Bob Kearney (NH) earned the Super Senior Division title.
MANCHESTER, Vermont – John McNeill (Amateur Golf Tour of New England) of Stow, Massachusetts, McNeill said his opening-round 4-under 68 on Tuesday was his first bogey-free round in the past 30 years.
What he didn't know then was that's all it would take to take home his first-ever New England Golf Association title.
McNeill began Wednesday's second and final round four strokes ahead of Connecticut's Bob Murphy, Bill Hermanson, and Dave Jones, all tied for second place. Through 14 holes, McNeill was 1-under overall (3-over for round) and was holding a 1-stroke lead, but play was suspended at 1:11 p.m. for a dangerous situation (lightning). At 2:39 p.m., the second round was officially canceled, and scores were reverted to the first-round leaderboard.
"While we hoped to be able to finish the round, the weather forecast was unfavorable for the remainder of the day, and we were unable to complete play in a safe manner," said Greg Howell, Director of Operations for the New England Golf Association. "We are thankful to the players for their patience on a very difficult day. We also appreciate the staff and members of Manchester CC for being gracious hosts.” ONLINE: RESULTS | ROUND 1 RECAP | NEW ENGLAND GOLF ASSOCIATION HOME PAGE WHAT HAPPENED After accepting his trophy, John McNeill said he would've loved to have closed out the round with a birdie on the final day. While that didn't exactly come true, he did cap off his round with a tremendous birdie the day prior. McNeill said his adrenaline was pumping as he sat at 3-under, just one hole away from completing an immaculate bogey-free round. He chose hybrid on the 18th tee, which plays downhill and is a dogleg right, and his shot just trickled into the rough with a downhill lie 157-yards from the green. Then he hit what was arguably his best shot of the tournament, striping an 8-iron to 2-feet. "I hit that club 150-yards, and I absolutely flushed it," McNeill recalled. "As I was blacking out over the 2-footer, I rolled it in for the 68. It was just one of those days when I had a good game plan, I was hitting the ball where I was aiming it, and when I had long putts, I was rolling them up to 1 or 2 feet." [caption id="attachment_12810" align="alignnone" width="600"] John McNeill captured his first New England Golf Association title. (David Colt, file)[/caption]Had it not been for some in-round adjustments, though, McNeill might not have prevailed. Though the first four holes play pretty straightforward, according to McNeill, he needed to get up-and-down three times on the first four holes just to stay at even par. "I wasn't hitting the ball very well on the first four holes," McNeill said. "Then something clicked on my tee ball on the 5th hole, and after that, I was just striping it." McNeill made birdie on holes 8, 9 and 14 to pull into the lead, and while he didn't know where he stood at the time, it was plenty to take a commanding lead. McNeill, who grew up near Syracuse, New York, also has a family connection to Vermont golf. His mother, Mary McNeill, is a three-time Vermont Women's Amateur champion and three-time runner-up in the championship. "That was some really cool history to experience that," McNeill said. The McNeill family also used to summer near Orleans Country Club, located in Northeast Vermont near the Canadian border. "It's no great layout, but it was the kind of place where mom and dad could shove the kids out of the station wagon at 8 a.m., and my brother and I would just play golf all day, and it was formative there just enjoying the game." McNeill has been a member of the Amateur Golf Tour of New England since 1992 and credits his exposure to different courses to finally finding success. He also plays monthly at The Haven Country Club as a social member. After finishing T7 in the Ouimet Memorial Tournament, he said playing at The Haven helped him regain some confidence heading into late summer events. "It's a really great place there," McNeill said. "I really doubled down on practicing the things I needed to fix up: getting up-and-down, being solid on short putts, and it paid dividends." And while Mother Nature stood in the way of a full 36-hole championship, "In a way, I don't care how it happened, I'm just glad I had a good round yesterday," McNeill said. Also taking him some hardware were Andy Congdon (Wyantenuck CC) and Bob Kearney (Bretwood GC, NH), who split the Super