ROSLYN, N.Y. — Tuesday’s final round of the 19th MGA Senior Open will feature a packed leaderboard after 12 players shot rounds of even-par or better at the Engineers Country Club on Monday. Greg Baker of Rockaway River, David Young of Sleepy Hollow and reigning champion and amateur Adam Kugler of Alpine set the opening round pace, all carding 3-under 68s.
“I played well,” Kugler said as he looks to become the first repeat winner since Bobby Heins in 2008-2009. “I started off mediocre, but putted well. Then, on the back nine I began hitting the ball good. It was solid—I’m happy with it.”
Despite beginning with a bogey, Kugler bounced back quickly with a pair of birdies. He added another bogey on the par-4 sixth, but had birdies on Nos. 7, 13 and 17 en route to his 68. Aside from putting, Kugler also credited his short-distance approach shots for his good scoring. “I hit a bunch of good wedge shots,” he continued. “That has not historically been the best part of my game—so, I was really happy to feel that way.” Though Kugler is relatively unfamiliar with the course having only played a practice round, he related the Engineers greens to those at his home club, where he claimed last year’s title.
Baker had six birdies on his way to 68. Four birdies in a five-hole stretch ignited his round, as he quickly went from 1-over for his round to 3-under on holes 11 through 15.
Young, on the other hand, had a quick start to his round, birdieing holes two, three and five. “Then I just made a whole bunch of pars,” Young explained. “I had some good looks, but just couldn’t get any more to go in. I played really solidly. I drove it well and hit a lot of greens.”
Young aims to repeat his game plan tomorrow, saying, “I just tried to play pretty conservatively. I tried to hit it in the fairway and hit a lot of greens and I did. It was fairly stress free today.”
A host of accomplished players follow closely behind, led by two-time Met Open champion Mark Mielke. Mielke was 1-over—with two bogeys and a birdie—through 14 holes of play, but birdies on Nos. 15, 17 and 18 quickly turned his round into a 2-under 69. Paul Lejeune of Suburban also shot 69, carding a trio of birdies to just one bogey.
Darrell Kestner of Deepdale and Frank Esposito Jr. follow close behind with rounds of 1-under 70. Kestner, a two-time MGA Senior Open champion from 2003 and 2005, also had a tidy scorecard, making back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12 and owning a single bogey on the 15th. Esposito, fresh off a tie for seventh in last week’s Boeing Classic on the Champions Tour, birdied four of five holes in the middle of his round to make his charge for the under-par round.
A quintet of players capable of making a run on Tuesday came in with even-par opening rounds, led by two-time champion Heins of Old Oaks, Mike Gilmore of Winged Foot and Jim McGovern of White Beeches. Amateurs Jon Doppelt of Fresh Meadow and Greg Rohlf of Winged Foot are right there as well. Ten more players carded rounds of 72 or 73, leaving them within just five strokes of the lead.
Engineers played to a yardage of 6,472 yards. The demand for precision and the course’s sloped and undulating greens provide a test for the field. Following Monday’s 18 holes of play, only the low 40 scores and ties advanced to the final round. The 122-man field was trimmed to exactly 40.
Tuesday’s final round is slated to begin at 8 a.m., with the final pairing going off at 10:41 a.m. The MGA will provide live hole-by-hole scoring for the majority of groups during the final round.
View results for Metropolitan Golf Association Senior Open Golf Championship