Dawson Jones of Eagle Oaks opened the 118th New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur Championship presented by Provident Bank in grand fashion, firing a course-record eight-under-par 64 on Tuesday at the par-72, 6882 yard Neshanic Valley Golf Course in Neshanic Station.

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Jones, 21, is not a stranger to the New Jersey State Golf Association record books.

Two years ago, in winning the NJSGA Amateur Championship at Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield, Jones shot a record low of 14-under-par 274 over 72 holes. His final round of seven-under-par 65 was one off the record of eight-under-par 64 set by Dan O’Rourke the previous day.

On Tuesday, Jones, a recent graduate of the University of Rhode Island, carved another niche in the record book with his record-tying eight-under-par 64. His effort not only tied him with O’Rourke, but also broke  the course record of 66 previously held by Kevin Foley of Neshanic Valley, a Somerville native and former PGA Tour player, who did it on the course’s opening day in September, 2004. Foley also won the 2011 NJSGA Open Championship at Hollywood.

Jones birdied six of his final nine holes to attain the eye-popping 64. The round included four consecutive birdies on Holes 10 through 13 where the birdie putts he sank were all under seven feet.

His 64 gave him a three-shot cushion over 2018 runner-up Jack Wall of Manasquan River and Troy Vannucci of Little Mill, who tied for low amateur at last year’s NJSGA Open Championship. Tied for fourth place at four-under-par 68 are Brandon Dalinka of Ridge at Back Brook, recent winner of the NJSGA Mid-Amateur; Jason Bataille of Neshanic Valley, Vince Kwon of NJSGA E-Club and Brett Inserra of Darlington.

“My game feels similar to the way it was when I won at Tavistock,” said Jones, who won the Metropolitan Golf Association's Ike (Stroke-Play) Championship just two weeks ago at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit. He qualified for the U.S. Amateur Championship on Monday at Manasquan River Golf Club in Brielle.

“If the conditions are similar to this the rest of the way, this tournament could be a dogfight,” he said.

The prevailing winds that add to Neshanic Valley's difficulty were generally absent on Tuesday. Recent rains also allowed for some soft landing spots on the greens.

“If you hit it into the wind, the shot would hold well. If you were downwind, sometimes you had to roll it into the greens. Hitting it out of the rough, it was tough to hold shots,” said Jones, who last year tied for fourth place at the NJSGA Amateur Championship at Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield.

At Rhode Island this spring, Jones had top-10 finishes in eight of URI's 10 tournaments and was the individual medalist at the Rhode Island Invitational. He finished under par in half (5-of-10) of the team's tournaments and carded nine sub-70 rounds during his senior campaign.

“I’m not hitting it much further than I was two years ago, but I’ve been working on my putting. I’m much better around the greens now,” he said.

A year ago, Wall was runner-up in the Amateur to Dylan Stein of Stanton Ridge in a four-hole playoff. Stein has since turned professional.

“I hated losing in a playoff and it feels like a little revenge coming out here and doing this. I hit a lot of good tee shots and coming in I found something with the putter. I had four or five one putts in a row which is pretty good,” said the University of South Carolina-bound Wall, who recorded birdies on Holes 14 through 17. This spring, Wall, playing for Christian Brothers Academy, won his second New Jersey High School championship and claimed the NJSGA Junior Championship two years ago. 

“There are holes out there you can take advantage of and others where you have to take your par and move on,” Wall said.

Vannucci this spring teamed with Kwon in the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship at Bandon Dunes in Oregon and the pair reached the semifinals.

“I hit a lot of fairways and greens and only chipped once today,” said Vannucci, 27. “There’s a lot of golf to be played. Tomorrow, I want to keep hitting the fairways and the greens, and don’t want to overthink things.  I’d like to keep it on cruise control.”

After the conclusion Wednesday’s second round, the field will be cut to the low 40 scorers. The low 40 advance to the final day of 36-holes on Thursday, July 11. The champion will be the player with the lowest 72-hole aggregate score and will be awarded the Edwin M. Wild Championship Trophy.

Scoring updates will continue throughout the remainder of the championship at NJSGA.org, with social media coverage as well.

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