Senior Division (65-over) title by shooting 1-over 73 in the lone round that counted. Congdon was also 4-under through 10 holes on Tuesday after making consecutive birdies on holes 16-18 and hole 1. FINAL LEADERBOARD Manchester Country Club; Par-72 1 – John McNeill, Amateur Golf Tour New England (MA); 68 T2 – Bob Murphy, Brownson CC (CT); 72 T2 – Bill Hermanson: Black Hall Club (CT); 72 T2 – Dave Jones, Mohegan Sun GC (CT); 72 T5 – Mark Dennish, Old Sandwich GC (MA); 73 T5 – Chuck Tryder, Bellevue CC (MA); 73 T5 – Mark Vassalotti, Barnstable Golf (MA); 73 T5 – Andy Congdon, Wyantenuck CC (MA); 73* T5 – Bob Kearney, Bretwood GC (NH); 73* *Co-champions of the Super Senior Division (65-up)
John McNeill leads by 4 strokes at the New England Senior Amateur. (David Colt, file)
MANCHESTER, Vermont – For the second time in four years, the Green Mountain State is playing host to 120 of the best senior amateur golfers representing the six New England state. John McNeill, of Stow, Massachusetts, stands above the rest after Tuesday's Round 1 as he shot a 4-under-par 68 with matching 34s on each nine. McNeill, a longtime member of the Amateur Golf Tour of New England, has a pair has two top 10 finishes in this event, including placing T4 in 2018, which ironically took place at Vermont's Burlington Country club. Connecticut's Bob Murphy (Brownson CC); Bill Hermanson, (Black Hall Club); and Dave Jones (Mohegan Sun GC) all sit four strokes back at even-par 72. In total, 63 players made the cut at 7-over or better and will advance to Wednesday's final round, which begins at 8 a.m. Players, represented in all six states, will play in pairs, with McNeill teeing off in the final group at 9:45 a.m. ONLINE: ROUND 1 SCORES | ROUND 2 STARTING TIMES WHAT HAPPENED After making par on his first seven holes, John McNeill closed out the front nine with birdies on the 8th (par-3, 187-yards), and 9th (par-4, 405-yards) to find himself in a tie for the lead at 2-under at the turn. However, he distanced himself from the field with another birdie on the well-guarded green on the 14th (par-4, 387-yards) and closed out his round with a birdie on the 18th (par-4, 407-yards), a dogleg right. McNeill, 60, who has previously qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur, is looking for his first championship victory on the New England stage. He'll have to hold off a cohort that includes Connecticut's Bob Murphy, Bill Hermanson, and Dave Jones, all of whom shot even-par 72 to finish Round 1 tied for second place. Andy Congdon (Wyantenuck CC) is among five players who shot 1-over 73. Through 12 holes, Congdon sat at 4-under, as he shot a 33 on the back nine that included birdies on holes 10 and 11, followed by four consecutive birdies on holes 16, 17, and 18 and 1. However, a pair of double-bogeys on the front nine led to a 40. Congdon won the 2011 Massachusetts Senior Player of the Year Award and finished T7 with McNeill in the 2017 New England Senior Amateur. Mark Vassalotti (Barnstable Golf), Chuck Tryder (Bellevue CC); and Mark Dennish (Old Sandwich GC) also sit a T5, alongside New Hampshire's Bob Kearney. Jack Kearney (Westover GC), the 2018 champion sits at 2-over, while defending champion Frank Vana, Jr. is 3-over. Both Bob Kearney, 65, and Congdon, 67, share the lead in the Super Senior Division (age 65-over). LEADERBOARD AFTER ROUND Manchester Country Club; Par-72 1 – John McNeill, Amateur Golf Tour New England (MA); 68 T2 – Bob Murphy, Brownson CC (CT); 72 T2 – Bill Hermanson: Black Hall Club (CT); 72 T2 – Dave Jones, Mohegan Sun GC (CT); 72 T5 – Mark Dennish, Old Sandwich GC (MA); 73 T5 – Chuck Tryder, Bellevue CC (MA); 73 T5 – Mark Vassalotti, Barnstable Golf (MA); 73 T5 – Andy Congdon, Wyantenuck CC (MA); 73 T5 – Bob Kearney, Bretwood GC (NH); 73 ABOUT THE NEW ENGLAND SENIOR AMATEUR The New England Senior Amateur Championship dates back to the late 1990s when Metacomet Country Club in East Providence, Rhode Island played host. Ed Fletcher won the inaugural title, taking home the Mass Senior Amateur title just two weeks later. After nine years of the Championship, Mark Plummer became the first player to win the New England Amateur and New England Senior Amateur in a career, when the two-time Amateur Champion (1979, 1994) took home the 10th New England Senior Amateur in 2007. Plummer, a legend of golf in Maine and New England, was a semifinalist in the 1995 U.S. Amateur before bowing out to eventual champion, Tiger Woods.