Saturday, June 24, 2023
By Joe McDonald
RIGA Senior Writer
EAST PROVIDENCE – Nick Dunlap was scheduled to play in the Northeast Amateur Invitational in 2022, but he suffered an injury and was unable to attend.
Fast forward to 2023. He qualified for the U.S. Open and played last week in Los Angeles. Since the Northeast Amateur is always the week after the U.S. Open, he thought it was too far and would’ve been a quick turnaround to fly cross country to Wannamoisett. Dunlap told a few of his friends he was planning on skipping the Northeast Amateur. Fortunately, his friends talked him into playing.
As a result, Dunlap drained an incredible, 20-foot putt on the 18th hole Saturday to win the 61st Northeast Amateur Invitational in a classic, come-from-behind fashion.
“It feels great,” he said. “I had a couple of guys convince me and I heard the golf course is really good. This tournament was unbelievable. I’m glad I went and played. It’s a marvelous place. I love northeast golf. You’ve got to be creative and it’s a special venue.”
While standing over the 20-foot putt, Dunlap was thinking only one thing: “Make it,” he said. “I didn’t think [Caleb Surratt] was going to miss [par putt]. I got a window and was able to capitalize on it.”
Surratt entered the final round as the 54-hole leader and even led by four strokes Saturday. He made a few mistakes and Dunlap took advantage en route to victory.
Surratt explained he started spraying his drives late in the round and couldn’t recover. He attempted to drive No. 14 but he sliced it over the cart path and into the fescue to the right of the green. The entire gallery searched for the ball but was unable to recover it. He took the penalty, dropped, and finished with a bogey, making it a two-stroke swing, allowing Dunlap the opportunity to birdie and tie at 11-under.
He then took complete advantage.
“It was a good week. I felt like I had a lot of control all week, but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have control in the moment. My weaknesses were shown down the stretch and I’m going to get better from that and move on,” Surratt said. “He sure earned it with a birdie on 18. I gave it away in the middle. It felt like I started leaking oil and he started catching some momentum. Nick’s an amazing player who you can’t give shots to. He’s going to be very successful on the PGA Tour and he’s going to be around for a long time. I’m just going to try to stay in company with him.”
When Dunlap dropped his birdie putt for the win, his scream could be heard all around Rumford. He picked up his ball from the bottom of the cup, and fist-bumped his young caddy, Liam Feeney. After receiving the Northeast Amateur Invitational trophy, Dunlap first thanked his parents who unfortunately were not able to attend. It didn’t take him long to call them with the news of his win.
“There’s no way I would be standing here without their help and support,” he said.
Dunlap began his charge Friday when he shot a 6-under 63 to finish T2 and earn a spot in the final pairing with Surratt.
“It felt really good,” he said of his Round 3 performance. “I felt close the first two days, but I hit some bad shots at the wrong time. I drove it really solid (Friday) and since it was moving day I thought the pins would be assessable, but they were in some tough spots. I had to be patient on those holes and I was able to execute.”
It’s been an emotional few weeks for Dunlap. He played in the U.S. Open, won the Northeast Amateur and now he’s traveling to Pinehurst, N.C. to compete in the North & South Amateur.
“Hectic,” he said. “I’ve got one more week on the road, but that’s all summer and I enjoy it traveling, meeting new people, going to new places, new golf courses. I’m enjoying it. Wannamoisett is an unreal venue. It’s my first time playing here and it’ll always be special to me,” he said. “I look forward to coming back next year.”
Photo Courtesy of Ben Adelberg/ Back of the Range
Friday, June 23, 2023
By Joe McDonald
RIGA Senior Writer
EAST PROVIDENCE – A photo of Richard Kirby went viral.
Back of the Range founder, Ben Adelberg, serves as the official media content provider for the Elite Amateur Golf Series and he snapped the timely photo of Kirby, who is caddying for Caleb Surratt at the 61st Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett. It shows Kirby, 63, walking down the fairway, smoking a cigar, wearing sunglasses and carrying Surratt’s bag. Golf’s social media world went crazy, and Kirby became an instant star among the young elite amateurs playing in Rumford.
Moments before his third round began, Surratt, who is the leader in the clubhouse at 12-under, was receiving text messages from friends about his caddy. In fact, this is the second year Kirby has worked with Surratt.
“He’s the man. Somehow, he really knows my game and he really knows what to say at the right time. I seem to be the only one around here who loves his guy,” Surratt said with a laugh. “I really like him. He’s a really good fit for me and I can definitely see him caddying for me down the road.”
The smell of cigar smoke followed Surratt the entire round.
“I like it because you can tell where the wind’s going at all times,” Surratt said.
Luke Clanton, who is T2 at 9-under, played with Surratt and enjoyed the interactions with Kirby. Clanton finally asked Kirby on the 16th green how many cigars did he go through. He answered: “No. 2 – one on each side.”
Immediately after the round, Kirby, who is a member at Wannamoisett, and a lawyer by trade, quickly relaxed with a steam in the men’s locker room. Later, he was nowhere to be found.
Clanton’s caddy is completely different than Kirby. Still, Clanton wouldn’t change anything about Connor Walsh. While Kirby was smoking cigars and attempting to keep pace with the youngsters, Walsh was drinking water and eating granola snacks. He’s caddied at Wannamoisett the last few years, including the Northeast Amateur, and said he learned a lot from Kirby. More importantly, after spending a few hours with Kirby the teenager realized you can have fun on the course no matter if you’re playing or carrying a bag.
“You can enjoy yourself in the game of golf,” Walsh said. “It’s a Friday night, (Clanton and I are) 19-years-old, so chill, we’re good. It’s been awesome.”
Clanton quickly realized Walsh knows this course and relied on him time and again this week. It seems as though they’ve been worked together for years.
“When I first met Connor, he was like one of the funniest guys I have ever met,” Clanton said. “I thought, ‘this is going to be awesome.’ He’s really good. He’s helped me out with a lot of things. Today he did a really good job of helping me out with course management. Coming down the stretch there’s a bunch of little wedge shots you’ve got to hit well and he was helping me out big time. He was pretty damn good, man. He is one of the smartest guys I have ever met with numbers.”
Walsh, who lives only a pitching wedge from Wannamoisett, has been caddying the Northeast Amateur for the last seven years.
