39th New Jersey Mid-Amateur Championship Set for June 8-10 at Somerset Hills Country Club
BERNARDSVILLE, N.J. – Somerset Hills Country Club will welcome the 39th New Jersey Mid-Amateur Championship from June 8-10. The best male amateur golfers 25 and older will be tested at one of the best courses in the Garden State.
In the past, Somerset Hills has graciously hosted 21 NJSGA Championships. Most recently, the NJSGA recently hosted the 2021 Compher Cup at Somerset Hills and its most recent major was the 2017 Women’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur Championship.
Eric LeFante, winner of the 38th edition of the major championship seeks a repeat, this time, at his home course. LeFante is no stranger to Somerset Hills.
“I'm there quite often,” said LeFante. “I don't always play 18, but I try to get there a good amount, play a few holes almost every day."
LeFante took down Troy Vannucci in last year’s championship finale, which was held at Metedeconk National Golf Club. Vannucci is coming off a victory at the Golf Association of Philadephia’s (GAP) Mid-Amateur Championship.
Somerset Hills is well represented as three other competitors in the field will also have a home course advantage. Along with LeFante, Conor Casey, Jaime Vieser and Zach Brown are quite familiar with the Bernardsville layout.
As for defending his title, LeFante is not intending on putting too much pressure on himself.
“I certainly hadn't done well in the Mid-Am before,” LeFante reflected. “I’ve played well, I'd won a tournament before that, but now going in already winning, I’m trying to not put too much expectations on myself.”
A slew of former New Jersey Mid-Amateur champions pack the field, including Michael Brown (2020), Brandon Dalinka (2019), Trevor Randolph (2018, ‘16, ‘14, ‘13), Peter Barron (2017), Michael Hyland (2015) and Brian Komline (2012).
The A.W. Tillinghast design is rated one of the top 100 courses in the world. This year, GOLF ranked Somerset Hills at No. 43 and will surely be a treat for competitors that are 25 and older. From start to finish, Somerset Hills features fun, yet difficult holes that is highlighted by unique green contouring.
Somerset Hills was formed in 1899 for social and recreational purposes. The club was originally situated along the Raritan River, partly in Bernards and partly in Bedminster Township, but in 1918, it changed locations and was built at its current site.
The par 71 features plenty of challenges and uncommon architecture. From the beginning, Somerset Hills will present a considerable test of golf. “Our first two holes tend to play extremely difficult. No. 1, Orchard, is a long par-4 and a tough driving hole,” said Daniel Joseph, Somerset Hills head golf professional. “You must fit a tee shot between the apple orchard and depending on how much you want to take off, the big hitters try to get aggressive and hit up and over the third green. There’s some risk/reward involved there.”
The second hole, dubbed Redan is a 205-yard par-3 that offers a beautiful, yet difficult terrain. “Depending on where the hole location is, you need to be extremely precise with your tee shot, said Joseph. “There’s not going to be a lot of room for error. From there, it’s a very severe green complex.”
“Most players, if they play those two holes at 1-over par, even the highly skilled Mid-Amateur players should be pretty happy,” said Joseph.
Following the challenging start, Somerset Hills offers solid birdie opportunities through the 6th hole. It’s not until the second half of the front nine that Somerset Hills delivers more challenges.
The par-4 7th checks in at just under 500 yards is the toughest rated hole at Somerset Hills. The following hole features a 230-yard par-3 before reaching the 9th hole, a lengthy par-5 that requires three shots into the green. Joseph believes the Mid-Am field should be satisfied with getting through that stretch of holes at even-par.
The back nine provides an entirely new slew of obstacles.
“When you get to No. 11, it’s arguably our most difficult hole,” explained Joseph. “It’s a sharp dog-leg up the hill that requires you to have a precise tee shot and features one of our most extreme green complexes. No. 12 is a short par-3 on the pond but another extreme green, where these players will be hitting lofted clubs into the hole and must control their spin. It’s very common to see players spin the ball off the green and into the water. Guys can make some big numbers there and take themselves out of the event.”
Although a demanding 18 holes, Somerset Hills can be favorable, if managed accordingly.
“You don’t have to be the straightest player off the tee, but you need to be a good iron player in order to put the ball in the right place on the greens depending on where the hole location is,” said Joseph. “We also need to see a really good putter that will be able to make a bunch of four, five and six-foot putts.”
Over the last 15 years, Somerset Hills has undergone several modifications to its course, which includes alterations to green complexes, fairway expansions, bunker work and adjustments to its teeing grounds.
As for the top-100 course, Somerset Hills sets itself apart from many clubs.
“I’d put the condition of Somerset Hills up against almost any place,” explained Joseph. “You’re getting a variety of short par-4s, long par-4s, an awesome set of par 3s and green complexes that you just don’t see almost anywhere. You walk off the course and every green complex is unique, and it comes with elements you haven’t seen before.”
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