NEWBURY, N.H. — The two-hour ride from Brockton to Newbury, New Hampshire was a trip well taken for Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC), who jumped out to a three-stroke lead at the 2015 New England Amateur Championship following the first round of play.
Parziale – the 2009 champion of this event – was one of only two players to have a bogey-free round as he finished with five birdies and one eagle for a first-round score of 7-under par 65.
“I was lucky to make a few long putts which always helps,” said Parziale. “There are some great holes out there and some amazing views. It is a really great spot.”
Parziale is part of an original 156-player field that represents some of the best amateur talent from the six states that are part of the New England Golf Association (NEGA) – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
The love affair between Baker Hill Golf Club and Parziale was evident from the start. After making par on his first three holes (he began his round on the 10th hole), Parziale drained a long birdie putt on the 493-yard, par 4 13th hole. Following a solid tee shot on the par-5 15th hole, he struck a 4-iron approach from 215 yards out that landed five feet above the hole.
He made the turn at 4-under par after converting a 30-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole.
“I hit a pretty bad tee shot and had an 8 iron left,” said Parziale of that 18th hole. “I hit a pretty good shot to get to the front of the green out of a bad lie and I ended up making a good putt there.”
That unexpected birdie proved to fuel a stretch of holes where he made birdie on three of his next four holes.
He drained another 30-footer for birdie on the 1st hole and then burned the edge with his 12-foot eagle attempt on the 2nd hole. His final birdie came on the 5th hole where he casually struck a wedge shot to five feet and made the putt.
“I played steady coming in and had a couple more opportunities to get them but nothing real close,” said Parziale, who capped off his round by making five straight pars. “I had a couple of good two putts, but all and all I was pleased with today.”
Home Sweet Home For Russell
Although he is listed out of Vermont, Evan Russell (CC of Vermont – VT) feels right at home here at Baker Hill Golf Club.
After all, he has been able to sleep in his own bed this week as his parents live just 20 minutes down the road in Grantham.
Interestingly, Russell had never played this particular layout until Monday but one could never tell that after watching him fire a 4-under par 68. Both he and Chris Houston (Laconia CC – NH) posted 68 to stand T2 overall.
“I love the course. I love the set up, and it is definitely my type of course,” said Russell. “It is not terribly tight but not tree lined. You have to hit the fairways if you want to go low. The greens are pure. I just liked the looks of the holes. It set up well for my eye.”
Russell was able to more than recover for a bogey on the 2nd hole by carding four straight birdies from holes 5 through 8.
“I got off to a pretty slow start, but I had four birdies towards the end of the front which was really nice to get me going on the back,” said Russell. “I played pretty steady. I had a couple of birdies and a couple of bogies on the back and I felt pretty good.”
After posting an uncharacteristic 6-over par 78 during the first round of last week's Vermont Amateur Championship, Russell played 6-under par golf through his final three rounds to finish fourth overall.
He is also coming off a junior season at the University of Hartford where he was the America Sky Men’s Golf Conference Player of the Year and named New England Golfer of the Year and All-New England. He also set the Hartford program records for stroke average (70.56), lowest 18-hole round (62), lowest 36-hole tournament score (130), and rounds played in a single season (34).
Houston, the 2009 NHGA Kirk Hanefeld Junior Player of the Year, made four birdies on his front nine and held on for a final score of 4-under par 68. Houston was one of six home-town favorites to go under par today.
View results for New England Amateur Golf Championship