Mass. Senior Am: Ruschioni, Houghton lead flights

HINGHAM, Maine (Sept. 27, 2011) -- It has been five years since Jim Ruschioni (Monoosnock CC) captured the Massachusetts Senior Amateur Championship title, but at the age of 63 he appears poised to claim it back as his own once again.

Despite a foggy start to the morning round at Black Rock Country Club, Ruschioni, who won this event in 2006, was a bright light as he carded five straight birdies during his first nine holes en route to a day-one low score of 4-under par 67.

He currently holds a three-stroke lead over the 2003 winner of this event - James Drohen (Crystal Lake GC) - who posted a 1-under par 70.

"I have been struggling with my back and my putting has not been as consistent as it once was," said Ruschioni. "It was nice to put things together and post a good number today."

He began his round on the 10th hole and played his first seven holes at 5-under par. That incredible stretch included five straight birdies on the 12th through 16th holes.

"I can't remember back that far," said Ruschioni when asked if he could recall a stretch like that. "Actually I was hitting it so close that I had to make them... I was on a roll so it was pretty easy on that five-hole stretch."

On the 12th hole, he hit his rescue club off the tee from 200 yards to four feet. He then drained a 15 footer on the 13th hole, two putted for birdie on the par-5 14th hole and then finished off his birdie run by making two-foot putts on the 15th and 16th holes.

Equally important, however, were the 10th and 11th holes where Ruschioni missed the green but was able to chip to four feet and make his par putts.

"I had perfect yardage every time off the tee," said Ruschioni. "I didn't have to hit shots hard or easy. It was right on the number and that doesn't happen too often."

His only miscue on that side - and throughout the entire round - was a double bogey on the 448-yard, par 4 18th hole which was playing as one of the toughest holes today.

"I hit a good tee shot and then had a 185 yard shot that was a little uphill and against the wind and it was outside of my range," said Ruschioni. "I blocked my shot dead right and left myself a 30 footer that I knocked 12 feet by and then missed the putt for double. But after that I started to play steady."

Steady is an understatement.

Through his next nine holes, Ruschioni made eight pars and one birdie. On the 377-yard, par 4 8th hole, Ruschioni realized just how good of a round he was enjoying when he watched his tee shot sail right, knock against a rock ledge and then bounce left and towards the green. It was no surprise that Ruschioni proceeded to drain a 25 foot putt to cap off a sensational first round.

"I'd like to put another 18 holes in today if I could," said Ruschioni with a laugh.

His return to the top spot is a welcome sign for Ruschioni, who is one of the most celebrated amateur competitors in Massachusetts golf history. Over the course of his career, he has won 12 MGA Championships, including four Massachusetts Senior Four-Ball titles with longtime friend and partner Paul Nunez, Jr. (Longmeadow CC).

He is hoping to add No. 13 to his resume come tomorrow during the second and final round.

"It is a good course for me," said Ruschioni, who also won the New England Amateur Championship in 1987. "There is plenty of room to drive the ball. I have been driving well and hitting irons well, but my short game has been suspect and I have not been putting up good numbers lately. It was satisfying to finally do that today."

Super Senior Division Update

Although one Massachusetts Senior Amateur Champion will be crowned on Wednesday afternoon, there is another honor which will be bestowed on one very deserving competitor.

In addition to battling for the rights to the Frederick J. Wright Memorial Trophy, all competitors who are 65 years and older are in the running for the Super Senior Division title. One year ago, Jim Deveney, Jr. (Essex CC) captured his first career Super Senior Division title at the age of 68.

Following the first round of play, Dave Houghton (Captains GC) leads the way with a score of 1-over par 72. His round featured three birdies - on the 5th, 7th and 10th holes - two bogies and one double bogie. He currently enjoys a four-stroke edge over James Irving (Segregansett CC) and David Pomarico (South Shore CC), who both carded a 5-over par 76.

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