“He’s one of the most genuine guys I have ever met,” Walsh said of Clanton. “It’s crazy because we’re both 19-years-old, so to get an insight into his life for a brief period of time has been awesome this week. He talks (every shot) through with me, which is awesome, and I feel like I’m a part in his head. Promise you it’s all him and not me. He’s a real smart kid and plays well. I’m learning so much from him and how he approaches the course. He’s real special, not only his game but how he thinks about golf and I have never, ever experienced that before. On and off the course he’s super nice to me for a kid I met three days ago. It’s really hard to find that with someone who has such talent.”
As far as the round, Surratt and Clanton were dialed in the entire day.
It didn’t take long for both to chirp one another before their round began. At the starter’s table, Clanton introduced himself to Surratt, who answered, “good to meet you.” They talked and joked the entire round and it continued after they were done for the day. In fact, they were hoping to play again in the final pairing Saturday, but Nick Dunlap shot a 6-under 63 and gets the honors.
Either way, Surratt and Clanton made the most of their experience Friday.
“He’s such a good player out there, so playing with him, seeing those shots gives me a little bit of a confidence boost as well,” Clanton said.
Their chirping continued during their post-round press availability when Surratt was asked about his eagle on the par-5 17th hole. While he was explaining why he decided to hit a hybrid 280 yards instead of a 3-wood to the back of the green, Clanton shook his head in disbelief and didn’t believe him.
“Hybrid?” Clanton asked. “A 280 hybrid? That’s pretty good. Great decision (switching clubs).”
It’s an annual tradition for the players to participate in a long drive contest Friday night. Even after an impressive round, both Surratt and Clanton grabbed their drivers and stepped up to the first tee. It was a good way to decompress before Saturday’s final round.
“It’s just another day of golf,” Surratt said. “We just wake up every single morning and play golf. There’s nothing really different about tomorrow. We’ve both won before, so there’s nothing different.”
Thursday, June 22, 2023
By Joe McDonald
RIGA Senior Writer
EAST PROVIDENCE – If steady and slow wins the race, Caleb Surratt has discovered consistency and persistence works wonders in the golf world, especially when it comes to navigating one of Donald Ross’ best designed courses.
After two rounds of the 61st Northeast Amateur Invitational, Surratt is the leader in the clubhouse after posting 65-66 – 131. He’s been one of the most consistent golfers this week, along with Luke Clanton, who carded 66-66 – 132 for sole possession of second place.
“It was a good day,” Surratt said. “I felt like I did a good job keeping my head down. I felt like I started thinking a lot about not having a bogey in 32 holes, and the second I started thinking about that I made my first bogey of the week. It kind of allowed me to play a little more free the last couple of holes. If I just keep putting my head down, I’ll finish strong this week.”
However, after that bogey on No. 6, Surratt made his presence felt when he drove the green on No. 7 and then dropped a birdie.
“I guess there was a little anger on that one,” he said with a smile. “It blew about 330 (yards) to went to about 25 feet on a drivable par-4, so that was a nice little stress reliever.”
It’s only his second year competing in the Northeast Amateur, but Surratt plays this course like a long-time member. Last June, he placed third in this event with an impressive four-day card of 68-65-68-67 – 268.
“I play well here. I played well here last year. I just feel really comfortable plotting my way around this golf course, and I’m fortunate to be starting to roll a little better and that’s what you need to do on this golf course . . . I’m excited to see what happens,” he said.
Players were studying the hole locations before Thursday’s round and they quickly realized it was going to be a challenging day.
“There were some tough pins and it got windy in the middle of the round, so it made the day a little harder,” Surratt said. “Out here you’ve got to have some tough pins and the player who comes out on top is the player who manages the ball the best. Regardless of what happens results-wise, I’m just excited about the challenge and come up here and learn about my game.”
Surratt, of Indian Trail, NC, won the inaugural Elite Amateur Cup last summer after competing in six events and finished with 75.5607 points. Top finishers in the series earn exemptions into USGA Championships, PGA Tour, and Korn Ferry Tour events. A player must compete in a minimum of three events to be eligible for exemptions. The Elite Amateur Golf Series has quickly elevated these prestigious amateur tournaments, while also providing a pathway for elite golfers. Surratt understands it first-hand.
“Especially after last year, and how everything went down, it did nothing but give me opportunities. It gave me the opportunity to go compete with the best players in the world, but it also gave me the opportunity to compete with the best amateurs in the world week after week, which is something that’s also new. It means a lot to me and it’s something I’m very appreciative for and I speak for all the players when I say that.”
Thursday, June 22, 2023
By Joe McDonald
RIGA Senior Writer
EAST PROVIDENCE – David Ford knelt on one knee beside his golf bag and was reading his putt on the ninth green when another golfer suddenly appeared to congratulate him. Ford knew the praise had nothing to do with his performance so far this week in the 61st Northeast Amateur Invitational at Wannamoisett Country Club.
Prior to Round 1 of this tournament Wednesday, the USGA informed Ford he earned a spot on this summer’s Walker Cup team that will represent the U.S. against Great Britain Sept. 2-3 at the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.
“I’m 9-over for the tournament, but I’m getting congratulated,” he said with a laugh. “It’s really cool, even when I’m playing bad, to hear some good news.”
Gordon Sargent, 20, of Birmingham, Ala., Michael Thorbjornsen, 21, of Wellesley, Mass., and Ford earned automatic selections as the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 ranked players, respectively.
“It means a lot. I’m obviously not having the best week at the Northeast Am. I’m having a great time, just not playing my best golf. It’s a huge honor to be one of the first ones selected, along with Gordon and Michael. It’s cool and I’m really excited for it,” Ford said.
Sargent made the cut in last week’s U.S. Open and finished with low-amateur honors. He was also voted the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore at Vanderbilt University. Thorbjornsen played in his third U.S. Open this year. He was also voted Pac-12 Conference Golfer of the Year and won the conference title as a junior at Stanford University. Ford was named first-team All-American and voted ACC Player of the Year as a sophomore at the University of North Carolina. He was also selected to this year’s Palmer Cup team and was recognized as both a Haskins Award finalist and Hogan Award semifinalist. He won the 2022 Southern Amateur Championship at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga.
