EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (July 18, 2011) --Through four holes at the 82nd New England Amateur Championship at Metacomet Country Club, Peter Williamson (Hanover CC) realized that this might be one of those rounds that could set the tone for something great down the road.
The rising senior at Dartmouth College had just watched his approach on the 446-yard, par 4 4th hole take one bounce and disappear. That shot capped off a four-hole stretch where he made two birdies, one eagle and one par to go 4 under for the day. (Story Continues Below...)
"That motivates your round for sure," said Williamson. "I had a terrible drive to the right [on the 4th hole] and was lucky to have a shot to the green. It went under the tree limb, and I watched it one hop in and hear some applause at the next tee and made eagle."
Williamson did not let up as he finished with a day-low score of 6-under par 64 to take a two-shot lead following the first round of play at the 82nd New England Amateur Championship. Williamson finished with five birdies, one eagle and one bogey.
"The start was as good as I could hope for," said Williamson, who made the turn at 4-under par 32. "When you start the next day at 6 under it's a happy feeling and you aren't fighting around par which is good."
The most shocking part of Williamson's beginning stretch was that the hole he made par on - the 472-yard, par 5 2nd hole - is playing as the easiest hole today. Unlike many of the players who chose to drive over the hazard (a carry of 265 yards), Williamson played conservative on that risk-reward hole out of respect for the trouble that lurks all along this 6,464 layout. He laid up left and played it as a true par-5. It was a strategy that worked well there and throughout the rest of his round.
"The hole locations weren't too easy, so I'll take 64 any day," said Williamson. "It was a good start and I was able to hold it together. I played it safe the rest of the day. The pins weren't in attack positions."
Following that 4-under par start, Williamson continued to find fairways, stay out of trouble and make some key mid-range putts to save par and make birdie on the 9th, 16th and 18th holes. His only miscue on the day came on the 8th hole where he misjudged the severity of a ridge and suffered a bogey.
Williamson is coming off another strong season at Dartmouth. The Hanover native was one of 25 golfers to be named to the Division I PING All-Region Team from the Northeast and was medalist at the Ivy League Championship for the second time in his career. He also - this past June - advanced to match play at the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship where he fell in the first round of match play to LSU standout John Peterson.
"I think the difference this year is the tee ball," said Williamson, who is known for a strong short game. "I have been hitting it straight and giving myself more chances for birdie from the fairway."
Werenski, Hedden Just Two Back
Two shots back of Williamson with scores of 4-under par 66 are Richy Werenski (The Orchards GC) and Jeff Hedden (Black Hall Club).
For Werenski, the New England Amateur Championship represents the end of a two-month stretch where he has traveled all across the country competing in some of the top amateur tournaments.
Since he led his Georgia Tech team to the NCAA Match Play quarterfinals in Oklahoma in June, Werenski has competed at the Sunnehanna Amateur Tournament in Pennsylvania, Northeast Amateur Invitational in Rhode Island, Dogwood Invitational Golf Tournament in Georgia and The Players Amateur and Southern Amateur Championship in South Carolina.
"It has been a long summer," said Werenski. "I have my Dad on my bag this week, so we are just looking to not take it all too seriously, have some fun and see what happens."
That calm and collected attitude served the 19-year-old from South Hadley well as he carded three birdies, one eagle and just one bogey en route to his score of 4-under par 66. Much like Williamson, Werenski got off to a fast start and was 4-under par through four holes. He made birdie on the 386-yard, par 4 1st hole, an eagle on the 472-yard, par 5 2nd hole and then another birdie on the 446-yard, par 4 4th hole.
"It's not a necessity but it keeps your confidence up and gets you under par right away," said Werenski of his fast start. "It takes the pressure off right away."
After draining a 10-foot putt on the 1st hole for birdie, Werenski cleared the hazard with his drive on the 2nd hole which left him 90 yards from the green. His approach landed 10 feet from the hole. He made that eagle putt as well as another 10 footer for birdie on the 4th hole. He made up for a bogey on the 12th hole with a birdie - his third of the day - on the 14th hole. He finished off his round with four straight pars.
"I have had a decent summer so far," said Werenski, who finished second at last week's Southern Amateur Championship. "Some putts have started to fall and I am playing better."
Meanwhile, Hedden, a perennial Connecticut standout from Old Lyme, began his round with five straight pars before making birdie on the 15th and 18th holes to make the turn at 2-under par 32.
"I played really well and I putted suberbly which is what I know I needed to do out here," said Hedden. "I got off to a calm start and made a few birdies which got my putter started. I had good pace with my putts.... if you can get it inside of 15 feet, you can make a few putts and I made a few birdie putts and par putts when I needed."
Hedden's final nine holes went just as well as the first nine as he made three birdies - on the 2nd, 7th and 9th holes - and just one bogey. A three putt on the 358-yard, par 4 8th hole was the only blemish for Hedden today.
"I really didn't find any trouble," said Hedden who in 2008 became the first player to win four different Connecticut State Golf Association titles. "I know that you had to manage well off the tee on this course and I did that. I probably hit 10 to 11 fairways, but the important thing is that I wasn't in any trees."
Phil Smith (Vesper CC) posted a 3-under par 67, while a slew of players carded scores of 2-under par 68. Defending Champion Brian Higgins (Franklin CC) bounced back from a rough start - he was 6-over par through eight holes - to make three birdies and just one bogey on his second nine to post a 4-over par 74.