Jackson Lang (Davidson photo)
CONCORD, Mass. (July 25, 2018) – Getting off to a good start was a goal of Jackson Lang heading into this week, but making birdie on his first five holes at Concord Country Club took that aspiration to a whole new level.
Lang, who last year became the first golfer in Davidson University history to win an Atlantic 10 Men’s Golf Individual Championship, was 5-under par through five holes and 6-under par through 13 holes. He finished his round at 4-under par 66 which gives him a one-stroke lead over the field heading into Thursday’s second round.
“When you get a hot start like that you are thinking that you are going to shoot really low,” said Lang. “You think that you can’t do anything wrong, but then you realize that it’s the same old same old for the next whatever it was 13 holes.”
Although the birdie train did eventually end for Lang, it was a stretch to remember.
After finding the green in two and two putting for birdie on the 479-yard, par 5 first hole, Lang made birdie putts of 15 feet, 35 feet and 15 feet on his next three holes. On the 448-yard, par-4 fourth hole, Lang scrambled after his drive sailed right but managed to make a 15-footer for birdie. Incredibly, Lang could have been 6 under through five holes as his approach on the 457-yard, par-4 fifth hole nearly holed out for eagle leaving him a two-foot birdie tap in.
One bogey and three pars later, Lang made the turn at 4-under par. He padded his lead over the field of 51 Championship competitors by making two more birdies – on the 11th and 13th holes – to put him at 6-under par through 13 holes. His nearest competitor at the time was at 2-under par.
“It was a good start to have,” said Lang. “It was a good feeling, and it really came down to rolling in a few putts.”
Today’s round is a continuation of outstanding play for Lang this summer. Two weeks ago, he was co-medalist at the 2018 Massachusetts Amateur Championship and then delivered a T-6 finish at last week’s New England Amateur Championship.
“The putter has been a big change for me this year,” said Lang. “I am doing some new stuff with my putter and changing my routine a bit. I put a line on the golf ball, and I have been working really hard at it. I have committed to good lines and am using this AimPoint thing to read putts too. It’s a lot of different stuff and I am getting better at it, but it is cool to see that it has been translating into some low rounds for me.”
Two bogies through his final five holes allowed the field to pull closer to Lang, but it was not enough to dampen the positives taken from the fast start.
“It makes it a lot easier on yourself for sure,” said Lang. “You don’t have to go out and do anything crazy over the next two days to be in contention whereas if you start off poorly or shoot a bad round in the first round you feel like you have knuckle down and every shot matters a little bit more. So I can just go out and be relaxed over the next two days and put up some numbers.”
One competitor who like Lang is building on recent success is Chris Francoeur, who is one back of the lead after posting a 3-under par 67 on Wednesday.
Francoeur, a rising sophomore at the University of Rhode Island, advanced to the quarterfinals of this year’s Massachusetts Amateur Championship and is making only his second appearance at the Ouimet Memorial Tournament.
“This is an amazing tournament to play in,” said Francoeur. “I’m just really happy that I am able to be here to compete with the best guys in the state. Hopefully I will have a good finish here to use it as confidence going into the fall.”
After making the turn at even par 35, Francoeur made four birdies on the Concord CC back nine including birdies on three of his final five holes.
“It was a pretty solid day all around,” said Francoeur, who made late-round birdies on the 14th, 16th and 17th holes. “It was just kind of a boring front nine, a couple pars and a couple of birdies and then I started making a couple long putts on the back.”
His strong finish was especially impressive given that one day earlier he played in a 36-hole U.S. Amateur sectional qualifier held at Pawtucket Country Club. Although Francoeur was not able to secure one of the three available qualifying spots at that site, he did finish just three strokes off qualifying pace.
“It definitely helped. I hit the ball really well yesterday, so I just told myself to keep hitting it well and make a few more putts and I’ll play a good round,” said Francoeur. “I think I had four birdies on the back [today]. Three of them were actually about 25 footers. I rolled in a few long ones then had a pretty easy birdie on 17 – the par 5.”
One back of Francoeur at 2-under par 68 are Jack Boulger and Timothy Umphrey. Also finishing under par on Wednesday were Ryan Pelletier and Mark Turner, who both posted scores of 1-under par 69.
