Quarterfinals ready at Rhode Island Amateur
Brad Valois
Brad Valois

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The list reads like a Who’s Who of Rhode Island golf: Hall of Famers George Pirie and Paul Quigley, defending champion Bobby Leopold, four-time champ Brad Valois and two-time Junior champion Patrick Welch. Compile a top 10 of the best players in the state and every one of them not only would be on it, they would be high on it.

But not on Wednesday. They all suffered the same fate as the first two rounds of match play in the 110th Amateur were completed at Metacomet.

They all lost.

In one of the most memorable days in tournament history, the story was not so much which players survived and moved into Thursday’s quarterfinals, as who was beaten. It was a dramatic display of the vicissitudes of match-play golf.

Some of the big names did survive. Two former champions advanced, Tom McCormick and Charlie Blanchard. McCormick provided one of the day’s biggest shockers, ousting defending champion Leopold in 19 holes in the first round and then holding off Leopold’s brother-in-law Tyler Cooke, 1-up, in a battle of former hockey players.

West Warwick’s Rob Grossguth, a former finalist, also survived the upset barrage and earned a berth in the quarterfinals opposite Blanchard. So did Mid-Am champion Jamie Lukowicz, who provided a dramatic end to the day’s activities. Lukowicz rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole just as skies were darkening and rain beginning to fall. The putt edged long-hitting newcomer Josh Cameron, a former pro who lives in Connecticut and plays out of Meadow Brook.

The others moving on were Montaup’s Kevin Silva, Meadow Brook’s John Jackopsic, last year’s Burke Memorial champion, URI senior Seamus Fennelly and teenager Jeffrey Giguere of Wannamoisett and the Wheeler School.

Matches were tight throughout. McCormick had two dramastic battles in eliminating the Cooke family. He and Leopold, who is married to Tyler’s sister, Taylor, went 19 holes. Both players had 2-hole leads at one point. McCormick went 1-up when he won 17, Leopold birdied 18 when he stuck his approach within two feet. That forced extra holes and McCormick won it with a bird on the 19th, the par-4 first hole.

In the afternoon, McCormick and Cooke were never more than one hole apart. They were tied through 16. McCormick took his first lead since the sixth hole with a par on 17. When Cooke missed the green on the par-4 18th with his approach, it looked as McCormick was home free. But Cooke drained a 30-foot par saver to stay alive. McCormick had to make a four-footer for his par to win, and he did it.

On a day of outstanding matches, Silva and Welch had perhaps the best duel of the day. The stat that proved that: There was not a single bogey by either play in the entire match. Silva is a 31-year-old former pro who joined Montaup after being reinstated as an amateur two years ago. He came away thoroughly impressed with the 15-year-old medalist.

"He’s a phenomenal talent. He’s ahead of where I was at that age," Silva said of Welch, who was 2-under par in the match. That was not enough, though, since Silva ran off five birds and 11 pars to win, 3 and 2.

"I played very well. It was one of those days I felt in rhythm," he said. "My rhythm stayed true the whole day. I was able to make some putts on this second 18."

Jackopsic, who plays for Boston College, was 1- down to URI’s Makenzie Denver through 16, but finished birdie-birdie to win.

Giguere, the youngest survivor at 17 (he is a senior at the Wheeler) fell 3-down to Ryan Pelletier before running off consecutive birdies at 9, 10 and 11. He also won 12 with a par. Pelletier responded with birds to win 13 and 25. Still another bird, at 17, was the deciding point for Giguere.

Blanchard, the Bryant University golf coach came on late to top Jeff Maher in the first round, 3 and 2, then put on his best display yet in beating 16-year-old Davis Chatfield, a fellow Wannamoisett member, 5 and 3 in the second round.

"I played great this afternoon," he related. "I had 32 on the front and missed a short one I should have had."

Grossguth, a finalist two years ago, piled up birds.

"I made three birdies and a conceded eagle on the front nine this morning (against Fletcher Babock) then made four birds on the front this afternoon (in a 3-and-2 decision over Bruce Heterick)," Grossguth said. "These greens are unbelievable. I made three real bombs."

Morning upsets include Valois falling to Giguere, 1 up. Valois was 2-up through 13 before Giguere won 14, 16 and 17 to pull ahead. When both parred 18, Valois was eliminated.

Quigley was even with Lukowicz through 14 in the first round. Lukowicz won 15 and 16 and halved 17 for the 2-and-1 decision. Pirie lost the first two holes to Meadow Brook’s Jackopsic and several times drew back within one, the last time by winning the 13th.

Jackopsic won 14 and 15 to go 3 up. Pirie won 16 to stay alive, but when 17 was halved Jackopsic had the 2-and-1 victory.

ABOUT THE Rhode Island Amateur

Rhode Island-sanctioned event running for over 100 years. 36-holes of stroke play qualifying to determine a match play bracket of 32 players.

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