August 30-September 1
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Final Results with payouts
By Paul Kenyon
LINCOLN _ Even by wire-to-wire victory standards, what Jeff Evanier did Thursday at Kirkbrae Country Club was special.
The 2014 Eckerd College grad from Clinton, Ct., swept to the title in the 85th Rhode Island Open with a closing 68 for a 54-hole total of 8-under-par 202. That was two strokes better than fellow Connecticut resident Jason Thresher of Ellington Ridge, who roared home with a 7-under 63, the best round of the tournament, to finish at 204. It was another three strokes back to Pennsylvania’s Cole Wilcox, who closed with a 70 for 207 and third place.
There was a lot of jockeying back and forth on the final day everywhere except at the top of the leader board. Evanier had his name there for the entire 54 holes. He got off to a fabulous start back in Tuesday’s opening round, rolling in birds on each of the first four holes. And he never looked back. He finished the opening round with a 65 for a three-stroke lead. He backed it up with a 69 to lead by two after 36 holes. He then began the final round with birds on 2 and 3 and was in control all day.
``That was super important,’’ Evanier said of his two early birdies. ``I had started off well in the first two rounds. I birdied the first four the first day and the first day the second day. So getting the two today got me in my comfort zone.’’
One of his toughest challenges came from the weather. Players had to deal with rain, which varied from light to fairly heavy, for most of the day.
``It was tough. We had it for about our first 12 holes,’’ Evanier said. ``Everything got wet. The course changed. It’s in great shape. It was firm the first day and got a little bit softer each day after that.’’
Evanier, who has traveled everywhere from South Dakota and Iowa, to Florida and New England, to get his pro career going, earned the $3,600 first-place check, the biggest yet of his career. His previous biggest also came in Rhode Island where he won nearly $4,000 total in the Providence Open and another event held at Agawam Hunt.
``Rhode Island seems to be my place,’’ he said with a smile.
While no one was able to put heavy pressure on Evanier, Thresher, the runner-up, certainly did his best with his sparkling 63. His 63 tied the official course record of 63 held by Eddie Kirby. But it will not be recognized since the 14th hole was shortened from a par-5 to a par-4 for the Open, thus lowering par from 71 to 70.
``My putter was just on fire today,’’ Thresher said. ``Every time I needed to make a putt, especially a par putt, I made it. I made every one.’’
Because he began the day seven strokes behind and was playing an hour ahead of the leaders, Thresher faced a different kind of pressure than he did earlier this summer when he led the Mass Open and went on to win in a playoff over URI grad and former R.I. Open champion Mark Stevens.
``It is a different feeling,’’ Thresher said of being so far ahead of the other leaders as they played the course. One of the things for me was not making a bogey. I haven’t played rounds without a bogey this year. That’s what I was thinking about a lot.’’
His seven birds came at 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 12 and 15.
Connecticut winners have been rare in Rhode Island, in part because in past years many Connecticut players took in the Met section with New Yorkers rather than New England. The last Connecticut player to win the Rhode Island title was John `Jumbo’ Elliott in 2010, although Elliott was living in Westerly when he won. It goes back to Brian Claar’s victory in 1983 to find the last Connecticut resident to take the title. Claar is now the head rules official on the Champions Tour.
URI player Jason Short and former State Amateur champion Kevin Silva tied for low amateur at 217.
Round 2 Recap
By Paul Kenyon
LINCOLN _ A change in the schedule for the 85th Rhode Island Open has brought a host of new names into the tournament, two of whom are at the top of the leader board headed into Thursday’s final round at Kirkbrae.
Jeffrey Evanier of Clinton Country Club in Connecticut and Dylan Newman of Bonnie Briar Country Club in Westchester New York stand 1-2 through 36 holes. Evanier, the first-day leader, posted a 1-under 69 despite a double-bogey six on the final hole, to stand at 6-under 134. Newman, from the Met area in New York, tied for low round of the day, at 66, to get to 136.
Both leaders are taking advantage of the latest playing of the State Open in years, perhaps ever. The tournament is usually held in late July or early August as part of the regular New England swing for club pros. However, the RIGA made a major shift this year moving the event back a month. The biggest reason, reported Bob Ward, the RIGA’s executive director, was because the national PGA Junior Championship was held at Wannamoisett in early August.
``Because of the Junior PGA, we had to move our state Junior Championship up a week so there would not be a conflict,’’ Ward said. That put it in conflict with the normal Open week. The association thought about moving the Open up a week, to late July.
