83rd Rhode Island Open
By Paul Kenyon
EAST PROVIDENCE _ Troy Pare saved his best for last in the 83rd Rhode Island Open, which is saying something since he led the tournament from the start.
The head pro at Wannamoisett, competing in his first full-field event of the year after twice undergoing back surgery over the winter, recorded a birdie from the trees on the first hole of a playoff with Richy Werenski to earn the $5,000 first-place check at Agawam Hunt.
The two had finished the regulation 54 holes tied with 11-under-par 199 totals. Playing together in the final threesome in Thursday’s last round, Werenski posted a 4-under 66, Pare a 67.
In the playoff on the 439-yard 18th hole, Werenski, who already has won three events since turning pro two months ago, hit a perfect drive down the middle. Pare pulled his into the left rough. He not only had a difficult lie in the thick stuff, he appeared to be blocked out by two huge oak trees that guard the left side of the fairway.
``I had almost the exact same yardage. I had 132 the first time. (The second time) I had 131,’’ Pare related. ``I thought the only chance I had was to hit a hold-off wedge to get it high enough over those trees.’’
He took out his gap wedge. But when he examined the lie more closely, he changed his mind.
``I didn’t think I could hit the ball cleanly,’’ he related. So instead he took out his 48-degree Vokey wedge.
``I probably hit it a little bit heavy, to be honest,’’ he continued, ``but that’s why I hit that club. I knew with a little bit of adrenaline it would still come shooting out pretty good.’’
The shot not only sailed over the trees, it landed on the left edge of the green and came to rest only about 12 feet from the cup.
Werenski hit his approach too hard. It went over the green. He chipped back to about 10 feet. But he never had to worry about saving par. Pare rolled his birdie putt dead in the center. It was not only a popular victory, as Pare had a host of friends and club members from Wannamoisett, cheering him on, it was a satisfying one, as well.
``I probably haven’t played 15 rounds of golf total this year, so to come out and play as well as I did this week, I’m real proud of that,’’ Pare said.
Two incidents helped get him ready. About 10 days ago, Doug Scala, his club president at Wannamoisett, asked him to play.
``He pulled me out of the pro shop and around the third or fourth hole I started hitting it well,’’ Pare said. ``That made me feel good.’’
The second big boost came from his duty as a teacher. He was working with Jeff Giguere, one of the excellent young players at Wannamoisett, and gave Giguere a putting lesson in his basement at home.
``Working with him got me putting well,’’ Pare said. Pare had the 16-year-old Giguere work as his caddie in the Open and the two talked before each shot, with Pare doing what he could to explain the right way to approach each shot. Plannning each shot helped Pare play smartly.
``We thought out every shot,’’ Pare said. By the end, Giguere was helping him.
``When I hit that last drive in the rough, Jeff told me, `It’s only one shot. You have another one now,’’ Pare said. ``With that last 12-footer, I was thinking to myself, just hit it like I was doing with Jeff in my basement. Hit it nice and firm.’’
He did. And he earned the $5,000 first-place check.
The final round was a thriller all the way. Pare began with a one-stroke lead, but midway through the round five players were tied, Pare, Werenski, Misquamicut’s Matt Doyle, who finished just one shot out of the playoff; and Shelter Harbor’s Jumbo Elliott and 2013 champion Shawn Warren of Falmouth, Maine, who tied for third, two back.
Warren made the big early move, going 4-under the first four holes, including an eagle on the par-5 fourth. When the leaders were on the 10th and 11th hole, all five contenders were at 10-under. Pare regained the lead with birds at 11 and 12. But a three-putt at 17, his only three-putt of the week, dropped him back into the tie with Werenski, who got to 11-under with a bird on 15.
Werenski is a South Hadley, Mass., native who graduated this year after a strong career at Georgia Tech. He already has won the Vermont Open and two tournaments in the NGA Tour headquartered in the Carolinas.
``Richy is a heck of a player and a nice guy,’’ Pare said. ``I remember him playing in the Northeast Amateur. For me to beat him, a guy who could be playing on the PGA Tour soon makes it feel even better.’’
The day was a sweep for Wannamoisett. Seven-time RIGA player-of-the-year Charlie Blanchard had a sensational finish of his own to take low amateur honors. Blanchard birdied five of his last six holes for a 30 on the back side to finish at 6-under for the tournament in a tie for sixth overall.
