Joey Lenane is the New England Am champion (NEGA)
Joey Lenane felt his time was coming soon. So many times in recent weeks, he had gotten off to great starts only to be overtaken later in the tournament.
This week was different. The North Carolina State standout established himself as the guy to beat from the get-go. He took a four-shot lead into Thursday's final round of the 94th New England Amateur Championship at The Woodlands Club in Maine.
And when the rest of the field turned up the heat Thursday, he answered. Despite some nervy moments down the stretch, including a tee shot on the 18th that nearly hooked into a water hazard, Lenane prevailed, finishing 7-under par total for a two-stroke margin over his friend and 2020 winner John Broderick.
After tapping in for par, he shared a hug with his father and caddie Tim as the growing gallery applauded the biggest victory of his life.
"I feel like my game has been in a good place ever since I got back home from school, and it's nice to see it pay off," said Lenane, a 19-year-old from Dedham, Massachusetts, who plays out of Boston's George Wright Golf Course. "It's really nice to be able to get it done this week."
With the victory, Lenane also becomes the first person from Massachusetts since Jim Salinetti in 2000 to win the New England Amateur on Maine soil.
Walking up the 18th may have felt like an eternity for Lenane. Taking driver off the tee for just the third time of the day on the challenging, tree-lined courses, Lenane's ball moved left toward the water hazard guarding the entire left side of the hole. Though he led by two strokes, a drive through the red stakes may have brought a double-bogey finish into play and made a playoff possible. However, Lenane lucked out as his ball ended up safe from danger.
"First thing I'm thinking is I'm going to be dropping like 400 yards back," Lenane said, smiling. "I said, 'let's just try to get a shot on the green regardless if it's in play or not and try to get in with bogey or worse.' The volunteer said they heard it come down but didn't see it. [My playing partner] Caleb Manuel told me you should go up and look up a little further, and we get up there and my dad saw it was plugged in the rough." From there, Lenane hit a wedge onto the green and two-putted his way to victory.
Though the nerves showed up late, Lenane started the round in a good spot. He made birdie on the second hole, followed by another on the difficult uphill par-4 4th, which is guarded with four "coffin" bunkers stacked all the way up to the green.
After a birdie on 10, he increased his lead to five strokes, but then some of the oil started leaking. He made bogey on the par-5 11th after striking his tee ball into the water and added another bogey on the par-5 16th. Despite that, Lenane didn't lose focus, trusting in his training for these moments.
"I just stuck to my routine. I felt like I did a good job making good decisions and narrowing down on a small target," Lenane said. "I kept telling myself just keep doing that. It's worked the last two days."
It's not surprising that John Broderick was the one of made things the most interesting Thursday. Despite going even par over the past two days, the Vanderbilt redshirt freshman said he's been playing the best golf of his life. With consecutive birdies on holes Nos. 9-12, he clawed his way to three back, and then two once Lenane made a bogey on the 11th.
"Being seven back, I knew I had to play well today," said Broderick, who shot a course record 62 at Essex County Club in last week's Massachusetts Amateur Championship. "I still hit the same shots off the tee on every hole. I was hitting it well, so I pretty much had a look at the pin every time. It's hard to win. I've learned that the hard way the past month, as I've played so well, and I've just come short a few tournaments. It just wasn't fully my week."
Despite that, he was still happy for one of his closest friends in golf.
"I've spent so many nights at Joey's house ever since I was like 12," Broderick said of Lenane. "It's great to see us both play great golf. When you're 13, this is the kind of stuff you dream of being: 1-2 in a tournament. I'm sure I'll get him next time."
Ryan Scollins, Lenane's high school teammate at Xaverian Brothers, didn't know he was in the field until Monday. Scollins, who plays out of both Bald Peak Country Club (NH) and Franklin Country Club (MA), didn't get a practice round, and with an opening 41 on the front nine Tuesday it showed. However, the Holy Cross commit shot 32 in his final nine and shot under-par rounds of 70 and 71 on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, to finish T3.
Connor Goode (Glastonbury Hills CC-CT), who played in the final group, started with a bogey after sailing his approach over the green, but he responded well, finishing with a 1-under 71 on Thursday to match Scollins at T3.
Ricky Stimets finished inside the top 10 for the second straight year thanks in part to the tournament's lone ace. Playing the 190-yard downhill 17th, which was all playing down wind, Stimets had the perfect strike as it trickled into the cup for what he said is the "lucky 13th" hole-in-one of his life.
The low 20 and ties from this year's championship are exempt into the 2024 New England Amateur Championship, which will take place at Laconia Country Club in the Lake Winnipesaukee region of New Hampshire.
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
Entries are open to amateur golfers who hold
membership in a
club belonging to one of the six New England State
Associations and have an up-to-date USGA/GHIN
not exceeding 6.4
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