109th Amateur Championship
Match Play Results
Match Play Bracket
By Paul Kenyon
PORTSMOUTH _ There is an old adage among athletes who win multiple championships that the first one is always the best. After what happened in the past five days at Montaup, Bobby Leopold does not agree.
``It’s way better,’’ said Leopold of title number two in the RIGA Amateur on Friday, a 4-and-2 victory over Andrew Fiorenzano in the scheduled 36-hole title match. ``I know what it means now.’’
Leopold won his first crown in 2009, the first year in which he competed. He grew up in England and went to college at Rollins in Florida. He met Potowomut’s Taylor Cooke at school and the two married after graduating and moved to Rhode Island. While it was great to win in his first try, the impact did not fully hit home.
``When I first played in it, I hadn’t played much RIGA golf. I was a young kid. Well I was 24 or whatever. I didn’t really have many expectations,’’ he offered.
Since 2009, he has reached the Amateur semifinals three other times and captured numerous other events. He has established himself as one of the area’s premier amateurs. He also has a family that rooted him on in the title match, including his wife, 19-month-old son Grayson and his number one fan, his grandmother-in-law Jean Cooke. His caddy is his father-in-law, Scott Cooke, who also is his golf instructor and boss at the family insurance business.
``Now every year when I play in this you’re expected to win a match,’’ he said. ``Then when you win a match, you’re expected to win the next one. So no matter what it is, you’re always fighting that battle with yourself. And it’s hard. For Brad (Valois) and I and Charlie (Blanchard) it’s the same thing. People want to beat us. That’s nice, but at the same time it’s hard to play that way because you have to play well.
``In Rhode Island it’s getting so much deeper in strength of players now. On any given day there are loads of players that are good enough to beat anyone. That’s just the way it is. You have to keep telling yourself that,’’ he added.
Fiorenzano is one of those players Leopold is talking about who is looking to step up to the next level. He just finished a solid career at URI but has yet to get himself a title he can hang his hat on. In the biggest match of his career, he made Leopold earn the victory.
The 5-foot-7, 145-pounder has a short, compact swing that allows him to keep up with almost anyone off the tee. He led only once in the match, when he birdied the first hole but made it an interesting contest. Leopold was only 1-up at the lunch break after an unusual morning 18. What made it unusual was that Leopold won three of the par-3s, Fiorenzano three of the par-5s, all with birds.
Leopold won three holes in a five-hole stretch early in the afternoon to build his advantage to 4-up through 28. When Leopold nearly holed out his approach on the par-4 11th _ it looked as if Leopold was ready to blow it open. But Fiorenzano hit his approach 20 feet left of the hole. Faced with a left to right breaking putt, he drained it to halve the hole.
He then birdied the 12th and 13th, too, for three straight birdies. But he picked up only one hole in that stretch because Leopold birdied two of the three holes, as well.
`` We played some good golf on the back nine. It was exciting and fun,’’ said Fiorenzano, who had his URI coach, Gregg Burke, and four of his Rhody teammates rooting him on. ``All in all he’s was the better player today, so hat’s off to him.’’
``He’s not going to beat himself. I knew that,’’ he added. ``I guess what I can take out of it is that I’m good enough to win one. Hopefully I’ll have a lot more chances.’’
After Fiorenzano made his three straight birds at 11, 12 and 13, he had a chance to win 14 with a par. Leopold had missed the green on the 170-yard hole and chipped about five feet past. He had a sliding putt coming back.
``That was the biggest putt,’’ Leopold related. A miss would have cut his lead to two.
``I hadn’t been making putts all day,’’ he said. ``I putted well all week then today, for whatever reason it abandoned me.’’
But when he needed it most, he made the one on 14 to keep the advantage at three. When he won 16, he had his second title.
PORTSMOUTH _ It is rare when Bobby Leopold enters a golf match as the big guy. But it will happen in the title match of the 109th R.I. Golf Association Amateur championship on Friday at Montaup.
The 5-foot-8, 155-pound Leopold, the tournament’s 2009 champion, will take on the tourney surprise, Andrew Fiorenzano, who is an inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter, in the 36-hole final. Those two emerged after an impressive day on all fronts on Thursday as every one of the quarter and semifinals matches went at least to the 17th hole.
Scoring was low as players took advantage of the excellent conditions provided by superintendent Roger Turcotte all week, conditions made softer after three-quarters of an inch of rain fell overnight. The fact that the wind was nearly calm at the seaside course allowed players to attack and it led to a series of close matches decided more often by birdies than bogeys.
Perhaps the biggest was the showdown between two of the RIGA heavyweights, Brad Valois and Leopold, in the semis. Valois, the defending champion and four-time winner, threw the first punches, with birds at 1 and 3 to go 2-up. Leopold was a bit perplexed. He had birdie putts inside eight feet on each of the first three holes. But he missed them all.
``Here I’m thinking I should be 1-up or even,’’ Leopold said. ``After the third one (a miss from six feet) I’m thinking, `Really, is this how the day is going to go?’ ‘’
It got worse before it got better.