The finish clinched third place in the standings kept by the RIGA to determine its squad in the USGA’s State Team Championship to be held next month in French Lick, Ind. Blanchard will join Bobby Leopold and Bobby Valois, who earlier had clinched spots.
Blanchard, the Bryant University golf coach, is not yet certain if his schedule will allow him to take part. Two years ago, with the same three-man team, Rhode Island finished in a tie for second in the country behind Kansas.
Round 2 Recap
EAST PROVIDENCE _ When they call this tournament the Rhode Island Golf Association Open, they mean it.
The 83rd Open certainly is living up to its name. There are not many events that have as varied an assortment of players contending for the championship.
Consider three of the guys in the top 10 entering Thursday’s final round. They defy putting any other label except ``open’’ on the contest at Agawam Hunt.
The leader is 38-year-old Wannamoisett club pro Troy Pare. One of those tied for second one stroke behind him is 50-year-old part-time player and part-time caddie John Elliott of Westerly. And the leading amateur who is in a tie for sixth overall is 14-year-old Patrick Welch.
They were three of the biggest stories as Agawam dodged the rain, except for a brief mid-afternoon shower, and set up an interesting battle for the $5,000 first-place check. In all, 19 players are within six strokes of the lead going into the final round.
Pare has the lead at 8-under 132 after a second-round 69. Elliott, his playing partner for the first two days Richy Werenski of Massachusetts and Matt Doyle, an assistant pro at Misquamicut, are at 133. Werenski tied for low score of the day with a 65, Elliott had a 66 and Doyle a 67, including a 30 on the front nine when he briefly took the tournament lead.
Defending champion Shawn Warren of Maine is next after a 68 for 134, then Welch leads the group at 136, after a second-round 67.
Few tournaments have as disparate group of contenders.
Pare is a club pro at one of the most prestigious courses in Rhode Island, Wannamoisett Country Club, just up the street from Agawam. Between work and two back surgeries earlier this year, he has played virtually no competitive golf this summer.
Still all he has done in the last two days is earn the tournament lead. His second-round 69 was a lot more work than his opening 63.
``It was a battle today,’’ he said. ``I made it that way.’’
He had his first two bogeys of the tournament and offset those with three birds, two on par 5s. Pare, a former New England PGA champion, has played in only two small New England PGA events since having back surgery.
Elliott is planning on heading out soon to try his hand on the Champions Tour. A long-time veteran of the New England circuit (he won this event four years ago) and briefly a PGA Tour player, Elliott has been caddying at Shelter Harbor and playing a limited schedule. He complained after the second round that his wedge game is terrible from lack of practice.
Elliott long has been one of the characters on the New England circuit. Jumbo, as everyone calls him, turned 50 last year and finally began slowing down his ``I’ll go anywhere to compete’’ schedule. Instead, he has settled in near his home in Westerly and worked at Shelter Harbor.
``I’ve been doing a lot of caddying,’’ he said, ``not playing as much. I’m just not as sharp as I should be. My wedge game is terrible. I hit wedge seven times today, never got one inside 15 feet.’’
He still played well enough to shoot 66 with five birds, including three in a row beginning at the third hole.
``I putted well,’’ he said. ``These greens are about as good as you can get.’’
Elliott hopes to go back to playing more regularly this fall. He plans to try and Monday qualify for events on the Champions Tour once that tours head out to Washington and Canada.
Welch had a hectic day. He was among the early starters and posted five birds on the way to his 67. The 14-year-old who plays with a crosshanded grip gives up distance to most of the players in the event, to the point where he is 1-over on the par 5s in the first two days.
After he completed his round, he jumped in the family car with his dad, Marty, and headed out to Massachusetts to take part in qualifying for the new national Drive, Chip and Putt Championship. Welch won the 14-15 age group in that event this year, an event where the finals are held at Augusta National.
Welch is one of seven amateurs to make the cut. He is just one ahead of former Stroke Play Champion Johnny Hayes IV of Newport and seven-tome player-of-the-year Charlie Blanchard.
The day included a hole-in-one on the 175-yard second hole by John Murphy III of Farmington Woods, Ct. The cut fell at 1-over 141.
