RUMFORD — Rafael Becker, a big-hitting 6-foot-3 Brazilian, shot a blistering 7-under par 62 Wednesday, June 19, to set the pace at the conclusion of the opening round of the 52nd Annual Northeast Amateur Invitational golf tournament at Wannamoisett Country Club.
Becker, who recently completed his senior season at Wichita (Kan.) State, led an afternoon scoring surge as competitors played under near perfect conditions. The minimal winds Wednesday just about subsided by Becker’s 12:40 p.m. tee time, leaving the relatively short Wannamoisett layout vulnerable to some of the best young players in the world.
Opening on the back side, Becker birdied his opening hole, the par 4 421-yard 10th, then added three more birdies to finish with 4-under 31 through nine. He then began his back nine with four birdies in five holes to drop to 8-under before a recording a bogey on the par 4 437-yard sixth. He parred in to finish with a back nine 31.
The reigning Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and winner of the MVC Championship Tournament, Becker is coming off a 15th-place finish last weekend at the Sunnehanna Amateur in Johnstown, Penn.
Rhode Island resident and decorated R.I. Golf Association player Bobby Leopold was the early leader in the clubhouse, posting the best round from the morning pairings with a 3-under 66, which was good for a four-way tie for second place. Leopold eagled the par 4, 372-yard fifth hole, birdied three others and bogeyed the par 4 14th and 16th holes during his opening round.
Cory Whitsett, second at Sunnehanna behind the winner Steven Ihm who is not in the Northeast field this week, shot a similar 3-under par score on Day 1. Whitsett, a junior at the University of Alabama, birdied three of five holes between Nos. 7 and 11 en route to posting his 66.
A bogey on the par 4 first hole foreshadowed things to come for defending champion Justin Shin, who stumbled in with an opening round 74 (5-over). Shin went out in 39 off of three bogeys and a double. He sandwiched two birdies, including a three on the par 4 18th, around two more bogeys on the back to finish well off the pace in share of 63rd place.
The University of California’s Michael Kim, the low amateur at last week’s U.S. Open played at Merion outside of Philadelphia, struggled during his opening round Wednesday, carding a 4-over 73 to finish T54.
Of note locally, Brad Valois, who plays out of Metacomet in city, finished his opening round at 1-over 70 and in a tie for 16th with several others. Wannamoisett’s Charlie Blanchard, multi-time RIGA Player of the Year, carded a 10-over 79 in his opening round to finish in a share of 85th as did Cameron Andrade, the son of Bristol native and PGA Tour pro Billy Andrade. The younger Andrade is signed to attend Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., the same school where former local amateur standout Garrett Medeiros recently attended.
Fifteen players finished the opening round at even par or better, nine of whom teed off after noon. A total of 88 players began the tournament. For complete first round scoring from the Northeast Amateur click here…