EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Patrick Welch made
history Tuesday in the 109th RIGA Amateur
Championship, yet he was only part of the story
on a wild day at Metacomet Country Club.
The 15-year-old, the youngest player in the 122-
man field, earned medalist honors when
he compiled a 2-under 68 in a rain delayed
round for a 36-hole total of 5-under 135 .
Welch used his crosshanded grip to compile
birdies against only one bogey in the 36 holes
of qualifying. He became the youngest player in
tournament history two years ago when he
earned a berth in the tournament and has been
the youngest competitor for each of the last
three years. He qualified for match play in each
of his first two starts and was beaten in
the round of 16 each time, two years ago by
Jamison Randall and last year by eventual
champion Bobby Leopold.
As far as could be determined through a check
of RIGA records, only one player in the
modern era (post World War II) has won the
tournament while still in high school. That was
North Kingstown’s Scott Teller in 1973. Welch
just finished his freshman year at Classical.
As young as he is, Welch had goals. While some
players are concerned only about
qualifying for match play, he very much wanted
to win medalist honors.
"I was playing for medalist. I wanted to be
medalist,’’ he said. "I wanted to show all the
great players here what I can do. I’m proud I
was able to do it.’’ He had only one bogey in
the 36 holes.
His threesome was the highlight group and all
three came through. Each year, the RIGA has
its Amateur, Junior and Senior champions play in
the same threesome in the two rounds of
qualifying. That meant Welch did his work
playing with Leopold, the Amateur champion,
and Dr. George Pirie, the Senior titlist. The
group still had three holes to play when the
afternoon rain delay was called.
Leopold had the tournament’s low round, a 6-
under 64 to finish a 3-under 137, second only
to Welch. He closed out in style with a bird on
his final hole in the gathering darkness.
Pirie faced a challenge after an opening 76. The
Hall of Famer from Valley responded with
a 69 that included an eagle on the par-5 ninth.
He three-putted the 16th, his first hole after
the rain delay.
"I wasn’t sure of the speed after the rain,’’ he
said. "I knocked it 15 feet past the hole.’’
That put him at 6-over, which he figured was
near the cut line. Showing the grit he has
displayed so often over the years, he responded
by hitting his approach on 17 within 10
feet and making the bird to clinch a spot in
As well as those three played, for most of the
day the story for the other competitors was
the weather. Play had to be delayed twice by
heavy rainstorms. The morning starters had
to sit for about 45 minutes when heavy rain
swept up the bay. As bad as that storm was,
though, it was tiny in comparison to the
monsoon that arrived about 5:35 p.m. when
still had three holes to play.
Bob Ward, the executive director, blew the horn
to stop play about 5:25 p.m. Because the
rain had not arrived, some wondered what he
was doing. However, about five minutes
later, as all the 40 or so players still on the
course were back in the safety of the
clubhouse and patio at Metacomet, a vicious rain
storm began pelting the course.
Within minutes, standing water was visible at a
number of spots on the course. Ward twice
updated the players on what officials were
planning. When the rain abated about 6:30, Matt
Klida, the course superintendent, and Jim
McKenna, the RIGA tournament director, went
to inspect the course. They decided that Klida
and his staff needed a half hour to deal with
standing water and squeegee several greens that
still had standing water.
Ward met with the players again, told them
carts, which were allowed this year for the
first time, could not return to the course. If
players had questions about how to deal with
issues caused by the rain, they were to play two
balls and get a ruling on which one was
the correct one after they completed play.
Those who finished just before dark included
Paul Quigley. The oldest player in the field, at
age 70, he became what is thought to be the
oldest player to earn a spot in match play
with a 75 for 145 total.
Second-round play was about 8:20 p.m. In a
rarity, no playoff was necessary since exactly
32 players finished at 146 or lower.
Even with all the craziness of the day, most of
the top players handled matters well and
earned berths in match play.
Four-time champion Brad Valois and eight-time
player of the year Charlie Blanchard both
recovered from poor days on Monday to easily
qualify. Both followed their 75s in the first
round with 68 for 143. They played in the
morning. So did Burke Memorial champion
Brendan Lemp, who had a 67 for 142, and
Bryant University’s McKinley Slade, who last
week qualified for the U.S. Amateur also had a
67 for 140.
View results for Rhode Island Amateur Golf Championship