Round 1 Recap
EAST PROVIDENCE _ As happens so often for a club pro at this time of the year, Troy Pare had a busy 12-hour work day on Tuesday.
He helped run an 88-player women’s member-guest at Wannamoisett, where he is the head pro. He gave a few lessons in the afternoon. And he also found time to record a dazzling, bogey-free 7-under-par 63 at Agawam Hunt to take the first-day lead in the 83rd Rhode Island Golf Association Open.
Ideal weather and perfect conditions, including some of the best greens in Rhode Island provided by superintendent Drew Cummings, made for great scoring.
Patrick Horgan III, who won this event 20 years ago and now spends much of his time competing on the Champions Tour, led the group at 66. That group also included Maine’s Shawn Warren, the defending champion, amateur Charlie Blanchard, Warwick’s Jonathan Pannone, Misquamicut’s Matt Doyle and veteran Connecticut pro Kyle Gallo.
In all, an impressive33 players broke par and another 13 matched it over the 6,260-yard, par-70 layout.
Pare had easily the best day of all.
The location of the event allowed the West Warwick native to do a little of everything in his long day. Agawam is less than one mile up North Broadway from Wannamoisett. It made it simple for Pare to arrange his schedule, even easier because he was one of the first players off the tee, at 7:48 a.m.
He credited Jeffrey Giguere, one of the best young players at Wannamoisett, with putting him in the right frame of mind to play well. Pare is working with Giguere and speaks glowingly about he feels his student has a chance to be a very good player. Pare asked Giguere to meet him at Wannamoisett before play began so he could come along with him for the Open.
``I wanted him to go through the process, to learn from the experience on how players handle the tournament, how they react and deal with anything that happens,’’ Pare explained. ``I see a lot of god things in Jeff. He just turned 16. I think he’s going to be a very good player.’’
``We talked about it as we played, why we hit certain clubs, what you want to avoid, where it’s OK to miss shots,’’ Pare said. ``It helped me. To say things out loud helped me think my way around the course. I ended up playing a smart round.’’
It was doubly rewarding for Pare because he has played very little competitive golf this year. He had two back surgeries over the winter and is coming back slowly.
``I didn’t hit the ball fantastic, but I made a lot of good putts and I didn’t make any mistakes,’’ Pare said. He did not have a five on his card as he birdied all three par 5s. Birdies at the two early par 5s, 3 add 4, got him started. Then he had three in a row on 9, 10 and 11, another 15 and capped his day by draining a 20-footer on the closing hole for his seventh bird of the day.
It all left him in a great frame of mind.
``I can’t remember the last round I played without making a bogey,’’ he said.
Newport’s Horgan was among those making a run at Pare. He got it to 5-under through 14. But he was 1-over from there, including a bogey on the par3 16th. He spoke about how much fun it was for him to be able to return.
``I was looking at the scoreboard and I saw my name (on the list of champions). I can’t believe it’s been 20 years since I won it,’’ the URI grad said. ``I haven’t been to this place in so long, I can’t even remember when I was here last.
``I’ve had a chance to play in so many places in my career and it hits me every time I come home how lucky everyone in Rhode Island is to have so many great courses,’’ Horgan said. ``This place is great. We have so many great courses.’’
Warren, the defending champion, had an eagle on the par-5 third on the way to his 66, which included a bogey on the final hole. Gallo had the best finish going 3-under in the last four with birds at 15, 16 and 17. Pannone and Blanchard both had their 4-under rounds despite two bogeys on par-3 holes and Doyle’s 66 came without any birds on the par 5s.
Michael Tobiason, a Delaware native who two years ago was one of the competitors who took part in The Golf Channel’s Big Break series, recorded a 29 on the front side with birds at 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9. But he double-bogeyed the par-4 12th on the way to a 38 on the back, to finish with a 67. Tobiason said shooting the 29 on the front did not affect him.
``I shot a 28 once before,’’ he said. ``I finished 3-under, so I’m in good shape.’’
The others at 67 included former champions John Elliot of Shelter Harbor and URI grad Michael Carbone.
The field will be cut to the low 40 and ties after Wednesday’s second round. First place is worth $5,000.
Directions to: Agawam Hunt