EAST PROVIDENCE — Firm and fast conditions greeted the participants in the opening round of the 53rd Annual Northeast Amateur Invitational on a warm and windy Wednesday, June 18, at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rumford.
The renowned Donald Ross-design lived up to its billing as one of the most testing tracks in the state, if not nationally, as only a handful of players managed to break par 69.
Stewart Jolly led the way with a 2-under, 67. Jolly, a junior at Louisiana State University, closed with birdies on the par 5 17th and par 4 18th holes to break away slightly from a pack that finished a shot behind.
Four players finished Day 1 at 1-under. They were Kurt Kitayama, Adam Schenk, Hans Reimers and Blake Morris. Kitayama, who just completed his junior season at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, was at 2-under late until making a bogey on the par 4, 18th hole. Morris, one of the New Englanders in the field and who plays at Ole Miss, birded the par 4 13th and the par 3 15th to go along with a bogey at the 437-yard par 4 sixth.
Two others ended the opening round at even par, Clancy Waugh and Bailey Patrick.
As for the locals, Wannamoisett member Charlie Blanchard carded a 5-over 74. The two-time State Amateur had two bogeys, two doubles and a birdie at the short par 3 third.
Reigning and four-time State Am winner, Metacomet’s Brad Valois, finished Round 1 at 6-over, 75. Valois had seven bogeys to the just one birdie, which also came at the 137-yard third.
City native and former East Providence High standout Dan Blessing shot 8-over, 77 to open the tournament. Blessing, like Blanchard and Valois, made a birdie at three but had three doubles and two other bogeys.
Bobby Leopold, another of the former State Am champs in the field and now a Wannamoisett member, faltered late in his opening round to finish at 8-over, 77 as well. His lone birdie of the day came on the par 3, 196-yard 15th.
Among the other notables in the field, Will Murphy, the winner of the Sunnehanna Invitational last week in Pennsylvania, finished in a large group at 3-over, 72, which also included Newport’s John Hayes IV.
The highest-rated player in the field according to GolfWeek magazine’s world amateur rankings, Jordan Niebrugge of Oklahoma State, finished four shots off the pace. Ranked third, the Wisconsin native shot 2-over, 71.
Reigning U.S. Amateur champion Mike McCoy, another of the top-ranked players in the field (No. 4/GolfWeek) was in a sizable group of players to finish at 5-over, including Blanchard.