- Golfer Benefits
HAMPDEN, Massachusetts – One thing is clear after the second round of the 55th Ouimet Memorial Tournament on Thursday at GreatHorse — nobody is running away with it. All 105 players who competed Thursday, faced some sort of challenge, whether it was high humidity or winds or stressful situations from tough lies or difficult putts.
But this challenging day has set up an epic finale at Woodland Golf Club in the Newton village of Auburndale on Friday. Woodland is the home course of the event’s namesake, Francis Ouimet. Since the event was introduced in 1968, the final day of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament has been held there.
After Round 2, GreatHorse standout Ryan Downes, 16, has maintained a one-stroke lead at 4-under in the Championship Division. He’ll tee off with Ricky Stimets (Worcester Country Club) and Christopher Bornhorst (Brae Burn Country Club) in the final group at 11:18 a.m. Friday.
Steve Tasho (Thorny Lea Golf Club), the defending champion in the Lowery Division (seniors 55+) is also in the lead at 3-over total but has a pair of players within two strokes. His group tees off at 9:28 a.m.
Meanwhile, there’s a three-way tie at 8-over in the Women’s Division featuring reigning Mass Women’s Amateur champion Catie Schernecker (The Country Club), reigning Mass Girls’ Junior Amateur winner Annie Dai (MIAA), and 2020 New England Women’s Amateur champion Megan Buck (Thorny Lea Golf Club). Those three will begin play at 8:33 a.m.
A total of 30 players will compete in the final round in the Championship Division at 9-over, while 12 made it through in the Lowery and Women’s Divisions. Play at Woodland begins at 8 a.m. Friday, with all players teeing off on hole 1.
The three women in the final group Friday are all at different stages of their golf careers, but all three have been won a state or regional event and are seeking to add a Ouimet Memorial Tournament title to their resume. Annie Dai, 16, of Longmeadow, is the youngest of the trio, and despite carding an 8 on the par-4 1st hole to start her round, she climbed back in with a birdie on the next hole, and shot 1-under 36 on the back nine, thanks to birdies on the 16th and 18th holes.
Dai, a junior at Northfield Mount Hermon School, carried some momentum into this event after a runner-up finish at the Hartford Women’s Open on Monday and Tuesday this week. She gave credit to her mother for carrying the bag the entire week.
“I’ve been playing pretty solid for the past few weeks, but I didn’t get off to a great start today, and I could definitely work on something heading into tomorrow,” Dai said.
“It’s probably the course with the most bunkers I’ve ever seen,” she said of GreatHorse. “It’s really difficult.”
Megan Buck can attest to that. Though the Day 1 leader was even through her first six holes Wednesday, Buck managed just one birdie (par-4 1st) but made an important two-putt on the par-3 9th to close out the day and maintain a share of the lead. Buck has finished 4th the past two years but is now in position to take home the title Friday.
Catie Schernecker, the rising sophomore at Harvard, has been the.most consistent of the bunch, with matching 77s on the two rounds at GreatHorse. Last year, Schernecker won the Mass Women’s Amateur on the strength of her putting and will hope for more of the same Friday
Sana Tufail (Southborough Golf Club) literally did everything she could to keep the wheels from falling off Thursday. Throughout the morning round Tufail was constantly adjusting and putting the wheels back in place on her push cart, as they kept falling off on the inclines. Despite hitting into some difficult spots, the 25-year-old Southborough resident, didn’t let it detail her round, as Tufail bounced back from an 81 the day prior with a 1-over 74 to put her just one stroke off the lead in her debut in the event.
“It’s great to be playing in this championship,” said Tufail, a native of Abu Dhabi and former standout at Old Dominion University. “It’s my first time and the legacy that Mr. Ouimet left behind, it’s a very admirable legacy.”
Tufail also sampled some new equipment, opting to go with an PXG Evnroll putter in the bag. Knowing the greens would be more firm on the back nine, Tufail managed to pick up three birdies on the front nine, and make key par and bogey saves to avoid any big numbers.
“I had five or six 3-putts yesterday, so I thought I’ll try something a bit different,” she said. “[There was] nothing to lose, especially when you putt like that. I managed to lag a lot of the putts closer and make a few more birdie opportunities.”
Defending champion Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club), the Day 1 leader, finds herself three strokes off the lead. She is still the only player to break par, doing so with a 1-under 72 on Wednesday. Her final round will begin at 8:11.
No aces to report yet on the short par-3 15th (94 yards), but Christopher Bornhorst and Sana Tufail tucked a few in close. They are both early leaders in the clubhouse in their respective divisions. #MassGolf
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) July 28, 2022
Ryan Downes had been waiting all day to get a distant birdie putt to drop. He finally got it on the last hole of the day, the par-3 9th, as he played it off the right ridge and rolled it back to the “perfect spot” about 10 feet from the hole. With that made putt, the 16-year-old phenom put himself back atop the leaderboard entering the final round.
“That was a good way to end,” said Downes, the runner-up at this year’s Mass Amateur. “The goal was to come here and play well and try to win this week, so hopefully I can do that tomorrow.”
Downes got his first crack at Woodland last year but finished 10 strokes behind winner Chris Francoeur. Now Downes, finds himself in the driver’s seat with an opportunity to earn his first piece of Mass Golf hardware since taking home the Pre-Junior Division of the Junior Amateur Championship last year. If he did so he’d join a short list of individuals to win the title as a teenager.
