New Haven , Conn. (July 20, 2010) - If you're Jonathan Pannone (Warwick CC), the less you know may be better.
After spending a week moving into a new apartment and enjoying the Rhode Island beach and surf, the 23 year old arrived at The Course at Yale on Tuesday and fired a day-low score of 5-under par 65 to take an early lead at the 2010 New England Amateur Championship.
It marked the first time that the University of South Carolina Beaufort senior has led at this event and the lowest score he has ever carded in tournament play. In fact, heading into this event Pannone had been struggling with his game and made the decision to take a week off.
And then, when he arrived here on Monday to take part in a practice round, he only made it through seven holes before the sky opened up.
"I didn't even see the back nine," said Pannone, who earlier this summer advanced to the Round of 16 at the North & South Amateur Championship. "I just took it in stride and tried to play sharp. I didn't cut too many lines and hit some smart shots."
Kicking off his round with a bogey, Pannone found his rhythm from that point on as he made two birdies - on the 411-yard, par 4 3rd and 147-yard, par 3 5th holes - to make the turn at 1-under par 33. He was simply flawless on the back nine by carding four birdies and five pars.
With the course playing soft because of a four-inch deluge on Monday, Pannone was shooting darts all day and - in fact - his longest birdie putt of the day was a 25-footer on the 3rd hole. Otherwise, he was giving himself birdie opportunities on nearly every hole.
"The greens were a little sketchy, but I had a few fall today," said Pannone. "I left a lot of putts out there. I missed two greens from 80 yards, but it was fun. It was stress-free round."
One stroke back of Pannone with scores of 4-under par 66 are Richy Werenski (The Orchards GC), Garrett Medeiros (Metacomet CC), Josh Salah (Bass Rocks GC) and Tom McCarthy (Twin Hills CC).
Werenski, a Georgia Tech freshman who is enjoying a strong summer of golf, advanced to the Round of 16 at last week's Massachusetts Amateur Championship and was one of two low amateurs at the Massachusetts Open Championship.
"I hit the ball pretty well," said Werenski, a Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy graduate. "I didn't miss any greens. I made some putts, but I also missed some so it evened out. I felt like I played solid today."
Much like Pannone, Werenski began his round with a bogey but righted the ship soon thereafter. He finished with six birdies and just one bogey through his final 17 holes.
"Through the first few holes, my swing felt iffy," said Werenski, Then I found it on about [hole] 6 and it was pretty much clear sailing from there. I didn't hit a bad shot."
A weekend of working on his short game proved to be a huge asset. On the 377-yard, par 4 7th hole he hit his wedge shot from 100 yards to inches and then did the same on the 379-yard, par 4 11th hole. Add into the mix a few long birdie putts (he made a 10 footer on the fifth hole and a 15 footer on the 10th hole) and Werenski felt like he was in a good spot to better his T4-place finish at this event just one year ago.
"I worked hard on my chipping and pitching because it was not at 100 percent at the [Massachusetts] Amateur," said Werenski, who was playing one group in front of his 16-year-old brother Mickey Werenski (The Orchards GC). "If I can stay confident it's huge for my game."
Equaling that score today was Medeiros, who is coming off a dominating, championship performance at the 2010 Rhode Island Amateur Championship. On this day, the recent Wofford College graduate continued that stellar play by carding six birdies and just two bogies. Although it was a stirring performance, Medeiros was not too please by the fact that he made bogey on two of his final three holes.
"I hit it perfect all day," said the 22 year old who is preparing to turn pro at the end of the summer. "I hit my 4 iron over the green [on the 9th hole]... I was a little amped up I guess."
It's not hard to understand why he is flying high right now. During his senior season at Wofford, Medeiros led the team in scoring average and was one of two Terriers named 2010 Cleveland Golf/Srixon All-America Scholars. During the Rhode Island Amateur Championship, Medeiros made birdie on the first three holes of his final match at Wannamoisett Country Club where he defeated Ben Tuthill by a score of 8 and 6.
Today, he made birdie on six of 10 holes midway through his round including three straight birdies on the 14th, 15th and 16th holes and then three more on the 2nd, 4th and 5th.
"Course knowledge probably goes a long way, but I just took my time," said Medeiros, who also - because of the weather conditions on Monday afternoon - did not have an opportunity to see the back nine here at The Course at Yale. "For any blind shot, I would walk up and see where the flag was. Overall, when you have a course that is soft like this, people are going to go low so I am glad that I shot what I shot."
Salah, meanwhile, had perhaps the most impressive stretch of golf of the tournament. After making the turn at 2-under par 32, the rising sophomore at Sacred Heart University put on a show where he carded four straight birdies beginning on the 365-yard, par 4 14th hole. His only miscues on the day came on the 12th and 18th holes.
McCarthy generated great momentum as the afternoon wore on. He made the turn at 2-under par 34 (he started his round on the 10th tee) and came through with a stellar final nine holes that featured 7 pars and two birdies.
In total, 22 competitors fired under-par scores including Brian Higgins (Franklin CC), Colin Brennan (Indian Ridge CC) and Ryan Gay (Augusta CC), who both posted scores of 3-under par 67.
The second round will be held on Wednesday at The Course at Yale. Following that round, the low 40 scorers and ties will advance to Thursday when they will compete in a final 36 holes of stroke play to determine the 2010 champion.