``Then on the par5 (fifth) I hit it out of bounds from the middle of the fairway and I’m 3-down,’’ he said with a shake of his head.
His caddie, Scott Cooke, who also is his father-in-law, spoke to him after the fifth.
``He said we’re going to need six birdies from here,’’ Leopold related. ``I was 4-under from there so it worked out pretty well.’’
``The bird on the par-5 (seventh) got me going. Then I made a really good bird on 11 (hitting his approach with two feet),’’ he went on. ``The 15th was really it.’’
The match was even to that point. There, with a back right pin placement over a bunker, Valois missed the green with his approach and Leopold stuck his within five feet. Valois mad a nice chip for a certain par, but Leopold drained the bird for his first lead of the match. When he won both 16 and 17 with pars, Leopold had a satisfying victory.
``It feels good,’’ he said. ``I won the first year I played, then I lost to Charlie (Blanchard), to Garrett (Medeiros) and to Jamison (Randall) all the in the semifinals.’’
At age 29, with a family and with work in the insurance business, the native of England has firmly settled into life as a Rhode Islander.
``It means a lot more to me now,’’ he said. ``I’m a better player now and I’m finally back (in the final) so it’s nice. I feel like I’m playing well. All parts of the game are coming together.’’
Leopold has never played with Fiorenzano. The 22-year-old Fiorenzano, who is attending classes at URI this summer because he is one semester short of a degree in environmental science, had a solid but unspectacular career at URI.
``You learn a lot about yourself, how to manage your emotions, how to take the ebbs and flows out there and kind of ride it out,’’ he said. ``You have to take things in stride. I think that’s helped me, I used to take things way too emotional.’’
Fiorenzano never has had a chance to play other sports. He was born with a heart condition and had heart surgery when he was eight months old. He has a condition that deals with valves and the walls of his heart, an ailment that required two more surgeries as he was growing. He lives with stents in his heart.
``I’m all doctored up basically,’’ he said.
He feels stronger than ever because URI coach Gregg Burke, who was aware of his condition, had him take part in the team’s strength and conditioning program as much as possible.
``It has helped me,’’ Fiorenzano said.
Fiorenzano looked strong, especially in the afternoon semis when he fought past Rob Grossguth, 2-up. Fiorenzano went out in 2-under on the front nine but trailed, 1-up, because Grossguth had four birdies.
The two were even through 15. Fiorenzano hit two great shots to get pin high on the 519-yard 16th, chipped to three feet and birdied to take his first lead of the match. He won 17 when Grossguth three-putted the difficult green. Fiorenzano then nearly drove the 300-yard close hole. When Grossguth was still a few feet away in three he conceded the eagle chip, and the match, to Fiorenzano.
Round of 32 & 16 Recap
PORTSMOUTH _ The 109th R.I. Golf Association Amateur Championship has found a giant killer and his name is Dave Nuttall Jr. Few players who have taken part in the event have enjoyed themselves more than Nuttall has in the last two days.
The North Smithfield resident who plays out of Metacomet staged one of the great days in tournament history on Wednesday when he upset not one, but two former tournament champions.
First, Nuttall birdied the 18th hole to stay alive, then shocked seven-time player-of-the-year Charlie Blanchard on the 21st hole. After a quick break for lunch he came out and upset another former champion, Ben Tuthill, 4 and 3, with an even more impressive performance. His work included four birdies in the last six holes.
Nuttall, who had never even qualified for match play previously, did not hide his emotions.
As he was walking into the Montaup clubhouse to relax a bit after eliminating Tuthill in the second round, Nuttall spotted RIGA director Bob Ward.
``Bring on another champion tomorrow,’’ Nuttall yelled to Ward. ``Two today, another tomorrow. I can’t believe this is happening.’’
Tuthill faces still another former champion, Bobby Leopold, in the Thursday morning quarterfinals.
The others to advance include defending champion Brad Valois, who is joined by two more Metacomet members, new father Ricky Audette Jr. and URI’s Andrew Fiorenzano. New Public Links titlist Rob Grossguth, three-time high school All-Stater Jake Bauer, who is the youngest player left, and UConn grad Christopher DeLucia round out the quarterfinalists.
No one is enjoying himself more than Nuttall, who works as a 911operator. He is an engaging, outgoing personality who began enjoying himself during qualifying. He shot a first-round 77. On his first swing in round two, he pull hooked his drive left out of bounds. But it did not stay out of bounds. It hit a wall and rolled back inbounds. He ended up making bird on the hole.
He went on and shot a 71 and squeezed one shot inside the cut line. As he happily pointed out, he would not even have qualified if his drive had not returned from across the street.
Valois is making a strong defense of his crown. The lefty had not been playing as well so far this season in part due to work requirements. He is a financial analyst.
``I’ve been practicing more the last couple weeks getting ready, getting better,’’ he said.
It showed Wednesday as he made only two bogeys all day, one in each round, as he eliminated Gerald Santos 3 and 2 and Brendan Lemp, 4 and 2. The biggest issue Valois had all day was getting to the first tee.