“Gordon, Michael and David are fantastic additions to the team,” said Mike McCoy, captain of the USA Team. “Not only have all three of these young men had impressive seasons, resulting in these automatic selections, but they are future stars of our game who bring immense talent, enthusiasm and camaraderie to the team. Having them included in the experience at the Old Course is something I am very much looking forward to both personally and as team captain.”
Ford admitted he’s been thinking about the possibility of earning a spot on the team.
“It’s been on my mind, especially this spring,” he said. “College golf season is the biggest event in order to qualify for the Walker Cup, and the guys who played well this spring are the guys in the running for the Walker Cup. It was on my mind a lot. I’ve tried to put it out of my mind as much as I can [and focus on my game] but it’s looming the last six months.”
He’s also thrilled he earn the opportunity to represent his country on the Old Course at St. Andrews.
“I’m really excited for that,” he said. “I’ve talked to Captain McCoy a little bit and he’s the perfect person to be captain, and playing St. Andrews is going to be really cool as well. I’m just excited to hang out with the guys that week, honestly.”
It’s also fitting that Jay Sigel, a nine-time Walker Cup member, was the featured speaker at this year’s Opening Ceremonies for the Northeast Amateur.
“It’s really impressive,” Ford said of Sigel’s amateur accomplishments.
Stewart Hagestad, a three-time member of the Walker Cup team, is competing this week at Wannamoisett and he was thrilled when he learned Ford received the call from McCoy.
“I’m getting chills just thinking about it,” Hagestad said. “I’ve talked to him a little bit and I congratulated him. I’m thrilled for him. He’s an amazing young player and he has a lot of promise. If you told him at the start of the summer that he would’ve shot  in the first round of the Northeast, or received a really cool phone call, he would’ve taken that trade all day. It’s great. Everyone knew Thor, David and Gordon would be on it, and I’m thrilled for all of them.”
Hagestad hasn’t given Ford any advice, yet, but the elder remembers a conversation the two had a couple of years ago at the Jones Cup. Ford said one of his goals was to be Hagestad’s teammate on the Walker Cup one day. That could come to fruition this summer.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment,” Hagestad said. “Like the rest of us, he spent two years thinking about it. Hopefully I can earn my way onto the team, too, but I’m thrilled for him. I’m thrilled for his family. He’s had a really strong start to what’s probably going to be a really strong team. He should take a minute to realize what he’s accomplished and the opportunity to represent his country. He’s a great kid.”
It’s every young athlete’s dream to represent their country in any sport, at any level. Hagestad understands that first-hand.
“It’s the highest honor in amateur golf. I get chills just thinking about it,” he said. “You don’t get many opportunities to play for your country, let alone to do it with a group you become so close that week. There are so many other things that go on that week, besides the golf, so to do it with a group of guys who push you to be better, it’s so exciting to see. You create life-long memories, and I was very humbled to experience it. It’s pretty neat.”
Ford has earned that honor and will experience it on the hallowed grounds of St. Andrews.
Wednesday, June 21, 2023
By Joe McDonald
RIGA Senior Writer
EAST PROVIDENCE – Despite the fact this is his first time competing in the Northeast Amateur Invitational, Bartley Forrester feels right at home.
As he walks around the clubhouse at Wannamoisett Country Club, it’s become normal for members, who he doesn’t know, to stop and speak with him. In 2006, his uncle, Carlton Forrester, won the Northeast Amateur during a two-day, rain-shortened event. So, it wasn’t a surprise Bartley gained the most attention Wednesday after posting a 7-under 62 in the first round. Forrester did not speak with his uncle about the golf course before the tournament but understands the significance of the family connection to Wannamoisett.
“It’s cool having some family history here,” Forrester said. “It’s cool walking around here, knowing my uncle won here 17 years ago. I haven’t really thought about it too much, but I have had some members stop me and say they remember Carlton winning, so it’s pretty cool.”
Fresh off a team runner-up finish at the NCAA national championship, the recent Georgia Tech graduate is comfortable with his game at this point. He won all three of his matches during the NCAAs, but the Yellow Jackets lost in the finals to Florida in Scottsdale, Ariz. Individually, Forrester carried his momentum into the Northeast Amateur.
“I’ve been playing good golf for a while, but haven’t seen a whole lot of great results,” he said “Finishing 3-0 in match play was a big thing for me, and it showed me my game’s in a good spot.”
Only five days after the NCAA championship, Forrester played in a U.S. Open qualifier. Afterwards, he felt he needed to decompress, so he took the following week off and didn’t pick up a club. He started practicing again last week in preparation for the Northeast Amateur and it was evident with his first-round score that he’s dialed in with his game.
“I like where my game’s at,” he said.
Forrester played two practice rounds Monday and Tuesday, then enjoyed the Opening Ceremonies that featured legendary amateur player, and three-time Northeast Amateur champion, Jay Sigel, as the guest speaker. He addressed the 96 golfers in attendance during a dinner and spoke about his experiences at Wannamoisett and how he’s has built lifelong friendships with the people here.
“He’s had quite the career here – really everywhere,” Forrester said. “It was cool to hear from a guy who has accomplished as much as he has in the game, especially the amateur game to speak so highly of this place. I can see why he loves it so much. The tournament itself is enough motivation with all the past winners here, including Jay. This tournament’s reputation speaks for itself.”
While everyone around the clubhouse was impressed with Forrester’s 62 in the morning, Matthew Riedel attacked the golf course in the afternoon and finished the day in second place after a 5-under 64.
“Wedged it and putted it really well,” he said. “My ball-striking? Kind of got away with a few bad swings and then took advantage of a few opportunities. No bogeys today, so kept the ball in play and tried not to make too many mistakes.”
Riedel admitted he looked at the scoreboard during lunch and studied the hole locations.
“Saw that there were a few gettable ones, and few you had to stay away from, because you can definitely make some mistakes out here and bring some bogeys on,” he said. “When I was out there, I knew people were still ahead of me and you’ve got to keep plugging along.”
This is Riedel’s second year competing in the Northeast Amateur and enjoys everything about it.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. The atmosphere is amazing. The course is a really, really good golf course and a lot of fun to play. It can play difficult, it can play easy in the morning, but it’s a good test of golf.”
Entering the 61st Northeast Amateur, the focus has been on two-time defending champion Dylan Menante. He wasn’t pleased with his opening-round 2-over 71, but understands what it takes to beat this course and has his sights on accomplishing that feat Thursday.
