WINCHESTER, Mass. (July 24, 2014) – He entered the final round of the 2014 New England Amateur Championship tied for tenth. He left the grounds of Winchester Country Club as a champion.
That was the incredible journey of John VanDerLaan (CC of Waterbury), who came from six shots back following Wednesday’s second round to capture the coveted New England Amateur Championship Trophy.
“It is awesome,” said VanDerLaan, a recent graduate of Pomperaug High School in Southbury, Connecticut. “The best players in New England for the most part are here, and to play as well as I did for four rounds to earn that title is pretty awesome.”
From the start, VanDerLaan played consistent golf. He began the championship by posting a 1-under par 70 on Tuesday and then an even par 71 on Wednesday to enter the final day six strokes off the lead. Despite the margin, VanDerLaan knew that with 36 holes remaining on Thursday that he still had a chance to make his move.
“Make as many birdies as I could,” said VanDerLaan when asked what his strategy was coming into the final day. “I was 1 under going into today and the leader was 7. I didn’t think that he would come back as much as he did in the first round, but I was trying to make birdies and catch him.”
The strategy was a sound one for the 18 year old. With his father John on the bag throughout the entire 72-hole experience, VanDerLaan delivered the performance of his career and played 5-under par golf through his final 36 holes.
In all began during the morning hours. After making par on his first hole of the day, VanDerLaan watched his 20-foot birdie attempt on the 234-yard, par 4 11th hole find the bottom of the cup. He then reached the 515-yard, par 5 12th hole in two for a two-putt birdie.
“I have been playing all right,” said VanDerLaan, who will be attending and playing golf at Florida Southern College in the fall. “I was certainly not expecting what I was able to do today. I didn’t hit all of my shots perfect, but when I didn’t hit them solid I was missing them in the correct places where they didn’t penalize me because you can easily lose shots out here.”
He went on to make three birdies and one bogie over the next 15 holes which catapulted him from tenth to first place. In fact, he found himself leading the field by two strokes.
“I didn’t know where I stood in the afternoon,” said VanDerLaan. “I had a good idea and I knew that if I was to shoot under par this afternoon it would be tough for someone to come from behind to beat me.”
His prognostication proved correct.
VanDerLaan made the turn during the afternoon round at even par and then suffered a three-putt bogey on the 10th hole. He then chipped in from the bunker on the 234-yard, par 3 11th hole for birdie and then all but sealed his championship hopes with a final birdie – his 16th of the championship – on the 530-yard, par 5 13th hole.
“That really turned things around for me,” said VanDerLaan of his bunker shot on the 10th hole. “I made another birdie two holes later and then just cruised in.”
Those back-nine birdies proved to be critical as Nicholas Pandelena (Atkinson CC - NH), who stood in second place through two rounds, was making a late charge. The Boston College standout and rising junior was 5-under par through 14 holes during the afternoon hours after a four-hole stretch where he was 4-under par (two birdies and an eagle).
With VanDerLaan in the clubhouse with a four-round total of 6-under par 278, however, Pandelena was unable to complete his comeback attempt as he carded bogey on two of his final four holes to finish in second place and one stroke ahead of Zach Zaback (TPC River Highlands – CT).
For VanDerLaan, today’s outcome marks his greatest win to date. This marks his first ever appearance at the New England Amateur Championship and prior to this his biggest victory was the 2012 Connecticut Junior Amateur Championship.
“It’s just awesome.”
Simply but perfectly said by a young man from Southbury who is now a New England Amateur Champion.
ABOUT THE New England Amateur
Held since 1926, the New England Amateur
brings together players from six New England
area states — Connecticut, Maine,
Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and
Rhode Island. The event host rotates between
each of the six represented states. The
tournament has been won by notable PGA Tour
players such as JJ Henry (1998), Tim Petrovic
(1986), Billy Andrade (1983), and Brad Faxon
View Complete Tournament Information