Stewart Jolly wins 53rd Northeast Amateur

By Paul Kenyon

EAST PROVIDENCE - It turned out to be a Jolly old time at the Northeast Amateur this year.

Stewart Jolly, an All-American at LSU this season, turned in a gritty wire-to-wire performance to win the 53rd annual event at Wannamoisett Country Club. The native of Birmingham, Al., fought his way to a 2-over 71 in Saturday’s final round to finish at 2-under 274.

He had more bogeys in the final round (six) than he had in the first three rounds combined (five). At one point on the last day he fell into a tie with his playing partner, Oklahoma State’s Jordan Niebrugge. But, as he had done in each of the first three days, Jolly never gave up at least a share of the top spot. He regrouped and made the shots he needed to post the biggest victory of his career.

``This is my biggest win, by far,’’ said Jolly. ``I’m so excited. . . Wannamoisett Country Club is a great Country Club. It was in perfect condition. I couldn’t be more thankful to be here. I had a great event.’’ Jolly, who heads to England on Sunday to be part of the United States team in the Palmer Cup matches, has won two college tournaments and took the Junior Masters before college. While it was his pure talent that gave him the lead after each of the first three days, it was his determination that allowed him to complete the second wire-to-wire performance in the tournament in four years. Peter Uihlein also did it in 2011.

``It was a grind out there. It was very, very tough, but I played great,’’ Jolly said. ``I holed some putts and didn’t really get into any trouble.’’

He was only one ahead of Niebrugge to begin the day and fell into a tie when he bogeyed the 505-yard, par-4 second. He responded with birds on 4 and 7, while Niebrugge was beginning with eight straight pars.

Jolly’s lead grew to four when he rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 10th. But any thoughts of a runaway disappeared with a two-shot swing on 11. Jolly three-putted for bogey and Niebrugge rolled in a 12-foot downhill putt for bird. Suddenly, he was back within two, at 2-under for the tournament while Jolly was a 4-under.

It was strictly a two-man race as no one else was able to get into red numbers for the tournament. US Junior champion Scottie Scheffler, Chelso Barrett of TCU, Seth Reeves of Georgia Tech and Lee McCoy of Georgia all tied for third at 279, five behind Jolly.

Jolly had what he called ``sloppy`` bogeys on 11, 13 and 14 and was still ahead by one on the 15th because Niebrugge also was struggling. Jolly responded by hitting a five-iron on the uphill 210-yard par-3 15th that nearly went into the hole on the first bounce and ended up 10 feet past the cup.

``That was huge. I had just made three bogeys in four holes and it was kind of slipping the other way, then I hit a great shot in there and made the putt. It kind of gave me the confidence for the last three holes,’’ he said.

There was one final twist supplied by Niebrugge. That came on the 551-yard 17th, the only par-5 on the course. He had 210 yards with his second shot and hit a five iron. It hit the pin on the fly and he got a terrible break. It deflected against the collar of the rough.

``I can’t be made or anything like that, I hit a perfect shot,’’ he said. ``I was hoping it would hit a little short of the green and roll up there, but it flew a little further than I expected. It’s all right.’’ He skulled his chip from against the collar back across the green and made six. Jolly could afford to three-putt the final hole and win by two.

It all made Jolly’s decision to play in the event rather than head to England early, which sevn of his Palmer Cup teammates did, look very smart.

``It obviously looks pretty good right now,’’ he said. ``It was a very hard decision both events (he missed the British Amateur) are very, very good. I just felt I like I had already made by commitment here so that’s what I needed to do.’’

Tiger and Cowboy Put on a Show Down the Stretch

By Paul Kenyon

EAST PROVIDENCE _ It will be LSU against Oklahoma State, a Walker Cup player against a Palmer Cup selection in the final round of the Northeast Amateur on Saturday.

It is not just  a two-man race, but Stewart Jolly and Jordan Niebrugge did all they could in Friday’s third round to pull away from the field.

