Mass Am: DiLisio Rides Hole-in-one to First Round Lead
The 2017 Massachusetts Amateur is Underway at Charles River Country Club<br>(MGA photo)
The 2017 Massachusetts Amateur is Underway at Charles River Country Club
(MGA photo)

NEWTON, MA (July 10, 2017) - Winning championships takes a lot of skill and a little bit of luck, and Steven DiLisio (Salem CC) had both during the first day of the 109th Massachusetts Amateur Championship, which is being held this week – over a five-day period – at Charles River Country Club.

On this day, DiLisio, a 19-year-old rising sophomore at Duke University, made a hole in one on the 177-yard, par 3 14th hole to highlight a day-low score of 1-under par 69. Following the first round of play, DiLisio finds himself tied for the overall lead with Herbie Aikens (Pinehills GC).

“I felt like I played pretty smart out there and made a lot of good tee shots that set me up for some easier shots into the greens,” said DiLisio, who won five Massachusetts Junior Amateur divisional titles over five years from 2009 to 2013. “If you get on the wrong side on these greens it can get ugly. I felt like it was a solid start, and that I left some out there. I had some sketchy short irons that might be 10 or 15 feet but on the wrong side so you end up having to play defense. I would like to clean that up and make a few more putts.”

One putt on Monday that DiLisio did not have to make was on that 14th hole. After making the turn at even par 35, DiLisio suffered two bogies – on the 11th and 12th holes - and was looking for a momentum changer.

“That was really important for my round more than anything,” said DiLisio who decided to make an aggressive swing with a 7 iron after watching his playing partner come up short just minutes prior. “We didn’t actually see it go in because there was a lot of glare on the green. We knew it landed in front and thought it went over, but we walked up there and saw that it went in.”

DiLisio would go on to make one additional birdie – on the 522-yard, par 5 15th hole – and three birdies to cap off his 1-under par round.

“I have gotten into match play once and that was two years ago,” said DiLisio. “Today was a good start.”

As the 23rd-ranked player in the 2016 recruiting class in the Golfweek/Sagarin ratings coming out of high school, DiLisio lived up to his billing during a solid freshman campaign with the Blue Devils where he finished as the individual champion of the 2017 Heel/Pack Individual Tournament. Earlier this season he advanced to U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying for the first time in his career.

“I haven’t played year round until this past year and it makes a huge difference to be in that environment and playing with guys with high expectations,” said DiLisio of his first year of collegiate golf. “You start to raise your level and start matching what you are seeing out of them and out of yourself and you can get good quick and I have felt like I have made some big improvements.”

Herbie Aikens Eyes Match Play Return

Joining DiLisio atop the leaderboard at 1-under par 69 is Aikens, who at 35 years old appears to be the elder statesman among a field whose average age is 30.2 and includes more than 45 NCAA collegiate players.

He demonstrated veteran poise and course management down the stretch on day one as he battled back from a frustrating start where he made double bogey on his third hole of the day – the 358-yard, par 12th hole – and then made disappointing pars on the back-to-back par 5s on the 15th and 16th holes.

“It started off shaky,” said Aikens, a two-time MGA victor during the 2014 season (he won the MGA Mid-Amateur and MGA Amateur Public Links Championships). “On 12, I had a bad shot into the woods, chipped out, hit a good recovery shot and hit what I thought was a good putt which rolled out to six feet. After that, I felt like I was chasing it and couldn’t get too much going.”

Aikens’ luck changed on the 195-yard, par 3 17th hole where he made a key birdie putt. From that point on, he played 2-under par golf through his final 11 holes including an eagle on the 546-yard, par 5 2nd hole.

“The greens are great,” said Aikens. “They have a ton of break in them and a lot of speed. You have to try to not to be too precise with the line and just feel it and brush it in there. It is a different kind of putting out there, and you have to protect it.”

After missing out on match play one year ago, Aikens is happy to get one solid round under his belt. In the past five years, Aikens has missed the cut three times and advanced to the round of 16 twice (in 2013 and 2015).

"It's very important," said Aikens. "It has been hard for me to even make the cut some times. I don't know if I get so amped up for it. I struggled last year and I missed the cut. It is definitely an important tournament, and it's one that you feel like you should at least be in match play, and when you don't make it you are heartbroken. This year I am doing what I need to do to make match play."

The low 32 scorers following 36 holes of stroke play will continue on to Match Play Competition which is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

View results for Massachusetts Amateur
ABOUT THE Massachusetts Amateur

Qualifying - 32 Holes at Stroke Play to determine 32 Qualifiers for Match Play. Entries are open to amateur golfers who have an active MGA/GHIN Handicap Index at any public, private, semi-private, municipal or non-real estate MGA member course/club not exceeding 4.4.

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