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Garrett Rank of Canada won the Joseph Sprague Award for being the low Mid-Am.  He finished at 2 over for the tournament.

By Dalton Balthaser

RUMFORD, R.I. – Four times this spring, Dylan Menante finished second.

Three of those four times, he walked one of the loneliest walks in golf, the one back to the clubhouse after a playoff loss.

He could have chosen to be discouraged by those events and say it would never happen for him.

But he didn’t.

He kept grinding and persevered through one of the toughest experiences of his life. Saturday at Wannamoisett Country Club, he reaped the reward.

Menante, guided by his father Dean and an impeccable short game, claimed the 59th Northeast Amateur Invitational at Wannamoisett (par 69, 6,760 yards).

“This win has been a long time in the making,” said Menante, 20, of Carlsbad, Calif. “I have had four second-place finishes this year and lost in a playoff three times. I was happy I didn’t have to go into a playoff. This tournament is Top 5 in the world of amateur golf. I am so honored to win.”

His four-day total of 9 under was good enough for a two-shot victory over Jerry Ji, a rising junior at the University of Illinois, who finished at 7 under after a final round of 64.

“I knew I had to make birdies to try and catch Dylan,” said Ji, 21, of the Netherlands. “I am pleased with giving it everything I had this week. I just came up a few short.”

Menante carded a bogey-free final round of 67. He made 10 consecutive pars to start his round.

“I didn’t have my best game on the front,” said Menante, a rising junior at Pepperdine University. “But my short game helped keep my round together. I was surprised with how patient I stayed out there.”

That patience paid off with two consecutive birdies on Nos. 11 (par 4, 402 yards) and 12 (par 3, 215 yards).

It was a 58-degree wedge from 96 yards to 12 feet on No. 11 and a 5-iron to 15 feet on No. 12.

When Menante stood on the tee on No. 13 (par 4, 374 yards), he had a four-shot lead after Ji gave two shots back. But when he stood on the tee on No. 16 (par 4, 447 yards) his lead was just two after Ji birdied two of his last three.

“After the tee shot on No. 16, I was nervous because I thought I found the creek,” said Menante, the 2021 West Coast Conference Player of the Year. “I punched it into the greenside bunker 40 yards short of the green. I hit a great shot to 15 feet. It was nervy considering there is out-of-bounds long.”

His short game saved him. He rolled in the 15-footer and was two ahead with two to play.

After an easy par on No. 17 (par 5, 519 yards), Menante’s father told him where he stood on the last.

A beautiful drive and approach left him a 40-footer up the hill to the back hole location on its own little shelf.

Nervous, Menante lagged it to two feet. He had two putts from there to win but wanted to keep the bogey-free round alive. He drained it and all the scars from past failures healed.

“I didn’t have a name last year,” said Menante, who made the PING All-West Region team in 2021. “But winning the National Championship and winning the Northeast Amateur has proven to everyone that I belong here.”

Menante is the latest representative of Pepperdine to win the Northeast Amateur. The last player to win from Pepperdine was Fred Wedel in 2016.

His name and jacket photo will be displayed in the Wannamoisett clubhouse forever. He’ll be placed among the likes of past champions; Ben Crenshaw, David Duval, Dustin Johnson, Collin Morikawa and renowned amateur R. Jay Sigel.

If those walls could talk.

“It is super important to be part of the legacy of this event and this club,” said Menante. “The legacy shows that you have a path to the PGA TOUR and a path to success. It gives me a lot of confidence knowing I belong. I am excited for what the future holds.”

Incoming Duke University freshman Kelly Chinn sits one shot back after a 66.

59th Northeast Amateur – Round 3 Recap

By Dalton Balthaser

RUMFORD, R.I. – When Dylan Menante started his third round, he was two shots behind.

After he made a 10-footer for birdie on No. 3 (par 3, 101 yards) he had sole possession of the lead.

While all sorts of charges were being made around the golf course, Menante stayed calm.