“I definitely struggled on the front nine, missed quite a few greens and my chipping wasn’t really as good as I wanted it to be,” Menante said. “I’ll stay calm. I played really well on the back, just did my thing and hopefully I can do that tomorrow on the front. It’s hard when it’s right in front of you and you make mistakes. I made quite a few mistakes down the stretch. It’s disappointing, but definitely want to stay even-keel and just try to get the balls in the holes.”
As for the locals, Bobby Leopold shot even-par 69, Michael Hamilton finished 6-over, Tyler Cooke was 7-over and Kevin Blaser posted 10-over.
Leopold, a member at Wannamoisett, said he didn’t have any expectations coming into the first round. In fact, he didn’t even play a practice round, admitted he finds this course hard and doesn’t believe it fits his game. But he was happy with his even-par 69.
“I didn’t do anything great. I didn’t do anything bad,” he said. “I made some good saves, missed a couple of short ones that I should’ve made for par and birdie, but pretty happy and I’ll take even-par on the first day.”
On his way to the course, Leopold, who has been a member at Wannamoisett for nearly 10 years, admitted he still felt nervous.
“You’ve got the best players in the world playing, so that might have something to do with it,” he said. “Also, there’s a part of you that doesn’t want to let the membership down, because you’re representing the club, and the state, and it would be nice to play well. You put too much pressure on yourself to compete and do what you can do. Sometimes you just go out there and play terrible.”
Still, he had fun cruising along. His best finish in this tournament was T13 in 2013 and shot 1-over.
“You shoot 1-over now and you’ll finish 60th because of the quality of talent,” he said. “You’re up against it, but it’s fun to get a taste for how good these guys are and see what they can do.”
Tuesday, June 20, 2023
By Joe McDonald
RIGA Senior Writer
EAST PROVIDENCE – An historic reunion took place Tuesday at Wannamoisett Country Club. It also served as an important introduction.
A pair of older gentlemen stood and watched as the next generation of elite amateur participated in the AM/AM Sponsor Tournament, which is part of the week-long festivities during the Northeast Amateur Invitational. Jay Sigel and Bill Lunnie nearly went unnoticed during the afternoon to the field of young golfers, but by the end of the night they were educated on Sigel’s impact on this sport, especially in Rumford.
Sigel, who built one of the greatest all-time amateur careers, also played on nine Walker Cup teams. He won the Northeast Amateur three times in an eight-year span. In fact, he played in the tournament 16 times. He’s also a two-time U.S. Amateur Champion, British Amateur, and U.S. Mid-Amateur winner. He finally turned pro at age 50 and joined the Senior PGA Tour in 1994.
“I’m not saying Jay was better than Bobby Jones, but from an amateur golf point of view, Bobby Jones played in two amateur tournaments in his life – the U.S. Amateur and the British Amateur. There were no Northeast Amateurs, or Porter Cups, or Mid-Amateurs, or any of that stuff,” said Lunnie, who then quickly focused on Sigel’s career accomplishments. “There’s nobody even close to him. Can you believe he played in nine Walker Cups? Nobody will ever come close to that. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find kids to play in it twice. And he was the playing captain in two of them.”
Sigel said he likes to think about what’s ahead, and not necessarily reflect on his accomplishments.
“Somebody once asked, ‘What’s the best shot you ever hit?’ I’m not sure I hit it yet. That’s a little corny, but now that I’m in the latter part of my career, and old as mud, I can enjoy doing things like this,” Sigel said of his speaking engagement Tuesday night. “If the Northeast Amateur – and Wannamoisett – was The Masters of amateur golf then I won The Masters. That was very important to me. It was important that nobody else had ever done it three times, and of equal importance was the number of folks I became very close to and we’ve had so many laughs you can’t count them all.”
The two reminisced about close friends Jake Connolly and Don Pelletier, who have both passed away. Sigel, 79, and Lunnie, 84, laughed out loud when they recalled one specific story. Sigel was known as a true amateur and brought his entire family to Rumford when he played in the Northeast Amateur. The first time he played at the Northeast Amateur he stayed at Jack and Carol Connolly’s house, which is right next to the 18th green at Wannamoisett. Sigel was in contention and entered the final round on Sunday near the top of the leaderboard. Naturally, his nerves kicked in and needed to use the bathroom before he took the 75-yard walk to the first tee.
“It overflowed,” Sigel said with a laugh. “Here comes Carol and she says, ‘Jake, I told we should’ve had this fix before Jay arrived.’ It was priceless words. So, now I’m on my hands and knees, cleaning up the area, and I can’t remember how I finished in the tournament, but it was hysterical.”
Lunnie intervened and added a story about years later when Sigel played on the Senior PGA Tour. The Connollys would invite the group to stay at one of their condos in Florida.
“There was a plunger in the condo and Jay autographed it and gave it to them,” Lunnie said with a laugh.
Sigel then glanced at a scrapbook of articles on the table in front of him. It was loaded with stories from legendary Providence Journal golf writer Paul Kenyon. Sigel asked about “PK” and wanted to call him. The phone was put on speaker as Sigel, Kenyon and Lunnie connected for the first time in years. As the call was about to end, Sigel told Kenyon: You’re a class act and golf misses you.”
There was a brief pause when the call ended before Sigel and Lunnie both smiled.
“It brought back a lot of memories,” Sigel said. “He was special. He was the class of sportswriters during that era. It’s nice to remember him and call him a friend.”
Sigel picked up one of Kenyon’s articles. It was about the 1991 Northeast Amateur.
Sigel, then-47, was in stealth mode in the first two rounds, shooting 72, 70, respectively. He then announced his presence with authority in the third round, posting a two-under 67 to gain a two-shot lead entering the final round. He shot a final round 71 to finish 280 in the four-day event en route to victory. Tom Scherrer and Chris Smith finished tied for second at 282.
“I was not having a good year,” he said. “I was under pressure to make the Walker Cup team and this event, in my opinion was No. 1, other than the U.S. Amateur for making the team. Fortunately, the Northeast Amateur was in June, and I had until August to make the team, but it took a lot of pressure off my back.”
Sigel last played the Northeast Amateur in 1993, so he couldn’t wait to drive around the property Tuesday afternoon with Lunnie to examine and critique the $4 million renovation project. It didn’t take long for Sigel to appreciate all the changes that have been made since he last played the course “more than a few years ago.” He really likes the redesign of the bunkers, and especially the restoration of the Donald Ross greens.
