Roland Massimino of The Ridge at Back Brook and Mike Graboyes of Watchung Valley Golf Club each shot one-over-par 72 for a two-round total of even-par 142 to share the mid-way lead at the New Jersey State Golf Association’s 117th Amateur Championship on Wednesday at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield.
Massimino and Graboyes stand atop a crowded field that includes five players – defending champion Dawson Jones of Eagle Oaks Golf Club among them – just one shot off the pace.
The low 40 and ties return for tomorrow’s 36-hole final day.
With Jones at one-over-par 143 are Dylan Stein of Stanton Ridge Golf and Country Club, Jeremy Wall of Manasquan River Golf Club, Michael Brown of Darlington Golf Course and Troy Vannucci of Little Mill Country Club.
Massimino, the grandson of legendary Villanova University basketball coach Rollie Massimino, lives in Lumberville, Pa., but is eligible for the event as a member of a New Jersey private club. He is a rising senior on the golf team at Kansas State University.
After a birdie on the par-5 No. 12 put him at three-under-par for the day, Massimino collected bogeys at holes 14, 15 and 17. “I struggled coming in. I didn’t hit it close enough on these greens. The winds were tough. It was a shame the way I finished. I missed in some bad spots coming in. But a couple of good rounds tomorrow will put me right in it,” he said.
Massimino, 21, grew up close to New Jersey’s western border and attended New Hope-Solebury High School in New Hope. He played basketball through his sophomore year. He won the Golf Association of Philadelphia Junior Boys’ Championship in 2013 at his home course.
“I’ve been close in a lot of tournaments. It’s funny. My dad called me yesterday and said, ‘You haven’t won anything in a long time. What are you doing?’ said Massimino, who sports a New Jersey pedigree. His renowned grandfather grew up in nearby Hillside, N.J.
“I’ve played in a lot of big tournaments in college and I wanted to play golf at a Power Five conference,” explained Massimino. “It will be exciting tomorrow. I’ll just play free tomorrow and see what happens.”
Graboyes, 21, is one of the hottest golfers in the area. He won the Ike MGA Stroke-Play Championship on June 26 and plans to become a professional following the Metropolitan Open in late August.
The graduate of Cornell University last year won the Ivy League championship. He tied for fourth place at the 2017 NJSGA Amateur at Metedeconk National Golf Club, seven shots behind Jones.
On Wednesday, Graboyes was one-over par on his final nine holes, carding a bogey on the treacherous par-3 No. 17.
“The way they have the pins set up for the tournament, it is definitely fair. Par is a good score,” Graboyes said. “I’ve been doing a good job of not short-siding myself, and putting my approaches in the right places.
Defending champ Jones, 20, is a rising senior at the University of Rhode Island. He came from seven strokes behind in the last round to win the 2017 championship. Yesterday, his double bogey at No. 17, capped off by three putts, kept him out of the lead.
“I played very well today, better than yesterday. I’m happy, excited about tomorrow. If I keep playing like this, the birdies will fall.”
While in short supply for most contestants so far, birdies could well tell the tale over Wednesday’s grueling final 36 holes.