Aided by a steady driver and a hot putter, Menante holds on to a one-shot lead after the third round of the 59th Northeast Amateur Invitational Friday at Wannamoisett Country Club (Par 69, 6,631 yards).

Menante sits at 7 under after carding a 66 in the third round.

Day Two leader Bryce Lewis, of the University of Tennessee, faded from contention with a round of 73.

Right behind Menante are recent Georgia Tech graduate Noah Norton of Chico, Calif. and incoming Duke University freshman Kelly Chinn of Great Falls, Va. They both sit at 6 under after three rounds.

Norton fired a bogey-free 65 and Chinn carded a 66.

“I am feeling good about where I am at this stage of the tournament,” said Menante, 20, of Carlsbad, Calif. “I finally hit my driver well today. My whole game is firing on all cylinders.”

Menante birdied Nos. 1 (par 4, 421 yards) and 3 to kickstart his charge to the top. Once he rolled in a 20-footer on the opener, he said all his nerves melted away.

“I am not a big leaderboard watcher,” said Menante. “I knew I was moving up the leaderboard after birdieing two of the first three holes and seeing Bryce struggle. I like to stay in my own lane. I’ll take a couple of glances but try to focus on what I can control, which is my game.”

He made the turn in 3 under and gave one back with a three-putt bogey on No. 11 (par 4, 387 yards).

But he bounced back. He hit a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards to 12 feet on No. 13 (par 4, 390 yards). Pars on the way in kept him one ahead. Now he’s the one with the target on his back.

Menante has plenty of experiences he can draw upon when he steps on the tee at 11:47 a.m. Saturday for the final round. He and his Pepperdine University teammates just claimed the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship, the second in school history.

“I love everything about Pepperdine and the experiences I have had there,” said Menante, a rising junior. “My teammates mean everything to me. They are the people to lean on when you are struggling, and they are the ones who will push you to be the best version of yourself.”

Menante has made a total of 14 birdies through three rounds. That is second-best out of the entire field. Only Chinn has more with 15.

“Being only one shot ahead isn’t comfortable,” said Menante. “Everyone behind you wants to catch you and the only way they can do that if you are playing well is by making birdies. I am going to need to keep making birdies to win.”

Georgia Tech’s Norton played as clean of a round of golf as you can around Wannamoisett. Four birdies, no bogeys. No stress whatsoever.

“I knew I was playing well and Wannamoisett is one of my favorite courses we play,” said Norton, 22. “Having good memories here helps me focus on my game. The course has stood the test of time and its layout is timeless. You have to earn your score out here.”

Norton sawed off an 8-iron from 143 yards to 14 feet on No. 18 (par 4, 459 yards). A try he converted.

“I wanted to make that birdie putt on the last so bad,” said Norton. “I didn’t want to shoot 66, I wanted 65. That putt was a nice one to have.”

Chinn started the day three shots back of Lewis, but after he made the turn, he was tied for the lead with Menante.

He had a 30-footer on the last for birdie and left it 10-feet short. A miss would surely kill all his momentum.

“I wanted to get as close to Dylan as I could,” said Chinn, 18. “Birdieing two of the last three holes was huge for me. But it wasn’t as important as making that 10-footer for par on the last to keep my momentum.”

Chinn had an accomplished junior career that included being the Rolex Player of the Year for the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) in 2020. Others who won the award include Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods.

“Knowing that I have been in this position a number of times in the past will help me,” said Chinn. “When I get prepared for the final round on Saturday, I’ll look back to those experiences to make sure to give it everything I have.”

Notes

  • Notre Dame rising senior Andrew O’Leary made an ace on the eighth at Wannamoisett. He holed a 6-iron from 202 yards for his second career ace. There has been a hole-in-one made during each tournament round. Maxwell Moldovan aced No. 3 on Day One and Jerry Ji aced No. 8 on Day Two.
  • The host club’s own Davis Chatfield, of Notre Dame, sits in a tie for fourth after a third round of 65. He’s the low local.