``He almost didn’t make his tee time this morning,’’ Ward related. ``It was getting to his tee time and I looked around and he wasn’t around. I looked and saw him over on the putting green. I told him he was almost up. He had the wrong time. He thought he was 9:45 and he had 9:27. He gets up on the tee still getting his stuff out and whacks it down the middle. He birdied the hole.’’
Valois is seeking his fifth title, which would move him within one of the record of six by Dan Fairchild in the tournament’s early days a century ago.
The momentum from winning the Public Links Championship two weeks ago has carried over for Grossguth.
``I’ve been working with Mike Harbour (one of the state’s premier teaching pros) for the last month and he’s helped me so much,’’ Grossguth said.
Grossguth has been a frequent contender over the past two decades, including a beaten finalist against Mike Soucy in 2003. He showed the poise of a veteran Wednesday when he fell behind early in each of his two matches.
``But I played well on the back nine and made some good putts,’’ he said.
Audette has had some life changing experiences recently. He and his wife welcomed their first child, Richard III, seven weeks ago. Audette was a semifinalist three years ago and has not always been able to play in all events because of work and family commitments, but he keeps sharp by playing at Metacomet.
``I won the club championship two years ago and beat Brad Valois in the semifinals,’’ he said. ``I think of that as my biggest win so far. He’s so unbeatable there.’’
Stroke Play Recap
PORTSMOUTH _ There is a strong chance that a player who already has won the R.I. Golf Association Amateur Championship will win the title again this year.
Seven of the 32 players who qualified for match play on Tuesday in the 109th Amateur at Montaup are previous champions. That is an impressive number since there were only eight champions in the 120-player field. The eight have combined to take the title 19 times.
The two guys bidding to tie the record of five wins in the event were among the day’s stars. Defending champion Brad Valois posted a 1-under 70 to tie 2009 champion Bobby Leopold and 2012 finalist Jamison Randall for the medal at 141.
Those guys, though, had to share the spotlight with Paul Quigley.
The RIGA Hall of Famer continued to add to his legend when he shot a 76 for 148 total and earned one of the 32 spots in match play. At age 69, he is believed to be the oldest player ever to qualify for match play in the 109-year-old event.
Quigley began playing as a teenager, but then missed the tournament several times.
“I was in the Army for three years and I don’t think I played the year I got out, in 1970, but I think I’ve played every year since,” he said.
By his computation he has played in the event 47 times. He won in 1986, ’87 and ’91. The only player to take part more often was Norm Lutz, who played 52 consecutive years.
Valois, who won the event in 2011, 2007 and 2006 in addition to last year, was not overly excited about tying for the medal.
“A little of everything,” Valois said of his 70. “I’ve got to practice my chipping.”
The other former champs to advance were George Pirie, the 2004, 1994 and 1989 winner, at 142; Ben Tuthill, the 2000 victor at 143; Charlie Blanchard the titlist in 2012 and 2002 at 144; and Tom McCormick, the 2005 winner, also at 144.
The only champion who is not still alive is Mike Soucy, the victor in 2003, 2001 and 1999, and that is due in part to geography. Soucy was among the early starters and posted a 74 for 149 total. Rather than waiting five or six hours at the course, he returned to work and then to home in Coventry.
He ended up being in a five-way tie for the last four spots, but could not get from Coventry to Portsmouth in time for the playoff. Because he was not at the course, the others in the tie, Bruce Heterick, Kyle Hoffman, Eric Marchetti and Gerald Santos from the home course, all were in.
The fact that only eight strokes separated being the medalist from being in the playoff made for some interesting stories.
Leopold and Randall played in the same threesome and had only one bogey between them all day. Randall had a bogey-free 67 and Leopold had only one bogey on the way to a 68.
Misquamicut’s Brendan Lemp tied for best round of the tournament, a 4-under 67, to make great comeback and earn a spot in match play. He came in at at 145 after having 78 on Monday. Lemp had six birds, three on each side. Lemp was one of the co-medalists last year.
Blanchard, the RIGA’s seven-time player-of-the-year Blanchard easily qualified at 144. It was the way he did it that made it memorable for the Bryant golf coach. He finished 2-over for 36 holes after being 5-over in his first two holes.
Blanchard began on Monday with a quadruple bogey eight and then bogeyed the par-4 second hole. Since he easily moved on, Blanchard could joke about his opening hole on Monday.
“I had a four-footer for bogey, a four-footer for double, a four-footer for triple then made a three-footer for the quad,” he related with a laugh.
There was no doubt about the happiest of the 32 qualifiers. That would be Metacomet’s Dave Nuttall Jr.
He opened with a 77, then drove his first shot of the day in round two out of bounds. Except it did not stay out of bounds.
``It went across the street and must have hit the wall and came all the way back across inbounds,’’ Nuttall related. The 414-yard first hole, with out of bounds down the left side, played as the second toughest hole on the course in qualifying at 4.8. Only the 17th was harder at 4.86.
Nuttall’s shot not only went back in bounds, it went down the hole and left him only 120 yards to the green.
``I hit a wedge on and made it for birdie,’’ he said with a broad smile.
He went on the match par 71 for a 148 total and become one of the 32 qualifiers.
Stroke Play Final Results
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