“I want a little redemption from last year,” Downes said. “I doubled the last hole so no doubles tomorrow would be good and I’m going to try to make a lot of birdies.”
Chris Bornhorst was one of four players standing when the Mass Amateur came to his home club of Brae Burn Country Club last year. Though he came up short in the semifinals, the Newton native will be across the road at Woodland Golf Club on Friday with a shot at earning a victory. Bornhorst made four birdies and despite a double-bogey on the closing after finding the fairway bunker, he finished 2-under 70 and sits T3 entering the final
“I was fortunate enough to have my best ball striking round of the year,” said Bornhorst, the former Babson College standout who also played for the University of Colorado. “My ball striking was able to give me enough good looks to make some birdies and keep myself up there.”
“As long as you’re not making bogeys out there, you’re winning,” he added. “I just felt really good make pars and cruising along.”
Like Bornhorst, Ricky Stimets (Worcester Country Club) also shot 71-70 for the opening two rounds and finds himself one stroke off the lead. Playing the course for the first time Wednesday, Stimets said he was much more comfortable with the course.
“I was trying to not put myself into terrible spots and minimize the bogeys and play a solid round,” Stimets said. “Three-putts, they’re inevitable out here. If you don’t have a 3-putt out there, hats off to you.”
Stimets is much more familiar with Woodland, having played the Ouimet back in high school and the Mass Open back in 2013. Now 31, Stimets said he hasn’t had any breakthrough rounds there but hopes to changes that Friday.
“Off the gate, there’s the drivable par-4 which is nice,” Stimets said. “It’s always nice to go back to Woodland, so hopefully I can string together a good round tomorrow.”
Many have tried but none have succeeded in winning a third title in the Lowery Division at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament. On Friday, defending champion Steve Tasho will have that opportunity.
On Thursday, Tasho managed just one birdie (a six-foot putt on the par-5 2nd) but continued to strike the ball well, hit greens in regulation, and leave himself out of danger. If he does more of the same Friday, he’ll have a good shot at becoming the first to lift the division title three times.
“The last few years at Woodland have been good to me, so I’m looking forward to hopefully playing well tomorrow and make a few putts and see where it goes,” said Tasho, a two time Mass Amateur champion (1981, 1985). “There’s a lot of good guys right there, so it’s going to be a fight to the end tomorrow.”
As for the second round, Tasho said not much changed between the two rounds.
“The balls just ended up in different places,” Tasho said. “The wind was blowing all over the place. It’s a difficult course and demanding course, and when you put in the heavy wind in the afternoon, it just makes it a difficult, long day out there for everyone.”
Nipping at his heels is Dean Godek (Agawam Municipal Golf Course), who also managed just one birdie (par-4 17th) to finish 4-over total and make it into the final group in his championship debut.
Tasho will also be paired with a familiar face in Keith Smith (Franklin Country), who won the Mass Senior Four-Ball with Tasho in 2021. Smith, last year’s Mass Golf George M. Cohen Senior Player of the Year, also shot a 4-over 76 on Thursday. Smith recovered from a triple-bogey 8 on the 14th with birdies on holes 2, 7, 11, 13 and 16.
After finishing second last year behind Tasho, Smith is hoping to surge ahead and earn the Ouimet title for the first time in his career.
An Equal Look At 15: The three divisions play from different tee sets during the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, but on the par-3 15th on Thursday, all three groups played the hole from the same spot at 96 yards. While this may have presented the best shot at an ace, nobody was able to make one. However, 24 players made birdie on that hole before the demanding stretch of holes 16-18 to close out the back nine.
Low Score Of The Day: The best round of the tournament so far belongs to Nolan Skaggs (Plymouth Country Club), a rising sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College (New York). Skaggs, rocking a camouflage bucket hat and a new Cleveland putter in the bag, fired a 4-under 68, with birdies on holes 10 & 11 and 13-15. “The putts just started dropping there,” said Skaggs, who’s making his debut in the event. “I was hitting it pretty consistent all day and only missed three or four greens in regulation.”
Woodland Members Make The Cut: In 2017, Woodland member Jim DiBiase won the Lowery Division at his home course on the 50th anniversary of the championship. While DiBiase came up two strokes shy of making the cut this year, fellow members Cooper Griffin and Alex Jeffers still remain in the Championship Division, as they’re currently 5-over and 8-over, respectively. Jeffers tees off at 10:01, and Griffin at 10:23.
Three-Time Champ Back In The Mix: Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea Golf Club), the Ouimet winner in 2009, 2013 and 2017, also got some redemption by lighting up the back nine for six birdies en route to a 3-under 69 on Thursday, putting him four strokes off the lead. The seven-time Mass Golf Richard D. Haskell Player of the Year had three consecutive birdies on holes 11-13 and another three in-a-row on 15-17, finishing with a 31 on the back nine.
Course Stats: If you ask the golfers which hole at GreatHorse is the most difficult, they might say all of them. But over the past three days, the 18th proved to be the most difficult, as it surrendered just 10 birdies and 74 pars combined in the three divisions. The par-3 3rd was the third-most difficult and allowed just three birdies.
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