Jolly, the leader after each of the first two days, birdied his last two holes, including a 20-footer on 18, to maintain sole possession of the lead. The LSU star who will represent the United States in the Palmer Cup matches in England next week (he is playing with his USA bag this week), shot 69 to stand at 4-under 203 through 54 holes.

Niebrugge, an Oklahoma State star who helped the United States win the Walker Cup last summer,  surged into the challenger’s spot with the best round of the week, a 4-under 65 despite difficult conditions that sent most scores soaring. He is one behind Jolly at 204.

Only one other player, Kurt Kitayama of UNLV, is within six shots of the lead. He had a 69 for 207.

The two leaders know each other well. Their college experiences have included playing in the same threesome in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Both their teams reached the NCAA Final Four this year.

“He’s a great player. He’s a very, very good ball striker,’’ Jolly said of Niebrugger. “He’s proven how good he is. He was on the Walker Cup team last year. I’m looking forward to playing with him tomorrow.’’

Jolly suffered bogeys at 3 and 4 on Friday, but then made 12 straight pars before finishing birdie-birdie to keep his lead.

“I kind of stuck to my game plan, just trying to hit fairways and greens. That makes it a lot easier out here. The whole course firmed up a ton today, it was very, very difficult, especially early on.’’ Jolly said. His putting was a key with his work including a 12-footer to save par on nine, a 15-foot save on 12 and a 20-footer for bird on the last hole.

Only one person shot below 68 in the third round. That was Niebrugger, who made his 65 sound easy.

“I’ve had three pretty stress free rounds’’, he said.

Most players went backwards on moving day because of continued strong wind. Niebrugger does not mind if it lasts one more day.

“I think it was very similar to round one,’’ he said of blustery winds. “Yesterday I thought was little bit easier. I play at Oklahoma State so we’re used to the wind. We probably practice in this every day in the spring, so I’m pretty used to it. That’s why we go there. We get all the elements there. When you go out there you feel like you’re prepared for the wind. You know how to hit some shots. So I’m very comfortable out there.’’

Niebrugger earned his Walker Cup berth with a sensational 2013 in which he won the US Public Links (which allowed him to play in The Masters this year), the Western Am and both the Wisconsin amateur and stroke play.

Until the leaders came in, the story continued to be high scoring because of the wind and increasingly firm greens.

Three members of the University of Texas team handled the conditions well. Kramer Hickok, Gavin Hall and Taylor Funk, all posted 68s. Funk, the son of Fred, did it with his mother, Sharon, caddying for him.

However most fell back. Another Texas player, Scottie Scheffler, the US Junior Champion who is the third ranked Amateur in the world, doubled the first hole and never got going on the way to a 70 that left him in a tie for fifth at 210.

All-American Seth Reeves of Georgia got within two of the lead but then doubled the par-4 11th.  Bryson Dechambeau, another member of the US Palmer Cup team, got himself in position to challenge, but then doubled the short (345-yard) seventh hole. Hans Reimers, who began the day in second place, drove out of bounds on the fourth hole on the way to making a quadruple bogey eight.

Stewart Jolly Maintains Lead After Round 2 67

By Paul Kenyon

EAST PROVIDENCE _ It is looking more and more as if Stewart Jolly made a great decision to delay his trip to England to represent the United States in the Palmer Cup matches.

After earning All-American honors for a big year at LSU, Jolly was named to the 10-man United States team that will face the Europeans next week in the Palmer Cup at the Walton Heath Golf Club in Surrey, England.

Seven of the 10 members of Team USA already are in England. They went last week so they could compete in the British Amateur.  Jolly was one of three, along with Bryson Dechambeau of SMU and Anthony Maccaglia of Ogelthorpe, who decided to stay on this side of the Atlantic and play in the Sunnehanna Invitational last week in Pennsylvania and in the Northeast Amateur this week.

Jolly is showing why he made the United States team as he competes in the 53rd annual Northeast at Wannamoisett.

