Final Results with Payouts
By Paul Kenyon
EAST PROVIDENCE _ Patrick Pelletier scored the biggest victory of his young pro golf career on Thursday when he birdied the next-to-last hole to pull out a one-stroke decision in the 84th RIGA Open at Agawam Hunt. Even as he was still being congratulated, Pelletier began thinking of ways to spend some of the $5,000 first-place check.
``Now maybe I can get another bag,’’ he said pointing down told his old, small college golf bag. ``I’ve been using this one ever since I turned pro.’’
``This one’’ is a Keaney Blue University of Rhode Island bag, the one he used while playing for the Rams. It’s not that he does not like the bag or the memories it brings back from his four years in Kingston. It’s just that it is not fancy like the big bags with product endorsements that so many other pros have.
Pelletier’s career has been slow to develop since he graduated from URI in 2011. Part of the problem was a wrist injury that forced him to stop playing for more than a year. Like so many of the twenty somethings who fill the field in the State Opens in the Northeast in the summer, he has had days when he has displayed the talent of a tour pro. But he has had trouble stringing them together. It is a pattern he has had since his Rhody days.
One of his coaches at URI, Gregg Burke, an assistant to Tom Drennan when Pelletier was there and now the head coach, came to Agawam to root him on.
``He’s the nicest kid on earth,’’ Burke said of the New Hampshire native. ``He’s a class kid.’’
But Burke also spoke like a coach when he related stories about Pelletier did not push himself as much as he could, both on and off the course. Pelletier was heavier than his coaches wanted him to be, a situation that remains to this day. He was not one who spent a lot of time in the weight room. Burke told a story of a tournament at North Carolina State.
``I saw him go and have two cups of coffee and two doughnuts, then head out to play,’’ Burke said, making sure the listener knew that is not the proper way to prepare. ``He doesn’t even hit balls. He just went out and played. Then he bogeyed the first hole. And he went on to set the course record that day.’’
Pelletier laughed when reminded of the story and happily pointed out that he shot 7-under on a 7,400-yard course. ``Then I went out the next day and shot like 1-over,’’ he said, a pattern that has been with him all along. Just last week he was in contention to win the Maine Open
``If I par the last hole, I finish third. If I birdie it I finish second,’’ he related. ``I made a six.’’
For the last few years he has been working a variety of jobs. He worked as an assistant club pro for a while and won some small NEPGA events. He worked in at a driving range, a nine-hole course near his home and last winter worked for his uncle’s business in his home town of Lebanon, N.H. In April, he began focusing on golf, working, as he described it, ``harder than ever.’’
The results did not show at first as he missed cuts in the Mass and Vermont Opens. But he told himself to relax and just have some fun with it. He has turned it around nicely.
As he showed at Agawam, his hard work is paying off. He had the 36-hole lead after rounds of 68-64. When he began the final round even through eight, he no longer was on top. Matt Dubrowski of Bergenfield, N.J. had begun with five straight birdies on the way to a front nine 29. That vaulted him to 11-under for the tournament and in the lead. At one point a half dozen players were within four shots of the top spot midway through the round.
Others fell back, leaving it to Pelletier and former Johnson & Wales star Michael Welch. They knew where they stood because they were together in the final threesome. They were both 11-under down the stretch.
``I knew I was tied with Welch, then he was one ahead, then we were tied, then he was one ahead again, then we were even again,’’ he said. ``I didn’t really look at the leader board. I just knew if I didn’t beat him obviously I couldn’t win.’’
The decisive turn came on the 17th. There had been only three birdies on the hole all day. Pelletier hit a good drive.
``I had 120 to the hole, 112 to cover the bunker. It was a smooth wedge,’’ he said. ``I’ve worked on that shot a lot this spring.’’ He hit it to five feet and made the putt to take the lead for himself. As he went to the 18th tee, he asked if anyone else was in contention and was told it was just him and Welch. His thoughts went to his poor finish in Maine and his focus became making sure he did not do it again.
He drilled it almost 300 yards down the middle and made routine par for victory.
Charlie Blanchard had a closing 65 to finish at 4-under 206, eight behind Pelletier, and earn low amateur honors. Cumberland’s Jamison Randall, who turned pro last month, closed with a 68 to tie for fifth at 7-under.
