N.J. State Amateur: John Voetsch grabs lead at halfway point
John Voetsch
John Voetsch

MORRISTOWN, N.J. — John Voetsch of Baltusrol, a rising senior at Vanderbilt University, fired a two-under-par 69, the third-low round of the day, for a two-day total of even-par 140 and took a one-stroke lead over Kieran Purcell of Essex County (70-71-141) after two rounds of the 72-hole 114th New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur Championship at the 6,432-yard Morris County Golf Club in Morristown.

Mike Stamberger of Spring Lake, who won back-to-back championships in 2013 and 2014, finished with a 73 to go with his opening 69 for a 142 total, putting him in third place. Stamberger struggled down the stretch, going four over on his final four holes including a double bogey on his 16th hole, the par-4 seventh hole.

Tied for fourth place at 143 were Steve Zychowski of Mendham (72-71-143), Max Greyserman of Crestmont (69-74-143) and Jared Maclas of Edgewood (69-74-143). Stamberger, Greyserman and Maclas all shot 69 to share the first-round lead.

The low rounds of the day – and the championship - were a pair of 68s by Eric LeFante of Colts Neck (80-68-148) and Thomas LaMorte of Haworth (76-68-144).

A total of 43 players shot 155 or better to return for Thursday’s 36-hole final round. Stamberger is attempting to be the first player to win three consecutive championships since Charles Whitehead of Plainfield, who won five in a row (1938-42).

Voetsch, a rising senior at Vanderbilt, tied for 11thin the 2014 State Amateur. He had five birdies and four bogeys on Wednesday. Two of the birdies were the results of 30-foot putts on the 13thand seventh holes.

“I got good advice from someone today who told me to stay in the present. I putted pretty well. I know tomorrow (Thursday) will be a marathon, so you have to take it shot by shot,” said Voetsch, whose brother Will (78-83-161) won the state scholastic championship out of Delbarton two weeks ago.

Last year, John Voetsch carded a 79 in the first round of the Amateur at Knickerbocker, then rebounded with rounds of 71, 73 and 72 to tie for 11th.

“I think this year I will be a little more mature. Last year, I was thinking too much about the outcome,” he said.

As a member of Vanderbilt’s team, he was pleased to learn his squad had reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division 1 team championships, even though he was back home in New Vernon, N.J.

“I learn from them every day. I also know that shooting average isn’t good enough there,” he said.

Purcell’s round was highlighted by a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first hole, and followed it up with another birdie on the par-5 second hole. But he bogeyed four of his final five holes on the front side for a two-over 38.

Purcell, a rising sophomore at the University of Delaware, next birdied the par-4 12th, bogeyed the par-3 13th and then closed with a birdie on the par-3 17thhole for a 71.

Stamberger, meanwhile, was one under par through 14 holes, at that point, two under par for the championship.

He found trouble with a bogey on his 15thhole, the par-4 sixth hole. Things got tougher with a double-bogey on the par-4 seventh hole. There, Stamberger drove into a hole in hard pan, blocked a shot into a bunker on an upslope and three putted.

On his final hole, the par-4 ninth, he had the misfortune of finding a sand-filled divot in the middle of the fairway 70 yards from the flagstick and settled for another bogey.

“I played well. I hit a lot of good shots. It was hard to get the ball close to the hole,” Stamberger said. “The pins were in tough spots, in challenging spots, and it was tough to get it close to the hole. I’m very frustrated right now.”

Stamberger has won the 2008 NJSGA Mid-Amateur and the 2003 Met Mid-Amateur and a quarterfinalist at the U.S. Mid-Amateur in 2011. He is a two-time NJSGA Player of the Year (2014 and 2011).

ABOUT THE New Jersey State Amateur

Open to male amateurs who have qualified through one of three qualifying sites or have met the exemption criteria. Format is 72 holes of stroke play with a cut to the low 40 scores after the second round.

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