Competing in the 51st edition of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, Boxford’s Frank Vana, Jr. had a couple of items to check off the bucket list.
The nine-time Mass Golf Player of the Year has won this prestigious event a record five-times competing in the Championship division, with his most recent victory coming in 2010 when the tournament was held at The International and at Woodland Golf Club – which has hosted the final round each year in honor of its former member for who the tournament is named.
Standing in his way this year was Concord Country Club – the same club where Vana fell in the championship match of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship in 2007 to Burgess Houston, who won by a final score of 1 Up.
Back on the same course for the first time in 11 years, Vana took all the right steps for what he hopes will be another championship run – this time in the Eddie Lowery Division for the 20 senior competitors in the field. Vana, Jr shot a 3-under 67 through the tournament’s first 18 holes and leads Jon Fasick by three strokes.
“I played pretty well. I had a couple three-putts today and had some other opportunities, but the conditions were perfect. I hit a lot of good shots,” said Vana, who made par on the 1st hole and then sank one of his first of three birdies on the par-4 2nd hole.
“On the second hole, I hit the approach shot to about eight feet and then knocked that in,” said Vana, who then bounced back from a bogey on the 3rd hole with a birdie on the 5th hole before a streak of six straight pars. “Then the hole down the hill, Concord’5th hole, I had a nice drive to about 100 yards that I made from about eight or ten feet, which was nice.”
Vana used what he considered a great chip shot on the 8th hole to keep his pace steady to make the turn at 1-under, then made birdie on the 12th hole and nearly missed out on an albatross on the par-5 17th on his way to finishing the round atop the leaderboard.
With at least one and more than likely two rounds left in him this week – the top 12 in the division will advance to Friday’s final round – Vana is thrilled to be playing among the Bay State’s deepest fields.
“I love playing in the Ouimet,” he added. “Concord is a great spot, and I’ve always really liked this place. I’m looking forward to coming backtomorrow.”
Vana will once again be paired with Fasick and Dennis’ Joe Walker, who won the Lowery Division in 2016. The trio will begin play starting on the 10th tee in the 9:12 am time slot.
For Falmouth native Hannah Ghelfi, a rising junior on the University of Michigan Women’s Golf Team, this week’s Ouimet Memorial Tournament is one final run through ahead of the 115th playing of the Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, for which the 21-year old will be looking to defend her title as a state champion next week at George Wright Golf Course.
On Wednesday at Concord Country Club, where the first two rounds of the 54-hole tournament will be contested, Ghelfi jumped out to an early lead over the field of 14 competitors in the division. Ghelfi, of Pocasset Country Club, fired a 2-under par 70 to hold a slight lead over Norton’s Shannon Johnson. It is a lead she says she hopes to build on as the week continues.
“It was a good day. A lot of birdies,” said Ghelfi, who was exempt into this week’s field as a result of her finish in the 2017 Massachusetts Women’s Amateur Championship, as well as her place atop the Anne Marie Tobin Player of the Year standings this past season.
After making par on the 1st hole at Concord, she made birdie on the 2nd hole, the 5th hole and the 7th hole, but made the turn at 1-over par after her short game caused her some trouble.
“The front nine I definitely struggled with the greens,” explained Ghelfi following her round Wednesday. “On the back nine, I kind of learned from the front and that is definitely what helped me.”
On her later nine, Ghelfi made birdie on the 10th and 13th holes, a pair of par-4’s, then tallied back-to-back birdies on the par-5 16th and 17th holes to card a 33 and finish the day at 2-under 70.
With the women’s division of the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, now in its 51st year, expanding to 54-holes from its previous format of just 18-holes on the final day, Ghelfi added that it’s a pleasure to be among the participants in the field.
“It’s really cool. The women I played with today are the women I play with a lot in the summer, but we never play in tournaments with men, so it is kind of cool to see a different atmosphere,” she added.
In addition to Ghelfi and Johnson, Allison Paik (The CC of Sharon) and reigning women’s division champion, Jacquelyn Eleey, of Quincy, placed T3 on the leaderboard at 2-over 73.