Despite the forecast, golf season is inching closer to us here in the northeast and New England. And as is the case every year, a season full of high-level tournaments and top-notch events await the region’s winter-weary competitive golfers.
While many general golf fans turn their attention towards the PGA Tour’s two official stops in the region -- the Travelers Championship in June and the Deutsche Bank Championship, part of the season-ending FedEx Cup over Labor Day weekend -- there are a number of amateur events played across the region each year that truly make New England a destination for the avid golfer each spring and summer.
Perhaps the biggest amateur event on the schedule remains the Northeast Amateur. Many of the nation’s top collegiate and mid-amateur golfers will again head to Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford, R.I. to take aim at one of amateur golf’s most prized events. The event calls many elite current and past PGA Tour stars among its champions, including Dustin Johnson, Luke Donald, David Duval and Ben Crenshaw.
Which future star will take the crown this year at the 1914 Donald Ross design? Only time will tell, but we’re sure the field will make sure it’s well-earned.
The New England Amateur Championship will return to Massachusetts July 22-24 at Winchester Country Club. After a wild win by Vermont’s Evan Russell at Green Mountain National last year, it’s a wide open field in 2013. The event will again be a World Amateur Golf Rankings points event and host one of the top fields in New England.
Also in the Bay State, two annual invitationals bring out the region’s best players all fighting for a sense of tradition and charity.
The Hornblower Memorial will be played May 30-31 at Plymouth Country Club. Nine-time Massachusetts Golf Association Player of the Year Frank Vana considers this event the one that’s managed to get away. Many of New England’s premier amateurs head to the Hornblower and eye it as the season’s first ‘major’. The event goes to honor Plymouth Country Club benefactor Henry Hornblower, who collaborated with the former Pilgrim Hotel to create the club. Defending champion John Hadges will have his hands full to defend against the field this year.
The Francis Ouimet Memorial is slated for July 30-Aug. 1 and will again go to honor the man that helped mainstream golf in America by winning the U.S. Open as an amateur and support the education of Massachusetts youth golfers through the Ouimet Scholarship Fund is undoubtedly one of the season’s most anticipated events. With the final round of the 54-hole event scheduled at Woodland Country Club, Ouimet’s home course, the nostalgia is sure to continue in this, the 47th annual Ouimet Memorial.
State association events are also circled on the calendar each season. The Massachusetts Open is June 10-12 at Weston Golf Club.
Last year’s winner, Evan Harmeling of Andover, showed class, spirit and pride for the city of Boston when he donated his entire winnings -- $15,000 -- to the One Fund, the charity devised to support victims of the April 15 terrorist attacks in the city. What will he do for an encore? The field again will be full and ready for action at another Ross gem. Professionals and amateurs alike will try to qualify for the event from May 5-28 across the state in six separate qualifiers.
Kernwood Country Club in Salem plays host to the Massachusetts Amateur Championship, July 14-18.
The pack will be heading to the North Shore for this year’s state amateur championship hoping to knock off two-time defending champion Mike Calef, who prevailed last year at Longmeadow Country Club -- another Donald Ross original -- over George Wright’s Ian Thimble. Calef, joined an impressive list of two-time Mass. Amateur winners, including Francis Ouimet, Frank Vana and James Hallett. Qualifying for the event, which dates back to 1903, runs June 2-25 across the state.
In Connecticut, the big one, the Connecticut State Amateur is June 16-20 at Lake of Isles, the beautiful and highly-regarded course abutting Foxwoods Resort Casino. Reigning champion Cody Paladino turned professional following his stellar summer on the amateur circuit, so a new champion will be crowned this year.
In Maine, the state’s association players will be hoping to qualify for the July 8-10 Maine State Amateur at The Woodlands Club in Falmouth. Last year, Ricky Jones -- an experienced USGA competitor -- held off the field after finishing as the runner-up twice in the three previous playings of the event. The Maine Open Championship is scheduled for July 28-29 at Augusta Country Club. Jack Wyman and Massachusetts’’ Colin Brennan were the low amateurs at last year’s event.
New Hampshire’s State Amateur Championship will be July 14-19 at Stonebridge Country Club in Goffstown, NH with Michael Martel looking to make it two straight titles following his 2013 win at the Country Club of New England.
Vermont native Evan Russell, who won the 2013 New England Amateur, also won his state’s amateur championship. The University of Hartford golfer will defend against the field July 8-10 at Burlington Country Club.
And in Rhode Island, the Ocean State’s top golfers take aim at Montaup Country Club in Portsmouth, site of the 2014 Rhode Island State Amateur. Brad Valois prevailed in a battle with familiar foes last year and will be a favorite again this year.