FITCHBURG, Mass. — What began as a field of 144 was trimmed to just 32 following the stroke play portion of the 107th Massachusetts Amateur Championship, which is being held this week at Oak Hill Country Club.
Those 32 competitors advanced through the 36-hole qualifying stage and will now look forward to the start of match play on Wednesday beginning at 8:00 a.m. This year's cut line fell at 6-over par 146 with the final one spot being decided in an eight-for-five sudden-death playoff on Tuesday evening.
Weather permitting, the first two rounds of match play - round of 32 and round of 16 - will be contested on Wednesday in Fitchburg. The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place on Thursday with the finale coming on Friday when the last two competitors standing will compete in a 36-hole final match.
This year's stroke-play portion featured outstanding golf which resulted in a match play bracket and includes past champions and up-and-coming collegiate talent.
Leading the pack with a medalist score of 7-under par 133 was Nick McLaughlin (Far Corner GC). McLaughlin, a rising senior at the University of Virginia, held the overall lead following the first round and never relented by backing up his day-one score of 4-under par 66 with a 3-under par 67 on Tuesday afternoon.
“It is an interesting spot to be in when you have the low score the first day,” said McLaughlin. “Everyone assumes that it will be a walk in the park, but out here it’s tough and I needed to play solidly. For the most part I did which is a nice relief.”
McLaughlin continued to enjoy success with his long irons and – despite struggling to find the fairway consistently off the tee throughout the day – he took advantage of his opportunities and has carded 12 birdies through 36 holes.
“I just really managed my way around today,” said McLaughlin, a former standout golfer at St. John’s Prep (Danvers). “It is so important to hit out of the fairways here, and I have not been able to do that. I think that I hit four today and maybe five yesterday.”
One of those fairways missed came on his finishing hole – the 404-yard, par 4 9th hole – where he missed the fairway left and then watched as his approach sail over the green. It was one of just two bogies carded by McLaughlin on the day.
“You get in the rough, it comes out a little hot and now you are over the green which is dead,” said McLaughlin. “I figure that as the week goes on the rough will get thicker, the greens firmer and faster and the pins tougher so it will be even more important [to find the fairways]. But so far I have been able to control the distance out of the rough but a few more fairways would be nice to take that out of play.”
McLaughlin is no stranger to match play as he has advanced to the round of 16 the past two years. He may well face the same opponent he defeated in the round of 32 one year ago, Billy Walthouse (Longmeadow CC).
Walthouse was one of five golfers who finished the 36-hole stroke-play qualifying under par this year. One year ago, he advanced to match play for the first time in his career and battled McLaughlin through 18 holes before falling by a score of 1 up.
“I have never been too strong in match play,” said Walthouse. “But I think that with the couple of experiences I have had including last year I have learned how pars are key and birdies here and there are good. Staying away from bogies and doubles is big. I think that I am ready for this year. My game is pretty solid right now.”
Solid may be an understatement as Walthouse carded a two-round score of 3-under par 137. He is enjoying particular success on the front nine where he is 6-under par through two rounds.
“I hit the ball real well the past two days,” said Walthouse. “It is nice going in with two under-par rounds which was my goal.”
View results for Massachusetts Amateur Golf Championship