“I think the renovations are fabulous,” he said. “I’ve always thought this golf course was one of the very best. We were always very lucky to play here and we shouldn’t forget how fortunate we are and now it’s even better.”
At one point, Sigel and Lunnie stood on the 16th tee box when a young golfer approached. It was two-time defending Northeast Amateur champion Dylan Menante. He was focused. He stuck his tee in the ground, placed the ball on top, stepped away, addressed the ball again, crushed his drive, spun his club and walked away. Sigel was impressed and quickly realized the young man is the one attempting to three-peat, matching Sigel’s record.
“I think it’s great; more power to him,” Sigel said. “Typically, the golf course wins here, but I know it’ll be a good tournament and I hope the best man wins.”
Monday, June 19, 2023
By Joe McDonald
RIGA Senior Writer
EAST PROVIDENCE – It didn’t take long for the parking lot on Hoyt Avenue in Rumford to fill up early Monday morning.
Elite amateur golfers from around the world have arrived to compete in the 61st Northeast Amateur this week at Wannamoisett Country Club. This event is considered the best in the amateur golf world, both on and off the course. It has become a “warm and friendly” environment for the players, who stay with local billet families in an attempt to win this prestigious championship.
Two-time champion Dylan Menante will attempt to defend his titles from 2021 and 2022. The North Carolina standout will also try to match Jay Sigel, who is the only three-time champion (1984, 1985 and 1991) of the Northeast Amateur. Menante arrived Monday for his practice round in hopes of another victory. The four-day event is open to the public and begins Wednesday morning at 8 a.m.
When asked to describe the Northeast Amateur, Menante said: “It’s sweet. It’s pretty much my history and how I established myself in the golf community, and definitely the amateur community. It means a lot to me and hopefully I can repeat again. When I first came in, I was just trying to fit in, but then I played really well. Now, I’m just trying to play my game and see where it takes me. A three-peat would be sweet, but a top-10 would be good enough. I definitely have an even-keel mindset going into the week.”
Defending Rhode Island Amateur champion Kevin Blaser, along with reigning RIGA Player of the Year, Michael Hamilton, and three-time R.I. Amateur champion Bobby Leopold will compete at Wannamoisett.
The recent partnership with the Elite Amateur Golf Series has driven demand for the Northeast Amateur field. There was no shortage of demand prior to the arrival of the Elite Amateur Series, but the exemptions for the top finishers are impressive, including USGA Championships, PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour events. A player must compete in a minimum of three events to be eligible for exemptions. The Elite Amateur Cup winner is the player with the most points at the end of the series that culminates with the Western Amateur July 31-Aug. 5 at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, IL. Other events include the Sunnehanna Amateur (Johnstown, PA), North & South Amateur (Pinehurst, N.C.), Trans-Mississippi Amateur (Dallas), Southern Amateur (Ooltewah, TN) and the Pacific Coast Amateur (West Vancouver, B.C).
“It’s created opportunities for the players and given them an opportunity to get into PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, USGA events that otherwise wouldn’t have a chance to play, and that’s what these players really want, especially the collegiate players who are looking to go onto the next level,” said chairman Ben Tuthill. “It’s really neat to see how its only in its second year it’s helped elevate our field and is helping the other six events as well.”
Caleb Surratt, of Indian Trail, NC, won the inaugural Elite Amateur Cup last summer after recording 75.5607 points in six events. The University of Tennessee standout is No. 7 in the world, according to World Amateur Golf Ranking. Surratt’s in the field this week at Wannamoisett and is looking to improve on his third-place finish last year in Rumford. Jackson VanParis, who won the first Amateur Series event this season at Sunnehanna, is also playing in the Northeast Amateur.
First-timers were impressed by the conditions, hospitality and traditions at Wannamoisett. UNLV’s Caden Fioroni enjoyed his practice round and nearly had a one-in-hole on No. 12. It was evident how much fun he was having with practice partners, Luke Clanton, of Florida State, along with Luke Potter, of Arizona State.
“It’s awesome,” Fioroni said. “It’s a second-shot golf course and you’ve got to be really processed orientated what you’re doing into the greens, so it’s going to be a fun week . . . I’ve heard it’s a very prestigious event. I’ve always wanted to play in these big tournaments and I’ve always thought I’ve belonged, so to be able to come and play in this is awesome. We had a blast and we’re actually going back out for another 18. I’m excited.”
Wannamoisett spent $4 million on its recent renovation that took only nine months to complete from September 2021 through May 2022. Architect Andrew Green’s restoration project helped revitalize the original Donald Ross design. Northeast Amateur players consider it to be in championship-style condition, which has also helped create a top-notch environment. Golfers need to be more precise with all shots, including putting, which will separate the best players from the rest of the field.
“The renovations have finally all come together just beautifully,” Tuthill said. “Last year the course was complete, but you could still see a lot of the sod lines, and we couldn’t fully take advantage of all the hole locations that are now available. The extra year, and the mild winter we had, the great spring weather we’ve had has helped the course conditions. The greens are super firm and fast right now and that’s what we need to create a strong test for these players. We can’t make the course any longer, so distance is never going to be an issue here, but between the firmness, the speed of the greens, as well as getting a little wind and hopefully it blows a little bit to help protect the course. It’s a championship venue and I don’t mind these kids shooting a low score and there will be a 59 shot at this course one day not in the too distant future. It’ll be fun to watch.”
Hoyt Avenue will be a popular destination this week.
Brad Tilley of Easton, Conn. won the Joseph Sprague Award for being the low Mid-Am. He finished at 1 over for the tournament.
By Dalton Balthaser
RUMFORD, R.I. – After the second round of the 2021 Northeast Amateur Invitational, media members asked Dylan Menante if they could speak with him when he finished the round in second place.
Quietly and in a joking manner, he uttered, “You want to talk to me?”
Ever since then, Menante has become the talk of the town at Wannamoisett Country Club and now he will be mentioned among the greats in the history of the tournament.
Menante successfully defended his title in a dominant fashion to claim the 60th #NortheastAm Saturday at Wannamoisett (par 69, 6,867 yards).
He shot a final round of 67 to finish with a 72-hole total of 19 under.
