By: Dalton Balthaser CRANSTON, R.I. – Jared Nelson has had quite the summer and it’s not even the end of July.
He won the Vermont Amateur at Brattleboro Country Club just two weeks ago and he also won the prestigious Hornblower Invitational at Plymouth Country Club in Massachusetts in June.
Nelson, aided by a timely trio of birdies on Tuesday, currently sits in a share of the lead after Round Two of the 93rd New England Amateur Championship at Alpine Country Club (par 72, 6,808 yards).
His consecutive 69s leave him in a share of the lead with Jackson Roman who also carded 69 in both rounds.
A total of 53 players made the cut at 4-over.
ONLINE: LEADERBOARD | EVENT HOMEPAGE | PAST CHAMPIONS “I was hoping for a little less wind,” said Nelson with a smile. “But this morning the wind was up quite a bit. Our whole group was kind of stagnant. But I was able to find it with three consecutive birdies on the last couple holes of my second nine.”
Starting on the back nine, Nelson carded two birdies and two bogeys to go out in even par. But then made birdies on Nos. 6 (par 3, 225 yards), 7 (par 4, 400 yards) and 8 (par 5, 555 yards). He chipped in on No. 6 for birdie, stuffed a pitching wedge from 130 yards to eight feet on No. 7 and he rolled in a 7-footer on No. 8 to get to 6-under for the tournament.
“I think the golf course is pretty much right in front of you,” said Nelson, 22, of Rutland, Vermont. “What you see is what you get. You must keep the ball below the hole. Right now, hitting out of the rough isn’t much of a penalty on your approach because the greens were softened by the rain. If they get firm again, finding fairways will be important.”
Uncharacteristically, Nelson has been struggling off the tee. But he has been able to get away with it thus far.
“I had a driver head that I loved but I cracked it last weekend,” said Nelson. “I got a new driver head, but I just haven’t been comfortable with it. I need to trust it and hopefully I can find it. If not, I will just hit 3-wood off the tee.”
There have been three players from Vermont who have claimed the New England Amateur. The last? Evan Russell back in 2013 at Green Mountain National Golf Club in Vermont.
“I’ll have a target score to where I want to get to,” said Nelson, a rising fifth-year senior at the University of Connecticut. “I will probably look at the leaderboard at the turn and see where I stack up. It’s just another round of golf. I am sure there will be some nerves, but I have some experiences to draw from to help me.”
Roman is a rising sophomore at Loyola University Maryland.
He got off to a hot start and was 3-under through 10. He added birdies on Nos. 14 (par 4, 395 yards) and 15 (par 3, 171 yards).
“I woke up this morning and told myself to keep doing what I have been doing,” said Roman. “I don’t try to get too stressed on a given round. I knew I had a good chance today to play well. I am pleased with how I have played so far.”
On No. 14, he stuffed a lob wedge from 90 yards to three inches and hit an 8-iron on No. 15 to eight feet. A couple of bogeys coming in washed away all the momentum he built, but Roman wasn’t upset by it. He said that if you are out of position at Alpine you can make bogeys.
If Roman would secure victory, he would give Connecticut back-to-back titles. Cody Paladino won last year at Great River Golf Club in Connecticut. “A year or so ago, I had a streak where I won three consecutive tournaments,” said Roman, 18, of Berlin, Conn. “One of my coaches told me to always just focus on hitting the fairway and then hitting the green. By making it as simple as possible, it allows me to put more pressure on my opponents. I am looking forward to having the opportunity to play for a title again.”
Jared Nelson is trying to become the first Vermont native in nearly a decade to win the New England Amateur. (Dalton Balthaser)
Jackson Roman is looking be the second consecutive Connecticut player to win the New England Amateur. (Dalton Balthaser)