SALEM, Mass. (July 14, 2014) — During the first round of the 106th Massachusetts Amateur Championship, three competitors took full advantage of the favorable weather conditions and perfect greens to share the lead following the first round of play.
Jake Shuman (Blue Hill CC), Bill Drohen (Brookmeadow CC) and John Hadges (Thorny Lea GC) carded scores of 4-under par 66 on Monday to stand atop the leaderboard with one more round of stroke play remaining.
Following the conclusion of the second round of stroke play, the starting field will be reduced to the low 32 scorers who will continue on to match play on Wednesday, weather permitting. In the event of a tie, a sudden-death playoff will be used to determine the final Match Play competitors.
On this day, the leaderboard was colored by names that represent up-and-coming talent and two former champions.
Shuman, who will be a freshman at Duke University in the fall, grabbed headlines early on in the day by making eagle on the first hole and was 5-under par through his first seven holes. During that impressive stretch, the 18-year-old from Needham followed up an eagle on that 490-yard, par 5 1st hole with birdies on the 4th, 5th and 6th holes.
“I made a 15 footer on the first and then four, five and six were all tap-in birdies within three feet so I wasn’t working too hard on the greens during the first few holes,” said Shuman. “I was lucky to hit some good wedge shots to get off to a good start and then I coasted in from there. I probably should have been more aggressive, but it’s a good learning experience.”
Despite his clear comfort level on the course and composed demeanor after the round, it’s hard to believe that this is the first Massachusetts Amateur Championship for Shuman.
“I have played in probably five or six [Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championships] and am comfortable in MGA events,” said Shuman, who finished third at the 2013 Massachusetts Junior Amateur Championship. “I know the MGA officials and most of the players, but I just played well today.”
Shuman was able to drop to 6-under par through 14 holes, but he posted three bogies and one birdie down the stretch to post the day-low score of the round.
“The whole defense of this course is the greens,” said Shuman, a two-time Massachusetts Division 1 boys’ golf individual champion from Needham High School. “I have struggled recently with my putter, and I didn’t putt great today. I had bogies on 15 and 16 and both were three putts, so I didn’t putt great but I had a lot of tap-in birdies which help.”
Shuman’s stranglehold on the top spot was short-lived, however, as Drohen – the 2009 champion of this event – carded his own 4-under par 66.
“What a day,” said Drohen, who is also a three-time Massachusetts Amateur Public Links Champion . “I don’t think that I have had this kind of a round since when I won the Pub Links and shot a 30 on the [New England Country Club] back and it felt like that the whole day. I wasn’t missing fairways, and I don’t think that I have ever hit my irons this close. It seemed as if I was within 10 to 15 feet all day long.”
Drohen began his round on Monday on the 8th hole where he knocked his iron approach to 15 feet and drained the birdie putt. He found himself 2-under par through four holes and was off and running.
“When I start off good I usually end up good,” said Drohen, who is recovering from shoulder surgery conducted in March. “I was very consistent and didn't have a lot of mistakes.”
He made bogey on the 16th hole and would go on a tear that would allow him to distance himself from the majority of the pack. He would play 4-under par golf through his next eight holes. Even the two-foot putt he missed on his final hole of the day for bogey could not dampen his spirits.
“There was nothing negative about anything today,” said Drohen, who last made match play in 2012. “I love this course and played well in the [Massachusetts] Open when it was played here in 2007 and finished as low amateur. It is visually appealing and in great shape… it was one of those awesome, awesome days.”
Hadges is another past champion – he won this title in 2008 and 2010 – who fared well on day one.
“I didn’t make any mistakes,” said Hadges. “I hit it good, I putted great and when I missed a green I got up and down and was in the right spot.”
After beginning his round on the 8th hole, Hadges landed his tee shot on the 138-yard, par 3 9th hole to inches. He made bogey – the only miscue on this scorecard – on the 12th hole and finished off his round with four birdies – on the 13th, 15th, 16th and 3rd holes – and nine pars for a 4-under par 66 round.
Helping his cause was superior iron play and a hot putter which – during that stretch from hole 13 to 16 - saw him make putts of 18 feet, 20 feet and 10 feet.
“I putted really well today,” said Hadges. “Here you have to be at the right spot. If you are on the wrong side of the hole it is pretty difficult.”
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