``But that would have put us in conflict with one of the other New England tournaments. We would have been pulling players from each other and hurting each other, so we didn’t do it,’’ Ward said. With Dr. Vin Cavallaro serving as RIGA president this year, it was decided to push the Open all the way back to this week and play it at Cavallaro’s home course.
For the many players who chase the New England and other minor league circuits, it has turned into a blessing. By this point in the season, there are virtually no events in which to compete in this area. The young pros who want to sharpen their game through competition have come in bigger numbers than ever to Kirkbrae. The purse is not large, at $20,000, but the competition is welcomed.
Evanier, who was slowed by a shoulder injury earlier this summer, is taking best advantage of the unusual dates thus far, although he was not exactly happy when he finished. He got it to 3-under, 8-under for the tournament through 17 holes, but then helped the rest of the field with his double on the 460-yard closing hole.
``I went over the green and chipped past the hole then played army golf (left, right, left),’’ he said. To that point, he had made six birdies (giving him 13 in two days) and three bogeys.
Newman, an Iona grad, plays out of Bonnie Briar Country Club, one of a host of strong courses in the Westchester, New York area, eagled the par-5 12th on the way to his 66.
Two others, Matthew Campbell of New York and Cole Wilcox of Pennsylvania, are tied for third at 138, after rounds of 69 and 70, respectively. The wildest round of the day went to Spencer Mellon, who plays out of famed Oakmont Country Club and shot 69 for 139, five off the lead.
Mellon took a different route to 69. He had six birdies and an eagle on the par-5 third hole. But he also had two double-bogeys and three bogeys. At Kirkbrae, there are six par-4s on the front side. Mellon did not have a 4 on that side. He birdied three of those holes, bogeyed two and doubled the second. He had his eagle on the only par-5 on that side and parred both par-3s. Mellon then began the back side with four straight 4s, three pars and a bird.
The cut fell at 6-over 146 with 42 players qualifying for the final round.
Elsewhere in area competition, 71-year-old Paul Quigley recorded an even-par 71 at New England Country Club and earned a spot in the USGA Senior Championship to be held Sept. 17-22 at the Old Warson Country Club in St. Louis. It was the fourth time this season that Quigley has matched or bettered his age.
Round 1 Recap
By Paul Kenyon
LINCOLN _ If there is an ideal way to begin a golf tournament, Jeffrey Evanier might have found it Tuesday in the 85th Rhode Island Open at Kirkbrae.
Evanier, a 2014 graduate of Eckerd College, birdied his first hole. Then he birdied the second. And the third and the fourth. Four holes in he was 4-under better which, as it turned out, was better than anyone else in the field was able to do all day.
Evanier, who is from Clinton, Ct., finished with a 5-under-par 65, good enough for a three-stroke lead in the 54-hole event.
Evanier’s performance was all the more impressive considering what everyone else did. Despite ideal conditions and a perfectly groomed course set up by course superintendent Mark Richard, scores were higher than usual for an Open. Only six players broke par over the 6,585-yard, par-70 layout.
URI grad Michael Carbone and Cole Wilcox from the famed Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania recorded 2-under 68s to tie for second and recent URI grad Joe Leavitt and two New Yorkers, Matthew Campbell and Jonathan Renza, had 69.
No one came close to matching Evanier. While his fabulous start put him in great position, he showed some grit on the way to his 65. His giddy feelings went away on the par-4 sixth when he double-bogeyed to drop back to 2-under. He regrouped and did not make another mistake the rest of the day. In the last 12 holes he had nine pars and birds on 10, 12 and the 14th, perhaps the toughest hole on the course at 440-yard uphill.
Evanier has been doing the same thing so many young pros do, traveling to play where he can. But he has a bit of a twist in that he is attempting to put his business management degree from Eckerd to work. He has set up a website for himself in which he offers to provide golf lessons.
The twist is that his specialty, as he describes it on his website is providing, ``on-course playing lessons that allow me to critique all aspects of a player's game and with a strong business sense and drive to succeed, I look forward to fostering professional relationships in the game of golf and the business world.’’
Carbone, with his 68, and Leavitt, with his 69, are in position to continue what has been an unusual run in the tournament. Carbone won it in 2009. Since then other fellow URI grads have dominated the event, Mark Stevens winning in 2011, Jesse Larson in 2012 and Patrick Pelletier last year.
A cut will be made to the low 40 and ties after Wednesday’s second round.