WEST HARTFORD, CT (July 20, 2016) -- School may not officially be in session for another month or so, but Tim Umphrey (Tatnuck CC – MA) is getting a feel for what it will be like as a freshman at the University of Connecticut
After all, the 19-year-old from Northborough has been joined this week at Hartford Golf Club by a handful of future teammates competing at the New England Amateur Championship, as well as golf coach Dave Pezzino who has been on site as a spectator.
For his part, Umphrey is doing all he can to secure a spot on the starting five. Through two rounds of play at the New England Amateur Championship, he leads all competitors with a two-round score of 5-under par 135 heading into the third and final day of competition.
Following Wednesday's round, the starting field was reduced to the low 45 scorers. Only those competitors will return on Thursday for the final 36 holes of stroke play to determine the 2016 champion. This year's cut line fell at 4-over par 144.
For Umphrey, the past three days have been like a mini college orientation as all but three members of the 2015-16 Husky roster are in this week’s field.
“It has been great,” said Umphrey, who last week advanced to the round of 16 at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship. “I haven’t gotten to see a lot of them yet, but I saw Jimmy [Hervol] and Corey Birch and was talking to them on the putting green. It’s great that all of us are playing and good for New England.”
A fast start fueled Umphrey’s round on Wednesday as he made birdie on three of his first five holes.
“I didn’t think that I could putt better than yesterday, but I had 11 one putts today,” said Umphrey, who backed up his round-one score of 2-under par 68 with a 3-under par 67 on Wednesday.
He drained a 15-foot putt on the 355-yard, par 4 2nd hole and followed that up by making a critical 20-foot par saving putt on the 3rd hole. He chipped to a foot on the 4th hole and then sent his approach to seven feet on the 401-yard, par 4 5th hole.
“I feel pretty comfortable over the ball right now,” said Umphrey. “These greens are similar to my home course and they break similarly so it gives a little more comfort too.”
The only miscues on his card on this day were back-to-back bogeys on the 6th hole (a three putt from 40 feet) and the 7th hole where he sent his drive into the hazard, missed with his approach right but still managed to get up and down for what he called “a good bogey.”
A stronger driving game on day two led to two more birdies on the Hartford GC back nine and a final score of 3-under par 67.
“Off the tee yesterday and today I drove the ball well,” said Umphrey. “If I can keep it in the fairway, I can give myself good opportunities and capitalize.”
With 36 holes remaining this week and about six weeks before he reports for his freshman campaign as a Husky, Umphrey is feeling pretty good about his game and the future ahead.
"I feel comfortable right now,” said Umphrey. “My game is at a good spot. I hit the ball better today than yesterday. If I can keep up my putting I should do well tomorrow.”
Valois’ Unique And Winning Game Plan
His game plan may not be found in any golf manual or taught by any golf professional, but it seems to work just fine.
Following the first 36 holes of competition, Brad Valois (Metacomet CC - RI) – the 2006 champion of this event – finds himself in contention for another NEGA title. He is 4-under par 136 and only one stroke off the overall lead heading into the final day of play in Hartford.
“I am unique golfer,” said Valois. “I don’t really practice at all. I try something new until I find something that clicks. That is usually how it is with all tournaments. Once I find it, I try to keep it for as long as it lasts.”
Any golfer would have loved to find a way to bottle up what Valois found on Wednesday morning. The four-time champion of the Rhode Island Amateur Championship got off to a blistering start and was 5-under par through his first 13 holes.
“I grinded out a couple of pars early on and then I kind of figured something out with my swing right around the fifth hole,” said Valois. “I floated that through for a while and was hitting some good shots again. It was not much stress out there for most of the round until the last few holes when it started to get a little sideways again and mixed in with a couple of hard pin locations I made a couple of bogeys coming in.”
Despite his three bogeys through his final five holes, Valois signed his 3-under par 67 scorecard which gave him a solid two-round score of 4-under par 136.
“It’s a 72-hole event so you want to just keep pace,” said Valois. “It’s not about getting hot early on. It’s about getting a feel for the course and getting comfortable and being comfortable with your game. Tomorrow especially with the third round it is where you have to start getting aggressive a little bit. Today like yesterday is about getting a good pairing for tomorrow because it’s 36 holes.”
Valois’ strength off the tee has allowed him to capitalize on the par 5 holes which he has played at 6-under par this week.
“I didn’t make many highlight birdies,” said Valois. “All of the par 5s I made in two, and I had eagle putts that were pretty much makeable on each one. I didn’t make any of them but they became tap-in birdies and I had a couple of other tap-in birdies as well. It was pretty much a stress free.”
In addition to his NEGA title earned back in 2006, Valois has been a dominant and always-present champion in local and regional circles. His last state amateur victory came in 2013. He also successfully defended his Rhode Island Stroke Play Championship title in 2013 and was victorious at the 2015 BENRUS Open at The Preserve, which featured some of the Northeast’s top amateur and professional talent.
Despite his impressive golf record, Valois uses every round as a chance to learn and an opportunity to tweak his ever-changing game.
“I learned that you have to be on certain sides of the hole on some of the holes out here if you want to be aggressive with your birdie putts,” said Valois of the Hartford layout. “You have to hit fairways around here too. I didn’t hit many yesterday, but I was able to grind out an under par round to keep myself in it. Today I hit a bunch more fairways and gave myself more looks because of that and it helped out.”
Logan Broyles Playing Beyond His Years
Logan Broyles (Green Mtn. National GC – VT) may be the youngest competitor in the field and it may be his first time ever playing in this event, but you sure can’t tell that by his performance over the first two days in Hartford.
The 15-year-old from Mendon, Vermont is making his New England Amateur Championship debut and through two rounds has carded a score of 3-under par 137 and is third overall against a field of New England’s top talent.
It marks a continuation of strong play by Broyles who earlier this month finished 5th at the 2016 Vermont Amateur Championship.
“I played pretty well at the Vermont Amateur a couple of weeks ago,” said Broyles. “I was in second place after two rounds and was able to play with the eventual winner. It was nice to be in that position and see how he handled himself. Hopefully I will be able to use that over the next couple of rounds.”
On day one, Broyles carded a 2-under par 68 despite making double bogey on his final hole of the day. He returned to Hartford on Wednesday and made birdie on two of his first four holes.
He began his round on the 512-yard, par 5 10th hole and made a “nice putt” for birdie and just missed another birdie on the next hole after he hit an iron approach to four feet. Although he did miss that putt, he carded his second birdie of the day on the 450-yard, par 4 12th hole.
“My ball striking has been off at times, but when it has been off I have been able to get up and down and make the clutch par putts when I need to,” said Broyles. “That has been something that I have been working on the past couple of months, so it’s nice to actually see that start to happen.”
Broyles made sure that he would be close to the top of leaderboard down the stretch by making back-to-back birdies on the 3rd and 4th holes.
Supporting Broyles from start to finish has been his father, who is also serving as caddie this week.
“He is just great,” said Broyles. “He doesn’t care if I play well or if I hit it poorly. He is always supportive and the rest of my family is too. It is just nice to have someone whom I am great friends with on my bag. Hopefully we can keep it going the next couple of rounds.”
What's Next & The Cut Line
This year's cut line fell 4-over par 144. Only those players will return to Hartford on Thursday to compete in the third and fourth rounds. The lowest scorer for 72 holes will be Champion. If a tie for first place occurs, play will immediately continue hole-by-hole until a winner is determined.
A total of 45 out of the starting field of 156 made the cut this year. Eight out of the 45 players to make the cut finished under par through 36 holes.
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