to be. Campbell only got in the field recently via a special exemption. Then his opening tee shot on the 10th nearly sailed out of bounds, but he caught a break as it hit the fence and bounced back into play. It would turn out to be his lone bogey of the day. The rest, he said, was just fun.
“I was just happy to get a couple days off of work and come play this golf tournament,” said Campbell, who is in the PGA Golf Management University Program at Methodist, where he plays with his brother and teammate Charlie Campbell, a Ouimet Scholar.
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Defending champion Ryan Downes (GreatHorse) was in hot pursuit of the course record of 62 after going 2-under on the back nine and making birdie on five of the first six holes on the front. Downes, the winner of this year’s Massachusetts Amateur Championship, made a 35-footer for birdie on the 1st hole (his 10th), and the Longmeadow native got to 6-under with a birdie on the sixth. However, he finished with three consecutive pars to finish the day tied for the lead.
Colin Spencer (Cummaquid Golf Club), a Ouimet scholar who plays for UConn, turned in one of his best performances of the year. Like Campbell, he opened with a bogey on 10 but crawled his way back with consecutive birdies on holes 3 and 4 getting him to 2-under. Spencer salvaged his score on the 8th despite wildly missing the green on his approach. Still, he was able to chip to six feet and then knock in the par putt.
“I’m just trying to stay confident, and it seems like it’s coming together,” Spencer said. “It’s one of my favorite tournaments. Francis Ouimet did so much for amateur golf everywhere, so it’s just a great championship and an honor to play it.”
Molly Smith has spent most of the year testing her game on longer courses. Two weeks ago at Essex County Club (6,500 yards) she became the first female to compete in the Mass Amateur, and she just returned from Colorado after making the Round of 64 in the U.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur on a course playing over 6,700 yards.
Now back in the Bay State, she’s playing from a more familiar distance as she tries to win her second Ouimet Memorial title in three years. Smith shot 1-under 70 on Wednesday, making birdie on the 17th and 18th. On the 18th, Smith hit a wedge within five feet and her putt dropped into the right side of the cup to get her under-par.
“I birdied the last two which is good,” said Smith, who will attend the University of Central Florida in the fall. “I think sometimes when I play long courses I get complacent. At Essex and the U.S. Girls’ Junior, even-par was a very solid score. I feel like sometimes I let up on the gas and may have gotten sloppy the past few weeks. I feel like coming back to a shorter course is going to help me dial in the scoring shots and get that part of my game a little bit better for the rest of the summer.”
The greens also caught the attention of Smith early. On the second hole, Smith hit a 20-foot downhill putt 12 feet past the hole. “Since the second hole, I thought I rolled it nicely,” she said.
“I always like this tournament,” Smith added. “I like Woodland as the last course. I’ve played well there, so I hope for more of the same. Hopefully I will get off to a better start tomorrow. I’ve never been here, but this is a cool golf course.”
Piper Jordan (Boston Golf Club) also holds great admiration for the Ouimet Memorial Tournament. Since first playing in it as a pre-teen, Jordan has gone on to have success both in golf and ice hockey.
“It’s such an honor,” said Jordan, a quarterfinalist in the 2022 Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship. “I remember playing when I was 12, and now playing right before I go to college, it culminates the experience, and it’s so cool to play with these awesome women.”
On Wednesday, Jordan sank three birdies, including on the par-3 7th, helping her finish with a 75, five strokes off the lead. Like many, three-putts didn’t help matters Wednesday.
“The greens rolled pretty true, but they were a beast,” Jordan said. “I was around the pin all day. It was a mix of birdie chances and long lag putts. Once it got within 10-12 feet, I was able to give it a good run.”
Morgan Smith (Vesper Country Club), the reigning Mass Women’s Amateur winner is four strokes back of her sister at 3-over 74. Smith, who will play in the U.S. Women’s Amateur beginning August 7 at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles, is tied with Shannon Johnson (Thorny Lea Golf Club), who is also seeking her first Ouimet title. Johnson finished with a birdie on the 9th, her fourth of the day.
Rick Santilli is playing in his first Ouimet Memorial Tournament, but his course knowledge certainly paid off in the opening round round Wednesday. Santilli, a past club champion at Oakley, rode a chip-in eagle on the par-5 4th to a 2-over 72 putting him at T4 and within reach of the lead through Round 1.
“It’s always nice to make an eagle,” Santilli said. “Home course knowledge always pays dividends here. It’s good to know the greens, and it’s good to know where to hit. I was very lucky to have my home course for the Ouimet.”
Santilli is also a longtime donor the Ouimet Fund. “Giving back to the college kids that are getting and education and being able to combine it with golf and helping out with the young kids is a great opportunity.”
Santilli and others will be chasing down Jim DiBiase, the 2017 Lowery winner, who set the pace with a 2-under 68 on Wednesday. The longtime Woodland member shot a bogey-free 2-under on the front nine and answered a bogey on the 10th with birdies on the par-3 14th and par-3 17th.
Two-time winner Jack Kearney (1992 Championship, 2010 Lowery) also was bogey-free 2-under on the front nine en route to an even-par finish to match Scott Copeland (Old Sandwich Golf Club), who qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur last year.
Hall of Famer Frank Vana, Jr. (Marlborough Country Club), the Ouimet title winner when it was last played at Oakley in 1998, is currently T7 after shooting 4-over.
Oakley Update: Oakley members Rugo Santini, Joseph DeStefano, and Brandon Hagopian are all in contention to make the cut in the Championship Division as Santini and DeStefano shot 4-over 74 to finish the day T36, while Hagopian is one back at T43. DeStefano made birdie on three of the five par-3s on Wednesday, including hole 3 which was playing as the No. 1 Handicap hole. Longtime member and women’s club champion Lindsay Graham shot 88, while Robert Malcolm finished with a 78 in the Lowery Division.
Equal Setup On 1: All players hit from the same tees on Hole 1 on Wednesday, playing the hole at 312 yards. Players finished with 20 birdies and 63 pars, 17 bogeys and 5 double bogeys. A similar setup took place last year when all players hit from the same tees on the par-3 15th during the second round at GreatHorse.
Eagle Watch: Three of the four eagles Wednesday came on the par-5 4th hole (470-508 yards). Josiah Hakala (Northern Spy Golf Club), who won the New Hampshire Junior Amateur last week, made eagle on the downhill par-4 9th, helping him finish 2-under for the round.
Oakley, A 125 Year Celebration: Did you know Oakley Country Club is among the only 18-hole courses that is set on less than 100 acres? Tucked within a prestine and historic 88 acres, the club was a founding member of both the Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts and Massachusetts Golf Association, which since merged to form Mass Golf. From major golf champions to U.S. Presidents, several historic figures have graced its grounds over the years. For the full story honoring Oakley’s 125-year history, CLICK HERE