Dylan Menante, fresh off a National Championship at Pepperdine, sits in solo second place at 4 under.

59th Northeast Amateur – Round 2 Recap

By Dalton Balthaser

RUMFORD, R.I. – Bryce Lewis was firing on all cylinders when he shot an opening round of 63 to grab the first-round lead in the 59th Northeast Amateur Invitational.

Thursday’s second round was far from perfect.

“I could have shot 2 over or 2 under today,” said Lewis, 21, of Hendersonville, Tenn. “I just need to keep my head up and stay patient.”

Lewis’ driver kept him in it, leading him to a round of even par at Wannamoisett Country Club (par 69, 6,728 yards).

“Today was a grind,” said Lewis, a rising senior at the University of Tennessee. “I struck the ball as well as I did yesterday. The hole locations were in some tricky places. I had plenty of good chances, I just didn’t make them.”

Lewis holds a two-shot lead over Pepperdine University rising junior Dylan Menante who sits at 4 under after a second round of 66.

The host club’s Davis Chatfield, a rising senior at the University of Notre Dame, is the low local in a tie for eighth at 1 under.

Lewis got off to another hot start. Starting on the back nine he birdied Nos. 12 (par 3, 212 yards) and 14 (par 4, 365 yards). He hit a 4-iron on a rope to eight feet on No. 12 and canned a 20-foot slider on No. 14.

But the remaining 13 holes were a challenge. Not because he was struggling off the tee, but because he couldn’t get any putts to fall.

Potential disaster awaited him on his final hole of the day, No. 9 (par 4, 453 yards). After hitting his drive behind a tree in the right rough, he pitched out into the first fairway. His wedge shot missed the green and he hit a poor chip, leaving a 15-footer with horseshoe break for bogey. He canned it.

“Rolling in that 15-foot slider was icing on the cake,” said Lewis, who recently made the PING All-Region team in the Southeast. “I was prepared to take my round of 1 over and move on. That was a nice putt to see fall. Mentally, I feel strong. I am playing smart golf on a hard golf course, and it has worked out so far. When you don’t have your best, you must play conservatively.

“It is hard to follow up a great round with another one. It is especially hard to do when the course plays much harder as it did today. I am in a great position after the first two rounds. I am not trying to win the tournament, it’ll come naturally if I stick to my game plan and continue to manage my ball.”

Menante’s game has been put to the test recently. He and his teammates at Pepperdine just captured the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship. The second in school history.

“Winning the National Championship this year was unbelievable,” said Menante, 20, who made the PING All-Region team in the West. “I wasn’t expecting it because we were all nervous. Our coaches built up our team for that moment. It’s a feeling I can’t describe.”

Playing in his first #NortheastAm, Menante has warmed to Wannamoisett quite quickly. He’s caught fire on the greens similar to the course he plays at back home in Carlsbad, Calif.

“I love it here at Wannamoisett,” said Menante. “This course tests each part of your game. I love the layout so much.”

Menante carded a total of six birdies on his card. None more important than the back-to-back variety on Nos. 13 (par 4, 352 yards) and 14.

Coming off a momentum-killing bogey on No. 11 (par 4, 405 yards), Menante hit a 58-degree wedge from 80 yards to 20 feet on No. 13 and rolled in a 25-footer on No. 14. Those birdies he said help him reset.

“I need to keep calm and be patient,” said Menante. “I am doing something right, so I am not going to change a thing. If I continue to make putts, I feel good about my game.”

Notes

  • Illinois rising junior Jerry Ji made an ace on the eighth at Wannamoisett. He holed a 5-iron from 186 yards for his second career ace.

Day One leader Bryce Lewis of the University of Tennessee reads a putt on No. 14.

59th Northeast Amateur – Round 1 Recap

By Dalton Balthaser

RUMFORD, R.I. – Bryce Lewis pulled into the parking lot at Wannamoisett Country Club for his first Northeast Amateur unsure of what to expect.