Pelletier said one of the big reasons he went to URI was because a friend from New Hampshire, Mark Stevens, was going there. And he met Mike Carbone and Jesse Larson, other friends, were there. Now, all four have have something else in common. They are Rhody grads who have won the State Open.
Round 2 Recap
By Paul Kenyon
EAST PROVIDENCE _ Every year, it seems, a former URI player makes a run for the title in the RIGA Open Championship. The only question is which one it will be.
Patrick Pelletier is the guy this year.
The New Hampshire resident, who finished his career at URI five years ago and is now a professional, had the best round of the day, a 6-under 64 Wednesday to surge into the lead of the 89th Open at Agawam Hunt.
That was enough to give him a one-stroke lead entering Thursday’s final round over first-round co-leader Matthew Campbell of New York and Michael Welch, a Massachusetts native who played his college golf for the Johnson & Wales Miami team.
The beautiful weather day, following the big storm on opening day, made for good scoring. The 45 players who made the cut are separated by only nine strokes.
The guy they have to catch is a former New Hampshire Amateur champion who had a solid, if not spectacular career at URI. Pelletier has been doing what young pros need to do over the first two days, which is making birdies. He had six birds and an eagle in round two, easily making up for two bogeys.
He can call on old Rams if he needs advice on how to wrap up the title. Among others, Michael Carbone (2009), Mark Stevens (2011) and Jesse Larson (2012) all have won the tournament recently. The record holder, of course, is former Rhody great, Dana Quigley, who won it six times.
While the leaderboard is dominated by out of staters, several Rhode Islanders are in position for strong finishes. Brad Adamonis, making a return home from his play on the Web.com Tour, recorded a second-round 66 to get to 136, four off the lead and in a tie for eighth.
Fellow Cumberland native Jamison Randall, who just turned pro after a good career at Old Dominion, also had 66 to stand at 137. Troy Pare, the pro at the new Preserve at Boulder Hills, and the defending champion in this event, is at 138 after a second straight 69.
The others in a tie with him at that score include amateur Tyler Cooke. Cooke, the Four-Ball champion, had a long day for the second time in a row. He returned in the morning to complete the 18th hole from the first round and a 63 which tied him for the lead. He was not able to complete the round Tuesday night because of darkness.
``I had a 36-footer for 62 (Tuesday night) and it was so dark you couldn’t see the breaks,’’ he said. He returned Wednesday morning and two-putted for 63. He then settled for a 75 in the second round to stand at 2-under for the tournament.
``I didn’t play that badly,’’ he said. ``On nine, I hit the green (with his approach) but it spin back down the hill into this thick lie where you could barely see the ball. I hit that into an embedded lie and made seven.’’
Another Rhode Island amateur, Patrick Welch, had a fun day. The two-time RIGA Junior champion had a 71 for 141 total, which included the first hole-in-one of his life. It came on the 164-yard eighth hole, with an eight-iron.
``I didn’t even see it go in. It went in on the fly,’’ Welch related. ``It ruined the hole.’’ The ball took a chunk out of the lip, so much so that RIGA officials had to come out and move the cup about a foot to the left because Welch’s shot made it unusable.
The ace was the second of the tournament. Kerry Johnston had one on the 11th hole in first round.
Round 1 Recap
By Paul Kenyon
WARWICK and EAST PROVIDENCE _ One of the biggest days of the RIGA season brought on some high drama on Tuesday, although not in the usual way. The excitement in this case took place not as an event was finishing, but instead even before the first tee shot was struck.
Tuesday was a rare day for the association in that it had two of its biggest events of the year, the 84th Rhode Island Open at Agawam Hunt and the 95th Women’s Amateur at Potowomut taking place at the same time. Both went on as scheduled, although only after delays caused by a severe electrical storm that swept through Rhode Island early in the morning, just as players were beginning to arrive at the courses.
The storm, which knocked out power to more than 100,000 electric company customers in the state and caused huge traffic delays threatened for a time to cancel all play for the day. But tremendous work by the grounds crew at both courses, and on-the-fly changes implemented by association officials allowed the day to proceed. Both events began at least 90 minutes late.
Amazingly, only one player was not able to make it to Potowomut for the women’s event and one to Agawam for the men’s event. RIGA officials could relate because they, too, had to deal with the storm as it struck between 6 and 7 a.m. It was a bad one.