He recorded his second-straight 2-under 67 Thursday to build his lead from one to three strokes. Oregon Open champion Hans Reimers, a recent Mercer University grad, birdied his last two holes for a 69 and 137 total for second place.

Two more college stars, Seth Reeves of Georgia Tech (68) and Kurt Kitayama of UNLV (70) are tied for third at level par 138.

Jolly’s numbers stand out because everyone else is fighting just to stay near par. He is one of the only two players in red numbers. There have not been fewer players under par through 36 holes since 1991. That year, no one was below par after two days. Jay Sigel eventually won the event for the third time at four-over.

Jolly could have headed over with his Palmer Cup teammates by now. But he decided he wanted to honor a promise to play in the Northeast for the first time.

“I committed to play in this tournament before I made the Palmer Cup team,’’ he related. “I decided it would be better to come play these two events rather than play one over there. I thought it was the best thing to do to get my game in shape.’’

Jolly took different routes to his two 67s. In the first round, he finished with birdies on each of his last two holes. In the second round he birdied three of his first five then, as he described it, “played really solid, steady all day.’’

He expected others to play well, too.

“It was a little bit softer today. It rained this morning, softened up the course and made it a little bit easier,’’ he said.

Reimers stayed within range thanks to a strong finish. After his opening 68, he had three early bogeys in the second round to fall back but then came on well with four birds on the way to a 32 on the back side.

“I birdied 17 and 18 so that helps,’’ he said. “It’s awesome to come in with a couple of birdies instead of finishing the other way.’’

The early scores included a 66 by former Louisiana Amateur champion Patrick Christovich (for a 141 total) and 67s by Scottie Scheffler, the reigning U.S. Junior Champion who is headed to the University of Texas (for 140) and University of Georgia star Nicholas Reach for 141.

Stewart Jolly Leads Deep Field at Northeast Amateur After Round 1

By Paul Kenyon

EAST PROVIDENCE -    Stewart Jolly was the last player to get started in the Northeast Amateur on Wednesday at Wannamoisett Country Club, and the first player on the scoreboard when the day was done.

Jolly, an LSU star who hails from Birmingham, Ala., birdied his last two holes to shoot 2-under 67 and earn the first-day lead in the 53rd annual Northeast.

Only five players broke par on a day made difficult on the Donald Ross-designed course by strong winds as well as firm and fast greens. Being the last player off the tee (1:20 starting time) turned out to be a blessing for Jolly. Winds that were measured in the 20 MPH range most of the day and at times as high as 30, finally subsided late in the afternoon.

“It definitely calmed down a little bit,’’ Jolly said. “It was probably an advantage to play this afternoon with the wind dying down the last five holes or so. It was a lot of fun.’’ 

“I made a lot of pars,’’ said Jolly, who heads to England next week as a member of the U.S. Palmer Cup team. “It was playing pretty tough with the wind up.  .  . I played very safe shots into the greens where, if I did miss a green, I was in a spot where I could get it up and down. And I did.’’

Jolly took advantage of the calmer conditions late in the day. He reached the 17th, the only par-5 on the course, in two and two putted for bird, then drained a 25-footer for another bird on the 18th to earn the lead for himself.

Four other collegians had 68, Adam Schenk of Purdue, Hans Reimers, a recent Mercer University grad from Albany, Or.,  Blake Morris of Ole Miss and Kurt Kitayama of UNLV.

For most of the day, the wind was the biggest story. It created even tougher conditions than usual, sending scores higher.  Conditions changed less than a half hour after play began.  

“We got the first two groups off fine,’’ said Joe Pieranunzi, the announcer on the first tee. “Then, when the third group was on the tee, the wind came. It blew so hard it knocked over the table where we have the tees for the players, knocked it right into Joe Sprague’s legs (Sprague is the director of regional affairs for the Northeast for the USGA).

“Then the tent blew over,’’ Pieranunzi added, “and it hasn’t stopped since.’’

