john-grattonJohn Gratton (Dedham C&PC – MA) picked a good time to play his best round of the year.

Taking on the region’s best amateur players, the 20 year old from nearby Wellesley fired a first-round score of 5-under par 66 to hold a one-stroke lead at the 2014 New England Amateur Championship, which is being held this week at Winchester Country Club.

Day 1 Quick Links

*   Pandelena, Leopold & More Within Striking Distance
*   Feels Like Home For Brendan Monahan
*   About the Host Club
*   Find Us on Twitter
*   What’s Up Next?

“I am really excited,” said Gratton. “This is the lowest round of the year and probably one of my best tournament rounds.”

After advancing to the semifinals of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship in 2013, Gratton was disappointed last week after posting rounds of 73 and 82 during stroke play and failing to make match play.

“I played horrible and I was actually afraid of my putter,” said Gratton. “I even contemplated using a different club, but I worked all weekend on it and got some confidence back.”

That confidence was evident from the start. Even after beginning his round on the 10th hole with a double bogey, Gratton pieced together a fantastic round on a Donald Ross layout that wreaked havoc on the games of even the best competitors in the field.

After making birdie on the 12th hole and then a bogey on the 13th hole, Gratton chipped in from just off the green for birdie on the 149-yard, par 3 14th hole. He would go on to make birdie on the 15th and 18th holes and make the turn at 1-under par 35.

“I only missed two greens which was very helpful,” said Gratton, who attends but does not play golf at the University of Richmond.

His best stretch of golf came on the Winchester front nine where Gratton recorded four birdies – including three straight from the 5th to the 7th holes – to cap off a 4-under par 31 score on that nine.

“During the last seven holes I must have made three 10 footers,” said Gratton. “I was putting very well and didn’t put myself into trouble off the tee.”

Pandelena, Leopold & More Within Striking Distance

Sitting right below Gratton on the leaderboard with a score of 4-under par 67 is Nicholas Pandelena (Atkinson CC – NH), a rising junior at Boston College who just last week advanced to the quarterfinals of the New Hampshire State Amateur Championship.

“I have been playing really well for the past three weeks,” said Pandelena, who was team captain of both the golf and hockey teams at St. John’s Prep in Danvers. “I putted really well all day which was nice. I didn’t hit it too great, but I definitely putted well.”

In addition to his finish at the state amateur competition, Pandelena also qualified for match play at the prestigious Men’s North & South Amateur Championship which was contested earlier this month at Pinehurst Resort.

He continued that stellar play today. After making the turn at even par 35 and making par on his first two holes on the back nine, Pandelena played a stretch of golf that would separate him from most of the field.

Using his power off the tee, Pandelena was able to hit his second shot on the 515-yard, par 5 12th hole to just off the green. He would go on to make birdie. He followed that up by making a nice birdie putt on the 14th hole and then hitting his approach to inches on the 403-yard, par 4 15th hole.

His only miscue on that back nine came on the 16th hole where he made a three-putt bogey. He would more than make up for that by chipping out from under a tree on 17 and hitting it to inches and then draining a 15-foot birdie putt on 18 to cap off a 4-under par 32 back nine score.

“Not that I expected to miss putts, but I didn’t expect to putt as well as I did,” said Pandelena. “[The greens] are tough to read and quick so I was definitely happy with the way I putted. I had that one three putt but other than that I did pretty well.”

“I ended up three putting on 16 which was really disappointing,” said Pandelena. “But I got it right back. I chipped from under a tree on 17 and then hit it to inches which was nice and then made a 15 footer on 18 to close it out.”

Those key finishing birdies kept Pandelena one stroke ahead of four competitors – Bobby Leopold (Wannamoisett CC – RI), Steven Dilisio (Salem CC – MA), Benjamin Day (New Haven CC – CT) and Patrick Albanesi (Hartford GC – CT) – who posted scores of 3-under par 68.

Leopold has been on an especially good run of late. In addition to winning his second career Rhode Island Golf Association Amateur Championship this past month, Leopold qualified for and will compete in the 2014 U.S. Amateur Championship. It marks the fourth time in five years that Leopold has advanced to that Championship Proper.

“The goals are always to win every tournament you enter but it doesn’t usually work that way because golf is a hard game and it comes and goes,” said Leopold, who grew up in England and went to college at Rollins in Florida. “It was just nice to come out here and put a nice score up and try to contend.”

One of the highlights of Leopold’s round came on the 515-yard, par 5 12th hole where he hit driver and then 4 iron to 60 feet and made the long putt.

“I definitely feel like I can win this,” said Leopold, who normally does not play in this event as he travels to Lewiston, New York to compete in the Porter Cup. “I am in a situation where I didn’t have a lot of expectations coming in. I knew that I was playing well but I am tired and excited because I am going to the US Amateur… but I a have a 19-month old at home so I am getting a little sick of all the travel.”

Feels Like Home For Brendan Monahan

One competitor in the field who had no trouble getting used to the conditions was Brendan Monahan (Winchester CC – MA). The buzz in Winchester was palpable during the morning hours when Monahan made the turn at 4-under par 32.

“I was very happy with that and wouldn’t have thought that I would have done that,” said Monahan, who finished with a score of 2-under par 69. “I played as well as I could play for the first nine holes and it could have been even better. Then I tried to keep it together, lost it a little bit and then made a couple of birdies coming in to get it back at the end.”

Indeed he did.

After registering a double bogey on the 186-yard, par3 6th hole, Monahan rebounded by making birdie on the 7th and 8th holes. It was a finish that made the gallery – as well as so many Winchester members – happy.

“This place is in unbelievable condition,” said Monahan. “It is an honor for the entire club to host this tournament and we are very happy that it’s in the condition that it is.”

In addition to qualifying for the 2014 Massachusetts Amateur Championship, Monahan also won his sixth club championship earlier this year.

About the Host Club
Winchester Country Club was founded in 1902 and is one of the Founding Member Clubs of the Massachusetts Golf Association. The immediate predecessor of the Club was the Winchester Golf Club started in 1897 and using a small nine-hole course on leased land near Winter Pond.

The Donald Ross layout has famed views of the Boston skyline from many holes on the front nine. It has also been the site of the Winchester Country Club Father and Son Tournament, which is the nation’s longest running father son invitational. The tournament has been held annually since 1919. One of this week’s competitors – Brendan Monahan – has won the title a total of seven times with his father Joseph Monahan III.

Find Us on Twitter

Throughout the three days of action, the NEGA will be posting updates on Twitter. The NEGA Twitter handle is @NEGAGolf. We’ll see you online!

What’s Up Next?
The New England Amateur Championship has traditionally been a 72-hole event that features 18-hole stroke play on the first and second day and 36 holes on the final day. However, last year the championship committee decided to reduce the final day to 18 holes.

After a thorough review of both formats, the decision was made to return to the original format of 72 holes over three days, weather permitting. Regardless of the format, the event has continued to be considered a “Counting Event” by the World Amateur Golf Rankings (WAGR).

Here is a complete schedule of play.

Tuesday, July 22
Round 1 – 18 Holes

Wednesday, July 23
Round 2 – 18 Holes
***The low 40 scorers and ties after 36-holes will continue play on July 24

Thursday, July 24
Round 3 – 18 Holes
Round 4 – 18 Holes

The lowest scorer for 72 holes will be Champion.
If a tie for first place occurs, play will immediately continue hole-by-hole until a winner is determined.