by Tom Gorman
WINCHESTER, MA – Two weeks ago, Bobby Leopold established himself as the best amateur in Rhode Island with a resounding 4 & 2 match play triumph over Andy Fiorenzano at Montaup Golf Club (Portsmouth) in the Rhode Island Amateur. This week Leopold is upping the stakes, seeking the title of best amateur in New England, competing in the prestigious 85th New England Amateur at plush Winchester Country Club.
A talented 156-player field teed off in the first round of the 72-hole stroke play format on the 6,832-yard, par 71 Donald Ross-designed course. And, Leopold finds himself tied for third at 3-under with nines of 35-33-68. He trails leader John Gratton (31-35-66) by two and Nick Pandelena (33-34-67) by one.
“I started the day with a bogey on the first hole but recovered nicely with three birdies on the front nine,” said Leopold after signing his card and then feasting on the free buffet lunch offered to each contestant by the Mass Golf Association. “On the par-5 twelfth I made a 60-foot putt for eagle that got me going. This is a great golf course and you have to leave yourself below the hole on the greens, which I did most of the day. I think it’s going to take three rounds under par to win I have been playing really well for the past three weeks.”
There are a few familiar Rhode Island names on the New England Amateur trophy such as Brad Faxon (’80, ‘81), Billy Andrade (’83) and Brad Volois (’06). Should the 29-year old Leopold, who plays out of Wannamoisett, win, he will become the first Ocean State player to win both the state amateur and New England Amateur in the same year.
After 36-holes the low 40 scores and ties advance to Thursday’s 36-hole final round. Last year’s tournament was held at Green Mountain National GC (VT) won by Evan Russell. Under a hot sun, but ideal scoring conditions, a total of 22 players broke par. Other top-10 scores include Steve DiLisio (68), Benjamin Day (68), Patrick Albanesi (68), Ben Spitz (69), Jake Shuman (69), Chris Waitr (69), Sam Bernstein (69), Brendan Lemp (69), Kevin Silva (69), Chris Houston (69), Scott Congdon (69), Brendan Monahan (69) and Eric Marchetti (69).
Winchester head pro Jim Salinetti, who holds three Mass Amateur titles and played for seven years on the Nationwide pro tour, was impressed by the scores and predicted a 5 or 6 –under winning score. He expects the course to firm up, as well as the high-stakes pressure factoring into the player’s final round.
NEW ENGLAND AMATEUR NOTEBOOK
Each of the six New England states are allowed a limited number of players with less than 5.4 handicap index, with the home state (MA) fielding 55, CT (40), ME (18), NH (15), RI (14) and VT (14)…John Gratton, from Dedham Country & Polo Club, and a junior at University of Richmond, called his round the best tournament score of his life… Winchester CC was established in 1902, one of the founding clubs of the MGA, and according to clubhouse general manager Charles Grandon, has a waiting list of over 100 names…Making the turn at 4-under par 32 was the pride-and-joy of Winchester CC, Brendan Monahan, who posted a 69…Doug Clapp, reigning MGA player of the year and finalist in last week’s Mass Amateur signed for a 76…Youngest competitor is 16-year Connor Daly, of Basin Harbor (VT) playing in his second N.E. Amateur posting 77…Former Winchester CC head pro Jim Lane is retired, and active member who knows the course well after 25 years. He said hole Nos. 8 -11 are the key stretch for a good score, predicting 6-under will win…2014 Mass Amateur champion John Kelly (Twin Rivers) is the only current state amateur champions absent from the competition…J.C Guthrie, of Wedgewood Pines, scored 78, explaining he was suffering from Mass Amateur fatigue from Kernwood CC last week, but he’s getting ready to tee it up again next week at Dedham C & PC, Wellesley & Woodland in the Francis Ouimet tournament…New England Amateur officials in charge are Harry McCracken and Sandy Dowling…For the latest up-to-date New England Amateur information go to www.negagolf.com.