Championship Experience at Warwick Country Club

By Joe McDonald

RIGA Senior Writer


WARWICK – Narragansett Bay was calm and majestic. Its coastal neighbor – Warwick Country Club – was exhilarating and pure as the 119th State Amateur Championship began Monday on the exquisite Donald Ross course. 


As players arrived for the morning tee times, the fog was so thick they couldn’t see the water from the first tee. It didn’t take long for it to lift, while the grand splendor of the course and the Bay were in full view. Players took advantage of the calm conditions, but the 90-degree temperatures, and no wind, served as a challenge, especially since players are required to walk during this championship. 


This is the time during the golf season everyone has thought about all year. 


Warwick Country Club is also celebrating its 100th Anniversary, which makes this championship even more momentous. It’s become a longstanding tradition for the RIGA to host major tournaments during special anniversaries for its member clubs and this week will be an historic Centennial celebration. 



PGA head professional Matt Walsh has been here for 12 years, and he and his staff are thrilled to showcase this historic property to the Rhode Island golf community this week. 


“It’s a little hidden gem and it’s nice our membership can show it off for the week,” Walsh said. “It’s our Centennial year, a special year for all of us, and it’s great that nine of our members are playing (in the championship). It’s a big deal for them and a big deal for our membership, our board, president Tom Stone, vice president Mike Kacewicz, and it’s going to be a special week.” 


As each player exited the golf course after their respective round, the feedback was positive. As one player walked off No. 18 he said: “Those greens today were pure. Might’ve been the best I’ve seen this year.”




Walsh was happy to hear the feedback. 


“It’s great,” he said. “It makes you want to work harder and it’s a source of pride to work here . . . It’s a special spot. The membership is great and to have other people experience what we experience day in, and day out makes you feel good.” 


Course superintendent Steve Thys and assistant superintendent Sean Coffey both take an enormous amount of pride in their work and it’s meticulous. Assistant golf professional Dustin Walbridge works tirelessly to extend the Warwick Country Club experience to every member and guest. Players were spoiled before, during and after Round 1 by general manager Richard Shaughnessy. 


Overall, the players are thrilled to be here this week. 


“It’s special,” said Bobby Leopold, who finished as the medalist (4-under) after Round 1. “I know it’s a big year for (Warwick CC) too but being the head coach at (Bishop) Hendricken (High School) I’m here a lot, watching the boys, trying to help them and to see the condition it’s in today with the humidity and how hot it is, it’s pretty impressive out there.” 


Leopold is attempting to defend his State Amateur title and he’s looking to become a five-time winner of this championship. He is only the sixth player to win the State Amateur at least four times. Daniel Fairchild recorded six State Championships between 1907 and 1921. Robert W. Allen won five times between 1949 and 1960, while Cameron P. Quinn won it in 1956, 1962, 1967 and 1971. 



Leopold, who led this championship from start to finish in 2023, started in similar fashion Monday. 


“This is a day you’d rather be in the ocean than out here playing golf,” Leopold said with a laugh. “Membership gave us the course for the week and whenever a club does that it means a lot to the RIGA, means a lot to the players because without (member) support we have nowhere to play. It’s going to be a special week.” 


Securing medalist honors is impressive, but Leopold is focusing on the bigger picture this week at Warwick Country Club. 


“Trying to get some feels is what I’m trying to do out there and see where my game is at,” he said. “I feel like the more I play the better I get, so to come out here and post a good number and didn’t have any blemishes on the score card, and no real danger of making a mistake out there was really nice to see and it shows I can get more aggressive here and there if I want to and that’s what you want to do when you get to match play is know your game is good enough you can get aggressive, but if I can hit middles of the green the whole time then maybe you can win that way too. It’s always good to post a good number.” 


Brad Auclair is one of nine Warwick Country Club members competing on their home course this week, including Johnathan Sayles, Jonathan Pannone, Eric Ahlborg, Bryan Kennedy, Mike Pirri, Raj Mammen, Mark Iacono and Nick Bodziony. 


“It’s great having a little home-field advantage,” Auclair said. “Place is in awesome shape, greens are running perfect and it’s a great opportunity for us . . . You don’t get too many days where it’s not windy on Narragansett Bay, especially at this place, so having a nice calm day totally makes it great. It should be a good week for everyone. If it does start going sideways you just look out (over the water) and you’ve got a pretty good view to make you happy again.” 


It will no doubt be a challenging week for those players who advance after the qualifying rounds. The conditions will change and the course is playing tough, which makes it a great challenge for the players.  


“You’ve got to hit it good,” Leopold said. “I hit it really well today, but the fairways are tight. They brought the fairways in to make it harder for us and the rough’s up. There’s no first cut, which makes it that much harder. You’ve got to be really precise, and these greens will firm up, so there’s going to be a premium on hitting the fairways. If you’re not in the fairway it’s hard to get any sort of spin on the ball, so once we see these things firm up, hitting the fairway will be key.” 


Welcome to the 119th State Amateur Championship.