That total shatters the previous 72-hole record of 15 under which was reached by Oklahoma State University’s Peter Uihlein (2011) and the University of Southern California’s Justin Suh (2018). Both went on to win those years.
“It is cool to be able to win here again,” said Menante. “I am not sure if the redesign of the golf course will yield lower scores in the future. Only time will tell but breaking the tournament record means a lot.”
Karl Vilips of Australia and a rising junior at Stanford University vaulted to solo second after a final round of 63.
The 72-hole record is not the only record he now owns in this tournament. He holds the 36-hole (-12) and 54-hole scoring records (-17) also.
“After the first couple of days, I didn’t know how good Dylan’s score was,” said Dean Menante, Dylan’s father and caddie for both victories. “He played solid golf all week. He gets mad at himself no matter what type of shot he hits. He’s such a perfectionist that he may not realize how good the shots he’s hitting are. To have a front row seat to this was awesome. I believe he knew he had the game. It just took him finding that belief in himself and his game for it to come to fruition.”
With the win, he becomes the fifth player in the history of the Northeast Amateur to successfully defend his title.
Ronnie Quinn (1964-65), John Cook (1978-79), renowned amateur R. Jay Sigel (1984-85) and Luke Donald (2000-01) all accomplished this feat.
Menante said that hearing Cook speak about his experience at Tuesday night’s dinner helped him see that even though defending was rare, it was possible.
“It was cool to hear John’s perspective,” said Menante, 21, of Carlsbad, Calif. “When you hear someone talk about something they accomplished that is possible for you it helps you relate to the situation. I thought if he could do it, so could I.”
He also matches Cook’s biggest margin of victory at nine shots, which is the largest in tournament history. Cook won by nine in 1979, which was the second of his consecutive titles.
“This week was all about grit and determination,” said Menante. “I don’t hit it as solid as a lot of the players here, but my short game made up for it. My putter was far better than any other club in my bag.”
Menante’s 11-shot lead heading into the final round was more than enough the way he was playing. He just needed to play smart.
“It is tough to keep your mind in it when you have a big lead,” said Menante, who will be a Senior at the University of North Carolina in the fall after transferring from Pepperdine. “You feel like you can give shots away and don’t have to grind for par. But that isn’t a great attitude to have. I was trying to keep going low.”
He made birdies on Nos. 7 (par 4, 357 yards) and 10 (par 4, 416 yards) to get to 19 under. But added bogeys on Nos. 11 (par 4, 403 yards) and 15 (par 3, 203 yards).
Not to worry. Menante regrouped and closed in style.
He rolled in a 15-footer from the fringe on No. 17 (par 5, 558 yards) for birdie and then went out with a bang on the last (par 4, 450 yards).
From the right side of the fairway, he hit a 54-degree from 105 yards to a foot. This week was all about his historic performance. And he capped it off perfectly.
“I think finding my confidence was important for me,” said Menante. “Last year when I came here for the first time, I was quite nervous. I wasn’t sure I was going to stack up. I have high expectations and am hard on myself, but I want to keep getting better.
“The coaches at Pepperdine did a great job helping me with my attitude and keeping me calm. My golf game is notorious for making a lot of birdies or making a lot of bogeys. If I can stay level, that is better long-term for me. Since my short game is good, that helps me not fret over bad shots.”
Life often presents opportunity for those who are willing to work hard for it. Menante has dedicated himself to succeeding in golf and now he’s got the self-belief to only push him harder going forward.
“This last year has proved to me that I belong here,” said Menante. “I love this course so doing it here again is huge. I struggled in my last few events before the summer and didn’t know where my mind was. I am happy to be on the right track.”
Now the question becomes whether he will go for the three-peat next June. That’s something no one has ever done in the history of the tournament.
“I am not sure if I will be able to go for a three-peat,” said Menante. “It is a definite possibility, but I am not sure. We will see how it pans out.”
Earlier this week, Menante gazed at his champion photo displayed in the Northeast Amateur trophy case in the Wannamoisett clubhouse. He soaked in what that accomplishment meant to his rise.
But in just one short year, he has vaulted himself into the discussion of one of the best players in the history of the event. Each year he’s showed up, he’s held the trophy at the end. Pretty remarkable.
“History just tells itself,” said Menante. “I’m not sure if I imagined myself in this position today before last year’s event, but it is good to be here.”
Incoming University of Tennessee freshman Caleb Surratt sits in a tie for second after a third-round 68.
By Dalton Balthaser
RUMFORD, R.I. – At 3:15 p.m. on Friday, June 24, 2022, the world stopped turning.
Dylan Menante had in fact made a bogey at Wannamoisett Country Club for the first time in 364 days. The golf gods couldn’t process it and needed a minute.
His bogey-free stretch came to an end at 66 holes. More than three-and-a-half rounds of golf, playing that run in 13 under.
“I didn’t want the streak to end,” said Menante, 21, of Carlsbad, Calif. “I played great during that stretch. It’s so much fun because you know that if you miss a shot you will recover. I always had it in the back of my mind. It was a motivating factor for me.”
Menante, charged by his flawless game, continued to turn heads at Wannamoisett Friday after his second-consecutive 64 (par 69, 6,665 yards) to extend his lead at the 60th Northeast Amateur Invitational.
A total of 60 players made the cut at 6 over.
His three-day total of 17 under is a 54-hole record and is 11 shots better than Vanderbilt’s Gordon Sargent and the University of Tennessee’s Caleb Surratt. Both Sargent and Surratt sit in second at -6.
Yes, you read that right.
17 under. 11-shot lead.
To put it in perspective, the #NortheastAm 72-hole scoring record is 15 under. That was accomplished in 2011 by Oklahoma State University’s Peter Uihlein and again in 2018 by the University of Southern California’s Justin Suh. Both hoisted the trophy.
The previous 54-hole record was held by Suh and 2019 champion Garrett May of Baylor University at 12 under.
“My game feels so good right now,” said Menante, who will be a Senior at the University of North Carolina in the fall after transferring from Pepperdine. “I wouldn’t say my game is video-game like right now. But on the back nine today, I hit every shot like I wanted aside from my approach on No. 16.”
Menante claimed the Valspar Collegiate Invitational in March with a score of 14 under and said he was playing better then.
That’s hard to believe.
