Rhode Island Amateur: Past champions lead way into match play
Brad Valois
Brad Valois

From the Rhode Island Golf Association

PORTSMOUTH _ There is a strong chance that a player who already has won the R.I. Golf Association Amateur Championship will win the title again this year.

Seven of the 32 players who qualified for match play on Tuesday in the 109th Amateur at Montaup are previous champions. That is an impressive number since there were only eight champions in the 120-player field. The eight have combined to take the title 19 times.

The two guys bidding to tie the record of five wins in the event were among the day’s stars. Defending champion Brad Valois posted a 1-under 70 to tie 2009 champion Bobby Leopold and 2012 finalist Jamison Randall for the medal at 141.

Those guys, though, had to share the spotlight with Paul Quigley.

The RIGA Hall of Famer continued to add to his legend when he shot a 76 for 148 total and earned one of the 32 spots in match play. At age 69, he is believed to be the oldest player ever to qualify for match play in the 109-year-old event.

Quigley began playing as a teenager, but then missed the tournament several times.

“I was in the Army for three years and I don’t think I played the year I got out, in 1970, but I think I’ve played every year since,” he said.

By his computation he has played in the event 47 times. He won in 1986, ’87 and ’91. The only player to take part more often was Norm Lutz, who played 52 consecutive years.

Valois, who won the event in 2011, 2007 and 2006 in addition to last year, was not overly excited about tying for the medal.

“A little of everything,” Valois said of his 70. “I’ve got to practice my chipping.”

The other former champs to advance were George Pirie, the 2004, 1994 and 1989 winner, at 142; Ben Tuthill, the 2000 victor at 143; Charlie Blanchard the titlist in 2012 and 2002 at 144; and Tom McCormick, the 2005 winner, also at 144.

The only champion who is not still alive is Mike Soucy, the victor in 2003, 2001 and 1999, and that is due in part to geography. Soucy was among the early starters and posted a 74 for 149 total. Rather than waiting five or six hours at the course, he returned to work and then to home in Coventry.

He ended up being in a five-way tie for the last four spots, but could not get from Coventry to Portsmouth in time for the playoff. Because he was not at the course, the others in the tie, Bruce Heterick, Kyle Hoffman, Eric Marchetti and Gerald Santos from the home course, all were in.

The fact that only eight strokes separated being the medalist from being in the playoff made for some interesting stories.

Leopold and Randall played in the same threesome and had only one bogey between them all day. Randall had a bogey-free 67 and Leopold had only one bogey on the way to a 68.

Misquamicut’s Brendan Lemp tied for best round of the tournament, a 4-under 67, to make great comeback and earn a spot in match play. He came in at at 145 after having 78 on Monday. Lemp had six birds, three on each side. Lemp was one of the co-medalists last year.

Blanchard, the RIGA’s seven-time player-of-the-year Blanchard easily qualified at 144. It was the way he did it that made it memorable for the Bryant golf coach. He finished 2-over for 36 holes after being 5-over in his first two holes.

Blanchard began on Monday with a quadruple bogey eight and then bogeyed the par-4 second hole. Since he easily moved on, Blanchard could joke about his opening hole on Monday.

“I had a four-footer for bogey, a four-footer for double, a four-footer for triple then made a three-footer for the quad,” he related with a laugh.

There was no doubt about the happiest of the 32 qualifiers. That would be Metacomet’s Dave Nuttall Jr.

He opened with a 77, then drove his first shot of the day in round two out of bounds. Except it did not stay out of bounds.

``It went across the street and must have hit the wall and came all the way back across inbounds,’’ Nuttall related. The 414-yard first hole, with out of bounds down the left side, played as the second toughest hole on the course in qualifying at 4.8. Only the 17th was harder at 4.86.

Nuttall’s shot not only went back in bounds, it went down the hole and left him only 120 yards to the green.

``I hit a wedge on and made it for birdie,’’ he said with a broad smile.

He went on the match par 71 for a 148 total and become one of the 32 qualifiers.

ABOUT THE Rhode Island Amateur

Rhode Island-sanctioned event running for over 100 years. 36-holes of stroke play qualifying to determine a match play bracket of 32 players.

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