Five Share Lead At NJSGA 117th Amateur Championship At Echo Lake C.C.
Five golfers shared the lead after the first round of the 72-hole New Jersey State Golf Association 117th Amateur Championship, presented by Provident Bank, at the par-71, 7,030-yard Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield.
Mike Graboyes of Watchung Valley Golf Club and Thomas La Morte of Haworth Country Club (both recent college graduates), rising high school senior Brendan Hansen of Spring Lake Golf Club, rising college senior Roland Massimino of The Ridge at Back Brook, and 26-year-old Troy Vannucci of Little Mill all shot one-under-par 70 to share first place.
The field of 90 golfers returns for 18 holes tomorrow, after which the field will be cut to the low 40 and ties for Thursday’s 36-hole final.
Included in the large group of golfers who were one shot back at even-par 71 was defending champion Dawson Jones of Eagle Oaks Golf Club.
Graboyes got to the top of the leaderboard by making a pair of 10-foot birdie putts on the final two holes. “Today was one of those days where I deserved what I shot. My driver got me into a little bit of trouble. The rough is deep here. And if you are in the rough, getting birdie opportunities is difficult.”
Graboyes, 21, said he plans to turn professional following the Metropolitan Open in late August. On June 26, Graboyes closed with back-to-back birdies to cement a two-stroke victory in the 63rd MGA Ike Stroke Play Championship.
A recent graduate of Cornell University, Graboyes won the Ivy League title in 2017. Last summer, he finished T-6 at the NJSGA Open at Metedeconk National Golf Club in Jackson, five strokes behind his brother, Luke, the champion.
“It was great to start my summer off with a victory. I’ve had time to practice and the results of my hard work are paying off. I’m trying my best all the time. I’ve matured. At one under par with 54 holes left, I’m in good shape as long as I’m playing my game.
“The course rewards driving. Getting close to the pins is important. The pin locations were difficult. I just try to hit the best shot possible on every shot,” said Graboyes.
Hansen and La Morte played as a twosome.
"I don't think I could not have hit the ball any better. I hit 17 greens, but I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn on the greens," said La Morte, 22, a recent graduate of Campbell University in North Carolina and 2016 NJSGA Amateur Champion. "The course is scoreable if you're in the fairway.
"The course gives you a lot to think about. There's an old saying out there: 'You can lose the tournament on the first day, but you can't win it.' I just want to continue to shoot well.
"I was under par today, so we'll see how we do tomorrow and move on from there,” La Morte stated.
Hansen, 18, was leading the 2017 NJSGA Open heading into the final round at Metedeconk National and finished third, two shots out of the lead.
Recently, he shot 73 in qualifying for the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship at the Union League National Golf Club in Swainton, N.J., receiving first alternate status for the event, which takes place at the Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield next week.
Hansen, who shot 4-under on the back nine, birdied two of the final three holes to get to 1-under-par for his round. He drained a 12-foot putt for the birdie on the par-4 18th hole.
His round included seven birdies, two double bogeys and two bogeys. His first double came on the par-4 fifth hole, when he flew the green, pitched up and three putted from 30 feet. The other double occurred on the par-4 eighth hole, featuring a three-putt from 35 feet.
"The 12-footer on 18 was the longest putt I made. I felt like we didn't make anything all day. I hit it really well and made a bunch of four and five-footers," said Hansen, a rising senior at Christian Brothers Academy in Lincroft and winner of the 2017 NJSGA Tournament of Club Champions.
"If I don't make dumb mistakes the rest of the tournament, I should finish well. The course sets up well for me,” Hansen said.
Massimino, the grandson of the Villanova University basketball coach of the same name, birdied the first three holes, but carded bogeys on holes No. 4 and No. 16, “both on flyers out of the rough. I like this course a lot, but you have to be careful on your carries to the green. The greens are undulating. I drove it will today,” said Massimino, a member of the golf team at Kansas State University who lives in Lumberville, Pa.
Vannucci last year won both the Suburban Cup at Suburban Golf Club and the one-day DeBaufre Players Trophy at the Philadelphia Country Club.
“I’ve been playing solid golf. My strength is hitting my driver straight. I love Donald Ross courses like this where placement is key. Both of my bogeys were on three putts,” Vannucci said.
With 15 golfers within three shots of the lead, placement will be key over the next 54 holes.