Chris Francoeur (Mass Golf/David Colt)
The 111th Massachusetts Amateur Championship began at The Country Club for a record 11th time on Monday, and following the completion of the first round of stroke play, Amesbury’s Chris Francoeur holds a one-stroke lead over Halifax’s Dillon Brown and Kingston’s Herbie Aikens, the 2018 runner-up. In total, nine of the 144 competitors in the field finished below par as the field will get cut down to the top-32 competitors by the end of play Tuesday.
Francoeur, a rising junior on the University of Rhode Island’s golf team, catapulted up the leaderboard behind a 4-under 67 effort on Monday that saw him edge out both Aikens and Brown by one stroke on the leaderboard.
Starting from The Country Club’s 10th tee in the morning round, the 20-year old carded his only bogey of the day on that opening par-4, then rebounded with a birdie on the subsequent par-5 11th hole and an additional birdie on the par-3 17th hole to make the turn at 1-under. On that 17th hole, the most famous of The Country Club layout, Francoeur was able to take a lesson from a recent practice round and apply it to his approach today.
“I think the big hole for me was 17,” said Francoeur, who two weeks ago advanced to the Round of 16 at the Rhode Island Amateur. “Last week, I played that hole too aggressive in the practice round and I played it conservative today, and ended up making birdie.”
Once making the turn, Francoeur carded back-to-back birdies on the par-4 first and second holes to move down to 3-under for his round and then put the exclamation point on his performance by birdying the par-4 ninth hole.
“It feels good,” said Francoeur regarding his round one performance. “I mean the goal coming in obviously was just to make match play, but being in the lead right now feels good.”
Just behind Francoeur on the leaderboard were Dillon Brown, a former Massachusetts Junior Amateur champion who will be entering his sophomore year at the University of Maryland, and Herbie Aikens, who fell to Patrick Frodigh in last year’s championship match, 4&3.
While not on the top spot, both were happy where they finished as they look to advance to the match play portion of the Championship.
In his first nine, Brown made par on each hole before heading to the second half of play, where he carded three straight birdies on the back nine, before eagling the par-5 14th hole to move to 3-under 68 for the day.
“I went out there today and knew there was going to be a lot of good guys out here,” said Brown following his round. “I just wanted to make 18 pars. I parred every hole on my front nine, was playing well, wasn’t hitting the ball great but I was putting the ball really well.”
He added, “I’m happy to get out there, shoot a good score, and get ready for tomorrow.”
Just like Brown, Aikens too was happy with how the first round panned out. The 37-year old tallied six birdies to three bogeys through his first 18, putting himself in a good position to net a top-seed for match play if he can repeat the performance.
“I was pleased with the round,” said Aikens following his six birdies on the day. “I putted really well, but it all kind of off shoots and I missed a few coming in that I could have easily made.”
He says that while his putting was good, it was actually a save for par on the opening hole that helped pace him for the remainder of the round.
“I hit a terrible chip shot to like 25 feet and made it for par,” explained Aikens. “It was a tough putt downhill with some good break in it so honestly that one there just kind of settled me right away and I just kind of was able to get right in the swing of things.”
All 144 competitors in the field will return tomorrow for the second round of stroke play. Following the completion of the stroke play portion of competition Tuesday, the Harry B. McCracken Stroke Play Medalist will be awarded to the competitor(s) with the lowest combined score for the 36-hole stroke play portion of the competition.
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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