East Providence, RI – He may have looked hot and tired, but you couldn't keep the smile off the face of Peter Williamson (Hanover CC), who maintained his lead following the second round of the 82nd New England Amateur Championship with a two-round total of 9-under par 131.
Williamson - like the rest of the 156-player field here at Metacomet Country Club - battled hot and humid conditions on Tuesday but in the end it was the Dartmouth College standout who remained atop the pack. Through 36 holes, Williamson carded 27 pars, six birdies, one bogey and two eagles.
Williamson currently leads Jeff Hedden (Black Hall Club) and Richy Werenski (The Orchards GC) by two strokes. Both of those players finished with scores of 7-under par 133.
A total of 40 competitors made the cut this year and will return to Metacomet Country Club on Wednesday to compete in a final 36 holes. This year's cut line fell at 4-over par 144.
On this day, it was Williamson who stole the spotlight for a second day in a row. On his final hole this afternoon, Williamson hit a 9-iron approach shot on the 463-yard, par 5 9th hole to 18 feet. He rolled that in for eagle for a second round score of 3-under par 67. It also - most importantly - gave him a two-stroke lead into the third and final round.
"I'll take it," said Williamson of his clutch eagle putt. "It was a bogey-free round, so I am not complaining about that. It was a nice eagle on 9 to keep the eagle streak going."
One day earlier on the 446-yard, par 4 4th hole, Williamson knocked his second shot over a tree limb and then watched as his ball bounced once and landed in the hole. That helped him along to a day-low first-round score of 6-under par 64.
Last year, Williamson was unable to compete in this event because he had to spend the summer taking classes at Dartmouth (a sophomore requirement). This year, he has played more competitive golf and has seen his game respond. He finished T18 at the Northeast Amateur Invitational and advanced to match play at the 2011 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.
The only trouble he encountered today was with the wind. He noted that he had a few "flyers" out of the rough but was still able to make his par putts and keep the round moving in the right direction.
"It has been a good confidence builder," said Williamson. "The pins were in equally hard positions today. They were hard to get to so you had to play to the middle of the greens and work on your lag putting."
Nipping at Williamson's heels during the final 36 holes will be Hedden and 19-year-old Werenski, whom Williamson will be paired with on Wednesday.
Following a strong freshman campaign at Georgia Tech where he helped his team advance to the NCAA Match Play quarterfinals, Werenski has been one of the most dominating collegiate golfers this summer. He carded a 4-under par 66 on day one and came through once again with a strong 3-under par 67 on Tuesday afternoon.
Through 17 holes, Werenski was just 1-under par. Much like Williamson, he stepped to the 9th tee and hit a solid drive that left him a 9-iron shot to the green. He found the green and then drained a 25-foot eagle putt which allowed him the honor of playing in the final group with Williamson.
The wily veteran Hedden, 48, will play right behind the two youngsters. Five years ago, he finished third at this event... his best career finish. He will be paired with fellow Connecticut golfer Tommy McDonagh (Shorehaven GC), who stands fourth with a score of 3-under par 137.
"I am ecstatic," said Hedden following his 3-under par 67 on Tuesday. "[In 2006], I was only even or 1 under heading into the final day, so it would be great to be in the last group."
Hedden got his wish courtesy of strong play on Monday and again on Tuesday. Following his first-round score of 4-under par 66, Hedden got off to a fast start and was 4-under par at the turn. He made birdie on the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 9th holes, but it was key par putts on the 1st and 4th holes which allowed him to maintain the positive momentum.
He was unable to make any more birdies on the back nine and his one miscue came on the 8th hole where he made bogey - only his second of the tournament.
"I made a lot of good putts but they just didn't go in on the back nine," said Hedden. "I played really well and once again only made one bogey... my putting is good and I am playing really good right now."
Winning the New England Amateur Championship will be yet another feather in Hedden's cap. Over the course of his impressive amateur career, Hedden stands as the only player on Connecticut history to win all four majors - Junior, Amateur, Mid-Amateur and Open. He has also won three straight CSGA Player of the Year honors.
ABOUT THE New England Amateur
Held since 1926, the New England Amateur
brings together players from six New England
area states — Connecticut, Maine,
Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and
Rhode Island. The event host rotates between
each of the six represented states. The
tournament has been won by notable PGA Tour
players such as JJ Henry (1998), Tim Petrovic
(1986), Billy Andrade (1983), and Brad Faxon
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