Menante made the turn in 1 under after an amazing birdie on No. 9 (par 4, 455 yards).
His ailing driver put him in what seemed to be a precarious position in the left rough where he needed to hit a draw to try and hold the green.
But his 7-iron from 185 yards hit the steep bank of the fringe, skipped forward and halted at 18 feet. You know what happens next. The rattle of the bottom of the cup.
“No. 9 was super clutch,” said Menante. “If my ball landed a yard deeper, I wasn’t going to be on the green. I got lucky. But you need luck and skill sometimes to keep momentum going.”
The back nine consisted of a total of five birdies on Nos. 10 (par 4, 416 yards), 13 (par 4, 392 yards), 14 (par 4, 325 yards), 16 (par 4, 463 yards) and No. 17 (par 5, 558 yards).
He drove the green on No. 14 and rolled in a 30-foot downhill slider on No. 16 that took forever to get to the bottom of the cup.
“That was such a good putt,” said Menante. “The speed was so drippy.
Menante is on the precipice of doing something only four others have done in the history of the Northeast Amateur. Successfully defend the title.
Ronnie Quinn (1964-65), John Cook (1978-79), R. Jay Sigel (1984-85) and Luke Donald (2000-2001) are the only ones to do so. Menante has put himself in an excellent position to join this exclusive club.
“It would be huge to defend,” said Menante. “I take title defenses seriously. “Tomorrow, I don’t have to try to do too much. Try to focus on hitting the middle of greens and rely on my putter. I still want to be aggressive and keep doing my thing. To have the opportunity to seriously stamp my place in the history of this tournament is important to me because it is my favorite event. This tournament means so much.”
Sargent, the reigning NCAA Individual Champion got back into a share of second after a 65.
Thursday, he got off to a horrid start bogeying the first four holes. But grinded his way to a 71.
He will play with Menante in the final group.
“I got off to a better start today for sure,” said Sargent. “I told myself the back nine is where I could make some birdies. You must stay patient out there.”
He made a total of five birdies on the back nine highlighted by one on No. 10 that stopped the bleeding after two consecutive bogeys on Nos. 7 (par 4, 350 yards) and 8 (par 3, 202 yards).
Sargent isn’t going to change his gameplan for the final round. He’s going to tee it up and see what happens.
“I am curious what golf course Dylan is playing,” said Sargent, 19, of Birmingham, Ala. “Dylan is a great kid. He has quite a track record so far here at Wannamoisett. Next week, we are playing together on the Palmer Cup team. I can assure you I will be pleased to be playing with him next week and not against him.”
Surratt who will be a freshman at Tennessee in the fall continues to impress. The two-time defending Terra Cotta Invitational champion grinded hard for a 68 in the third round.
“I didn’t have my best stuff early, but I didn’t have my bad stuff,” said Surratt. “I was hitting a lot of great shots that put me in good spots. I just didn’t make any birdies. But I made a ton of key par saves. I kept my head down and was happy to finish how I did. Just had to keep faith.”
He birdied the last two holes to get in the house in red figures for the day. A 50-degree wedge from 122 yards to two feet on No. 18 (par 4, 442 yards) was a good way to finish.
“I need to play tomorrow like I have for the last three days,” said Surratt, 18, of Indian Trail, N.C. “I see the low numbers that Dylan shot being possible for someone playing perfect golf. He’s doing just that. It has been impressive to watch. But I can’t base how I play on what he’s doing. I am going to go out tomorrow and see what I can do.”
Rising Duke sophomore Kelly Chinn sits in solo second after consecutive 66s.
By Dalton Balthaser
RUMFORD, R.I. – Dylan Menante has left everyone at Wannamoisett Country Club speechless.
In a figurative manner of speaking, he has set the course on fire with his play.
36 holes in, he’s attached himself to another piece of history.
The 36-hole scoring record at the Northeast Amateur Invitational.
Menante, aided by an impeccable display of short game wizardry, is the 36-hole leader at the 60th #NortheastAm after a second round of 64 (par 69, 6,776 yards).
His two-day total of 126 (12 under) breaks the previous record held by 2018 champion Justin Suh of the University of Southern California who shot 128 (10 under) over the first two rounds.
It took Suh three rounds to get to 12 under.
He holds a six-shot lead over rising Duke University sophomore Kelly Chinn who finished in a tie for fifth in 2021.
“The biggest challenge today was with my irons,” said Menante, 21, of Carlsbad, Calif. “Yesterday, I didn’t miss a shot. I was striping it. Coming into the round I was thinking I wasn’t going to have to worry about my ball striking but I struggled early. My driver was off today but when I found the fairway, I had to be aggressive.”
He still was able to manage.
“I had no rhythm whatsoever on the front nine,” said Menante, a rising senior at the University of North Carolina. “I only hit four greens in regulation on my first nine and had to rely on my short game. I found my rhythm once I made the turn. The back nine here is much more comfortable for me because I can send a driver pretty much anywhere and still have a wedge.”
He shot 1 under on the front but then the defending champion turned it on once again.
He made birdies on Nos. 10 (par 4, 416 yards), 13 (par 4, 392 yards), 14 (par 4, 365 yards), and 15 (par 3, 204 yards).
All of them involved a wedge for his second shot aside from a 4-iron dart to 18 feet on No. 15.
“When I find the right pace and stroke with my putter that is the key for me,” said Menante. “I didn’t hit it close for most of the round but made a lot of putts. That’s what kept me going. My putting helped me a lot down the stretch.”
None more than on his final hole of the round No. 18 (par 4, 442 yards). Menante’s bogey-free streak was in jeopardy.
He busted his drive right and had to scramble. But like any red-hot golfer, it didn’t matter. He rolled in a 20-footer for par like he was putting into the ocean. He quickly picked the ball out of the hole, smiled and fist-bumped his caddie and father, Dean.
What’s crazier is he hasn’t made a bogey at Wannamoisett since the 11th hole of the third round of last year’s event. Yes, that is 61 consecutive holes without a bogey.
But for the average golfer, they never experience the type of golf Menante has played the last two days at the famed Donald Ross layout. Or even get close to it.
“Sticking to your routine is important when you have these hot stretches of golf,” said Menante. “I don’t worry about my swing necessarily. If I am confident in my game, the rest takes care of itself. When I am out of sync, I’ll let my short game do the work.”