``I have never been so afraid in my life. It was scary coming down Route 95. I mean really scary,’’ said Katie DeCosta, the director of women’s golf and member services. ``Thunder, lightning, the rain, the wind blowing across the highway. It was totally dark. It was bad.’’
As she was nearing her exit off the highway, with traffic barely moving, DeCosta had an experience she will not forget.
``A tree came falling onto the highway and landed on the car behind me,’’ she related. ``I couldn’t believe it.’’
``There was water all over Route 95,’’ said Angel MacLeod, who was in the first twosome off the tee at Potowomut. ``There was one small car stalled out in the water. Thank God for SUVs.’’
Ashley Roggero, her playing partner, had to make the drive over the bridges from Aquidneck Island.
``You had to go slow. There was nothing else you could do it was so bad,’’ she said.
The only good news was that it was a quick hitting storm which lasted about a half hour in most areas. Even as play began about 9 a.m., the humming sound of electrical saws could be heard cutting and clearing away trees and trees branches that were taken down by the storm. Jim McKenna, the RIGA’s director of rules and competitions, joined workers at Agawam in helping clear away debris for a good part of the day.
The happenings at Agawam were just as wild as at Potowomut.
``The sun was just coming up and it looked like a nice day,’’ related Bob Ward, the RIGA’s executive director. ``Then it went from sunlight to midnight in about 20 minutes. It was wild. The maintenance workers were out on the course. We had to call them in to get them safe.’’
``We originally delayed play for an hour, but then when workers went back out and saw the conditions on the other side of the street (for holes 8-14), we had to delay it another hour. There was a tree across the 10th fairway,’’ Ward went on. As it was, the first threesome of the day, which included defending champion Troy Pare, had to be slowed down. Workers were just finishing clearing the downed tree as they got there.
``It was a 60-foot oak that fell from the roots,’’ reported superintendent Drew Cummins. ``Based on what I saw it was like we had a half hour hurricane come through here.’’ A crew of 15, including two workers who normally focus on the tennis courts across the street, worked to get the course playable. One negative was that so much rain fell so quickly (about three-quarters of an inch) that puddles formed, especially at 9 and 11, which made it impossible for players to use carts.
What made work at Agawam even more difficult was that electricity was knocked out during the height of the storm. It was restored about four hours later.
Once the quick moving storm moved through, it turned into a beautiful day.
``It actually was kind of nice out there,’’ said Susie Cavanagh, the defending champion in the Amateur and one of the leaders Tuesday, with an 80.
``The grounds crew here did a great job,’’ MacLeod offered. ``It was fine out there.’’
Former champion Lisa Griffin McGill, sparked by an eagle on the par-5 5th hole, earned the medal with a 6- over 79. That was one better than Cavanagh and former Interscholastic League champion Mia Bartolotta. It took a score of 89 to earn a spot in the championship division.
One of the qualifiers was Hall of Famer Nancy Chaffee, who posted an 82. She is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first of her four titles, which also came at Potowomut. Chaffee is the only player in state history to win the Amateur in four different decades.
At Agawam, Matt Campbell, a 26-year-old pro from Utica, N.Y., fired his second straight 63 to take the first-day lead, at least among those who were able to finish. Tyler Cooke also was a 7-under but could not finish the final hole because of darkness.
Campbell is on a run. He also had a 63 in the final round as he won the Maine Open last week.
He is playing so well that he said his 7-under score was nothing special, simply a string of good scores run together. He did not have a bogey all day and reached all three par 5s in two and had two-putt birdies on those holes.
Cooke, who combined with his brother-in-law Bobby Leopold to win the Four-Ball earlier this summer, put a fitting cap in the crazy day. Playing in the next-to-last threesome, Cooke jumped to a great start with birds on 2, 3 and 4. Darkness was falling as Cooke was trying to finish at about 8:20 p.m. and he put the crazy end to the crazy day with birdies on both 16 and 17 when it was getting tough to see. He and his playing partners reached the green on the par-4 18th, but by then it was simply too dark. The group was given the option of finishing or waiting until Wednesday to finish and they opted to mark their balls and return when they could see where they are going.
Cooke will have a 35-footer for birdie on 18 at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday to take sole possession of the lead. The group will then tee off for the second round at 10:21.
Johnson & Wales grad Mike Welch, another of the late finishers, birdied four of his last five holes to tie Jason Parajeckas, who had finished about six hours earlier, for third at 66. Troy Pare, the defending champion, had a 69.