MILFORD, Connecticut – The 92nd New England Amateur Championship saw 142 players tee it up in Tuesday’s opening round. Three of those players, all representing different states across New England, signed for a 6-under 66 to grab a share of the early lead at Great River GC (CT).
Owen Quinn (Worcester CC, MA), Bobby Leopold (Wannamoisett CC, RI) and Cody Paladino (Wampanoag CC, CT) shot 6-under-par, and did so in a variety of ways.
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Quinn was the first in the clubhouse at (-6). Starting on the 10th hole on Tuesday, Quinn got off to a smooth start, but really got hot in the middle of his round. Three straight birdies on holes 17, 18 and 1 got him to (-5). He added another birdie on the par-5 6th, to get it to (-6), before the 7th hole, which played as the most difficult on the course, dealt Quinn his only bogey of the day. A timely bounce-back birdie on 8 got him back to (-6), where he would finish his round.
After winning the Rhode Island Amateur Championship on Sunday, it was no surprise to see Bobby Leopold in good form. During the Rhode Island Am last week, Leopold credited his ball striking as the key to his victory. Tuesday was no different “I started on 10, and hit an okay shot, thought maybe I was a little tired. But then I really started to hit the ball well. I gave myself chances the whole time. It’s a quirky golf course, you’ve got to plot yourself around, and hit the right shot. Sometimes it takes driver out of your hand because it’s better being in the fairway.”
Leopold’s ball striking was evident on the scorecard as well. After making par on his opening hole of the day (the par-3 10th), Leopold proceeded to make birdie on every remaining par-3. And the game plan remains the same for tomorrow “Game plan is the same. I like the way I played it today. I like what I chose to hit off the tee. Get to the fat parts of the green.”
Cody Paladino was the third player to post 66 on Tuesday. The symmetry in scoring was a writer’s dream. His bogey-free round featured birdies, in order, on a par-5, then a par-4, then a par-3. It worked so well, he did it again. His final 3 birdies, which were made over 3-straight holes, again came on a par-5, then a par-4, then a par-3. Paladino is no stranger to the top of the New England Amateur Leaderboard. Last year, he was T6 after the opening round and finished T11.
Connecticut Players Dominate Morning Play
Morning play saw 8 players break par, with 7 of them hailing from Connecticut. The trio of Chris Ayers (Goodwin GC, CT), Matt Camel (Round Hill Club, CT), and Austin Cilley (Lake of Isles GC, CT) all shot matching 69’s to share the early lead at -3.
Ayers had the cleanest of cards among the three morning players at 3-under. His double-bogey on 5 was the only blemish. But his dominance of the par-5’s was the real story of his round. He made birdie on every par 5 at Great River GC - holes 3, 6, 13, and 17.
Ayers, who will be playing his Graduate Year at the University of West Florida, played the first of the Par-5’s as a 3-shot hole, hitting a wedge to kick-in range. He then leaned on some big drives to birdie the rest. “The rest of them I got there in two, or at least on the fringe in two. I took care of business today on the par 5’s. I drove it very accurate and long, which obviously helps a lot on the par 5’s.”
Having never seen the course before, Ayers was very pleased with his round. In looking ahead to tomorrow, the only change to the game plan will be on hole number 4. “Number 4 was very difficult. Tomorrow I will be more aggressive off the tee. Today I left myself too far back, but tomorrow, I’ll try to leave myself a better number in.”
Matt Camel made an early bogey on the par-5, 3rd hole, but then played his next ten holes at 4-under par. His eagle on 17 helped erase bogies on 14 and 18. Austin Cilley started his round on hole 10, and like Camel, used an eagle on 17 to erase bogeys on 14 and 18. Cilley closed strong with birdies on 6 and 9 to finish the day.
The other five players to break par all shot a 1-under-par 71. Four of those five players hail from Connecticut, with the only non-Connecticut player in the group being Max Ferrari (Framingham CC, MA).
Leaderboard After Round 1
T1 – Owen Quinn: Worcester CC (MA) (-6) 66
T1 – Bobby Leopold: Wannamoisett CC (RI) (-6) 66
T1 – Cody Paladino: CC of Farmington (CT) (-6) 66
T4 – Matt Camel: Round Hill Club (CT) (-3) 69
T4 – Austin Cilley: Lake of Isles GC (CT) (-3) 69
T4 – Chris Ayers: Goodwin GC (CT) (-3) 69
T4 – Xavier Marcoux: Nashawtuc CC (MA) (-3) 69
T8 – Ben Kelly: Blue Hill CC (MA) (-2) 70
T8 – Jack Brown: Nashua CC (NH) (-2) 70
T8 – Matt Parziale: Thorny Lea GC (MA) (-2) 70
Round 2 is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. off both the 1st and 10th tee on Wednesday. Following Round 2, the field will be cut to top-60 and ties. The Final Round is scheduled to take place Thursday.
About the New England Amateur Championship
New for 2021, the New England Amateur will be contested as a 54-hole Championship, with 18 holes played on each day of the competition. The field will be cut to the low 60 players and ties after 36 holes. Previously the event was a 72-hole Championship with 36-holes being played on the third and final day.
This year, qualifying took place in June at four different venues: Indian Pond CC (MA), Haverhill CC (MA), Battleboro CC (VT), and Tunxis CC (CT). Medalists (and Co-Medalists) of the qualifiers:
In 2020, John Broderick (Dedham C&PC, MA) won the rain-shortened event in a playoff over Nick Maccario (Bradford CC, MA) at Concord CC (MA). Xavier Marcoux, who recently qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship, won the event in 2019 at The Quechee Club (VT). The last time the New England Amateur was held in Connecticut was in 2016 at Harford GC. That year James Turner (Bass Rocks GC, MA) ran away with the title, winning by 5 strokes.