No shot scares him and no situation phases him. While he’s comfortably out front, the tournament is far from over.
“We are only halfway home,” said Menante. “The 36-hole scoring record is nice but it’s not what I came here to do.”
Chinn got off to a blistering start. Starting on the back nine, he birdied Nos. 10, 11 (par 4, 403 yards), 14 and 16 (par 4, 463 yards).
He hit his second shot on No. 17 (par 5, 558 yards) up against a boundary fence.
But he kept his composure.
He pitched the ball backwards and scrambled for a par.
“To hit two good shots after finding myself in that situation was huge,” said Chinn, 19, of Great Falls, Va. “Having the mental strength to stay focused and calm was important for me.”
He played the front nine in one over but still carded another 66. He’ll be chasing but that won’t change his mindset.
“No matter the deficit, it is always important to stick to your gameplan,” said Chinn. “There’s still 36 holes left. A lot can happen. If I can keep playing as well as I have and make a few more putts, I feel like I will have a chance. Dylan has played awesome the first two days. I have my work cut out for me.”
NCAA Individual Champion Gordon Sargent sits three back after a 65.
By Dalton Balthaser
RUMFORD, R.I. – Dylan Menante is a California kid at heart, but he soon might morph into an East Coast Emperor.
Menante, of Carlsbad, Calif., is the defending Northeast Amateur Invitational champion. In just two short years, he has gotten quite comfortable in Rhode Island. More specifically, at Wannamoisett Country Club.
Menante, aided by his precision iron game, surged to the lead after Day One of the 60th #NortheastAm Wednesday at Wannamoisett (par 69, 6,807 yards).
His round of bogey-free 62 was three shots clear of Georgia Tech’s Connor Howe and Vanderbilt University’s Gordon Sargent. Both carded rounds of 65 in the morning wave.
Menante hasn’t made a bogey at Wannamoisett in 43 holes. His last bogey was during the third round of last year’s competition.
“I was striping it today,” said Menante, 21. “I only missed two greens. This is a long week, so I will continue to focus day-by-day. If I keep playing like this, I’ll have a chance.”
Starting on the back nine, Menante made the turn in 33 (2 under). Then the red numbers started to come in droves in his front-nine 29.
“I am excited,” said Menante, 21. “I didn’t miss any of my aimpoints. I cruised on my front nine and then once I made the turn, I started to catch fire.”
He birdied No. 1 (par 4, 431 yards) after stuffing a 54-degree wedge from 124 yards to two feet.
Then a crisp pitching wedge on No. 3 (par 3, 140 yards) left him a mere 30 feet. He dropped that with ease.
When he missed the green on No. 4 (par 4, 443 yards) he showed no emotion and walked to his chip with purpose. Seconds later, he picked the ball out of the hole after he chipped in for birdie.
He added a third-consecutive red figure after hitting a 75-yard sand wedge to two feet on No. 5 (par 4, 372 yards).
His seventh and final birdie of the round came on No. 7 (par 4, 350 yards) after he rolled in a 15-footer.
Wannamoisett underwent a significant renovation over the winter that was spearheaded by renowned Golf Course Architect Andrew Green. Some of the changes included new sand and bunker placement, drainage and irrigation, leveling and resurfacing all tee boxes and extensive green expansions. Expanding the greens was done to showcase the unique shapes envisioned by Donald Ross.
“There were a lot of different hole locations,” said Menante. “A prime example was No. 6. The hole location was all the way in the back left. We never see one there. There are a lot more bunkers that are in play now. The greens here are difficult which is a credit to Ross’ style when he designed greens.”
Menante, who will be using his final year of eligibility at the University of North Carolina after playing at Pepperdine University, is looking to become the fifth player all-time to successfully defend the Northeast Amateur. Ronnie Quinn (1964-65), John Cook (1978-79), R. Jay Sigel (1984-85) and Luke Donald (2000-01) are the others.
“I’m motivated to defend this title,” said Menante. “I want to hold myself to a high standard. John Cook talked about how much it meant to him at dinner Tuesday night.
“Winning this event was huge for my confidence. I try to always let my game speak for me and I still think like that. But I have more confidence in myself as a person also.”
Menante took two titles this spring at Pepperdine and was an Honorable Mention for the PING All-American team. He’s not flying under the radar anymore.
“Wannamoisett reminds you of what the U.S. Amateur and Western Amateur courses are like,” said Menante. “Tough courses with challenging greens. Rhode Island is cool. It is not too far from a lot of good courses by the ocean. It is the place to be.”
Sargent had quite the spring at Vanderbilt that ended up with him winning the NCAA Individual Title.
Sargent became the fourth freshman ever to win the Individual National Championship. The others include Curtis Strange, Phil Mickelson and 1973 Northeast Amateur Champion Ben Crenshaw.
Like Menante, Sargent made his charge on the front nine. Birdies on Nos. 2 (par 4, 510 yards), 3, 7 and 8 (par 3, 196 yards) took him from even par to 4 under and right in contention.
“I like how the course allows you to be aggressive if you want to be,” said Sargent, 19, of Birmingham, Ala. “And if you aren’t playing well, you can play conservative. You know you can make birdies but there are a lot of bogeys out of there if you aren’t sharp.”
Sargent is in his second appearance at Wannamoisett and finished T11 last year. He said that experience was good for seeing himself as one of the best amateurs in the world. He’s currently fifth in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.
“Understanding that pars are a good score is important,” said Sargent. “You can’t be aggressive if you are above the hole. Pars won’t kill you at Wannamoisett.”
Howe finished in a tie for third in 2021 after a final-round 65. He picked up where he left off.
“Last year, I made a ton of putts inside of eight feet,” said Howe, 22, of Ogden, Utah. “You must hit it close with your approach shots to be successful because you need a lot of birdies here to contend. I struck my irons well. You can get away with hitting it offline off the tee, but you must be locked in on your approaches.”
Coming off a missed cut at last week’s Sunnehanna Amateur, Howe was pleased to return to form.
He birdied four of his last six holes to shoot 65. Including three consecutive birdies on Nos. 13 (par 4, 392 yards), 14 (par 4, 365 yards) and 15 (par 4, 204 yards).
“Those birdies were huge for me,” said Howe. “After I birdied two of my first three holes, I was feeling good. But made the turn in even par. It was nice to finish strong.”
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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.