Winchester, Mass. (July 23, 2014) – John Gratton (Dedham C&PC - MA) loved Winchester Country Club coming into this week. Following the first two rounds of play at the 2014 New England Amateur Championship, he now has even more reason to call this course his most favorite of all.
Heading into the final day of competition, Gratton holds a two-stroke lead over the field following a second straight under-par round. Gratton backed up his round-one score of 5-under par 66 with a solid 2-under par 69 on Wednesday to stand atop the leaderboard with a score of 7-under par 135.
“I love this course,” said Gratton. “The main reason why I am playing well this week is because this is one of my most favorite courses in Massachusetts.”
The love affair is hard to deny. Following a first day where Gratton carded eight birdies through 18 holes, he came back on Wednesday and registered five birdies and an eagle to pace his 2-under par 69 round.
Immediately after beginning his round by missing a short par putt for par, Gratton responded by knocking his 6-iron approach on the 528-yard, par 5 2nd hole to three feet for eagle. He would connect on a 10-foot birdie putt on the 186-yard, par 3 6th hole to go 3-under par for the day.
The next three holes represented a stretch of holes that Gratton might want to forget, but they were a defining moment for his round. He missed three straight four-foot par putts and found himself even par at the turn.
“My round half fell apart there,” said Gratton. “I was a little concerned because I had it to 3 under after six holes and then all of a sudden I was back even.”
His response to that adversity was deafening as he made birdie on two of his next three holes. He first drained a 10-foot birdie putt on the 435-yard, par 4 10th hole and then reached the green in two on the 515-yard, par 5 12th hole for an easy two putt birdie.
“I just tried to do the same thing and not defend and not play defensive at all,” said Gratton, who has played the par 5s at 4-under par this week. “I came in with the same mindset which was to step up on every tee box and try to make birdie. I was fortunate to roll in a good amount of putts today like I did yesterday. I was a little errant off the tee, but I got lucky a few times but I guess that happens sometimes.”
He responded once again during the latter stages of his round. Following a bogey on the 17th hole, Gratton rebounded by draining a 20 footer for birdie on the final hole.
“I told myself to not play like a coward,” said Gratton. “My only bad shots out here today came when I was scared of leaving it short or scared of having a long putt back. I just tried to stay aggressive and try to make a putt no matter how far it was.”
Pandelena Keeps Pace With the Leader
For the second straight day, Nicholas Pandelena (Atkinson CC – NH) is looking to catch Gratton.
The Boston College golf standout carded a 1-under par 70 on Wednesday and stands two shots back of Gratton with a score of 5-under par 137.
"The wind was tricky today," said Pandelena. "I played sloppy today and had a double but I made enough birdies today to keep it going."
With the wind gusting and the heat intense during the afternoon hours, Pandelena got off to a fast start on the Winchester back nine. He made birdie on two of his first three holes. He then made bogey on the 18th hole to make the turn at 1-under par 35.
After carding a birdie on the 337-yard, par 4 5th hole, Pandelena suffered a costly double bogey on the 7th hole. He responded quickly by sinking a 25-foot birdie putt on the 464-yard, par 4 8th hole.
"The birdie on 8 and the last three holes all together were really important," said Pandelena, who just finished his sophomore year at BC. "I made a mistake there [on 7] but played the last three at 1 under. I made that nice 25 footer on 8 and that gives me a little bit of confidence heading into tomorrow."
Pandelena will be paired with Gratton in the final group as he stands two strokes ahead of the a trio of talented golfers – Kyle Buschmann (Fox Hopyard GC - CT), Brian Higgins (Franklin CC – MA) and Brendan Lemp (Misquamicut Club - RI) – at 3-under par 139.
"We have plenty of golf to go and anything can happen tomorrow," said Pandelena. "I don't know the guy who is in first but he is obviously playing some really good golf. Maybe I can make a couple of birdies early on to make some noise and see what happens."
Gratton, Pandelena and a total of 40 competitors who made the cut this year will return to Winchester Country Club on Thursday to compete in a final 36 holes. The first tee time will be 8:00 a.m.