Fresh off a missed cut at the Sunnehanna Amateur in Johnstown, Pa. last week, Lewis could’ve let that get to him, but he didn’t.

Lewis, a rising senior at the University of Tennessee, used his calm demeanor and stellar ball striking to seize the Day One lead at the 59th #NortheastAm Wednesday at Wannamoisett (par 69, 6,728 yards).

Lewis sits three clear of the next closest competitor who happens to be a former teammate at Tennessee, Brayden Garrison. Garrison carded the lowest score in the morning wave with a 66.

“I did a good job of keeping the ball in the short grass out there,” said Lewis, 22, of Hendersonville, Tenn. “I made a few early bogeys, but I kept my head down and grinded.”

Lewis made the turn in 1 under. He mixed three birdies with two bogeys to total 33 on the front nine.

But the back nine was where he caught fire.

He fired a back-nine 30 (5 under) to solidify his spot at the top of the leaderboard.

The red figures started on No. 11 (par 4, 405 yards) after he hit a 54-degree wedge from 113 yards that checked up three feet from the flag.

He added a second on No. 13 (par 4, 352 yards). A smooth 60-degree wedge from 82 yards to 12 feet got him to 3 under.

But then he hit his drive into the water on No. 14 (par 4, 365 yards).

“I struggled to figure out the wind,” said Lewis. “During the practice rounds, the wind was behind us and today it swirled. I came up just short of covering the water.”

Lewis kept his composure and recovered. He made a splendid par after hitting his third shot to five feet from 142 yards. Momentum saver.

He then birdied Nos. 15 (par 3, 197 yards), 16 (par 4, 438 yards) and 17 (par 5, 571 yards) to get to 6 under. His ball striking prowess was on display once again. He didn’t have to make a putt longer than 15 feet for birdie on those holes. And on the entire back nine for that matter.

“I put myself in a great position today,” said Lewis. “When I teed off today, I wasn’t expecting to shoot 6 under. The missed cut last week at the Sunnehanna doesn’t bother me because the guys on the PGA TOUR miss cuts all the time. I am trying to keep doing what I did today, and I’ll see where I stack up come Saturday.”

Ironically enough, all three University of Tennessee representatives are inside the Top 5 after the first round. You already know about Lewis and Garrison. Hunter Wolcott is the third. He sits in a tie for fifth after an opening round of 68.

“We drove from Tennessee up to the Sunnehanna Amateur and to Wannamoisett from there,” said Lewis. “We are as close of a group as you will find. It’s fun being around them. Back home we play a lot of courses of similar style to Wannamoisett so it is not a surprise that Brayden and Hunter played well.”

Garrison didn’t get off to the best of starts either. Starting on the back nine, he was 1 over through 13.

He lost one of his contact lenses on the third tee. He proceeded to play No. 4 (par 4, 434 yards with basically one eye until his caddie Collin Tenreiro gave him one of his contacts on No. 5 (par 4, 369 yards).

“I could see better but still not great,” said Garrison after receiving the emergency contact.

After that save by his caddie, he birdied Nos. 5, 6 (par 4, 446 yards), 7 (par 4, 328 yards) and 8 (par 3, 186 yards) to get to 3 under.

Garrison, who just graduated from the University of Tennessee, admitted that he hasn’t been playing close to his potential recently. But he feels this might be the time to turn it around.

“I know it is only a matter of time before I get over the hump,” said Garrison, 22, of Nolensville, Tenn. “I haven’t done too much throughout my career, I feel like that this will be the week to get me jumpstarted before I turn professional this fall.”

Notes

  • Ohio State rising sophomore Maxwell Moldovan made an ace on the famous third at Wannamoisett. He holed a 9-iron from 138 yards for his sixth career ace.

Stewart Hagestad won the Joseph Sprague Award for low Mid-Am for the third consecutive year.

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