At midday the winds were measured at 18 miles an hour, with gusts up to 26. Wannamoisett is known for its outstanding course conditions and slick, quick greens. It is not unusual to have strong wind in the spring and fall. But it is highly unusual in summer, on a beautiful sunny day that included temperatures in the high 80s.

“It’s never like this at this time,’’ said Ben Tuthill, who took over this year as tournament director from Denny Glass. Tuthill grew up at Wannamoisett and is a former Rhode Island Amateur champion.

“This makes it much tougher,’’ Tuthill said.

“With the greens as firm as they were, it made it feel like a U.S. Open or a U.S. Amateur,’’ said Morris, a Connecticut native who is competing in the event for the fourth year.

The course set-up by the R.I. Golf Association traditionally is the easiest of the week.  In six of the last seven years, it has taken a score of 65 or lower to take the first-day lead on the 6,732-yard layout. That included a 62, two 63s and a 64.

Lefty Clancy Waugh, who just finished his freshman year at Wake Forest, had the lead much of the day at 3-under before settling for a 69. Bailey Patrick, a University of North Carolina star, was the only other player to match par.

Kitayama Takes Ruling In Stride; Sits 1 Back

By Paul Kenyon

Kurt Kitayama took as few shots as any of the 88 players in the first round of the Northeast Amateur on Wednesday. Still, when the day ended, he was only in a tie for second place.

Because of the rules, that can happen in golf.

Kitayama, a star for UNLV who lives in Chico, Cal., finished with a 1-under-par 68. He hit 67 shots and had to take a one-stroke penalty when he dropped his putter as he was getting ready to putt on his ninth hole. The putter landed on his marker and moved the marker.

“It moved the ball mark and he moved it back. That’s a one-stroke penalty,’’ said Bob Ward, the executive director of the R.I. Golf Association which helps run the event. “He knew it.’’

Because he knew the rule, Kitayama did not protest.

“It was a little unfortunate but I bounced back from it,’’ he said. “I figured I was playing well enough and I was putting well enough that I could make it up.’’

Kitayama, who has never been to New England before, had five birds. Beginning on the back side, Kitayama birdied, 11, 12, 14, 3 and 5.

Northeast Amateur Invitational Media Day

RUMFORD, R.I. – June 4,2014 - Welcome to the 53rd Northeast Amateur Invitational. The membership of Wannamoisett Country Club and the Northeast Amateur committee are excited about our field and staging one of the elite events in amateur golf.

This year’s event will take place from June 18-21 at Wannamoisett C.C., a par-69, Donald Ross-designed course that has stood the test of time welcoming the best players in the world. Last year seven players finished under par, led by 2013 champion Cory Whisett’s (Univ. Alabama) 10-under par score.

Under the direction of first-year committee chairman Ben Tuthill, we again have one of the best fields of players amateur golf will see this summer. Included in the field are three members of the winning 2013 Walker Cup team; three members of the 2014 Palmer Cup team that will play the following week at Walton Heath in England; winners of the USGA’s Mid-Amateur, Pub-Links and Junior Amateur; as well as reigning champions of the Player’s Amateur, Sunnehanna Amateur, North & South Amateur, Brazilian Amateur, Southern Amateur and Monroe Invitational.

“Our previous chairman, Denny Glass, left a great legacy and template for us to follow and the interest in the Northeast has never been greater. We’re excited to host another great event and to showcase some of golf’s future stars,” said Tuthill, a former competitor in the Northeast Amateur.

The field includes seven of the top 25 players on the World Amateur Golf Rankings compiled by the USGA and the R&A. That group is headlined by the number one ranked junior player in the world, Dallas high school senior and USGA Junior champion Scottie Scheffler. He is headed to the University of Texas in the fall. Other highly ranked players include:

  • SMU’s Bryson Dechambeau, a Palmer Cup team member who just finished ninth at the NCAA’s.
  • Jordan Niebrugge, last year's Western Amateur Champion and a Walker Cup teamer who recently helped Oklahoma State to the NCAA finals.
  • Roman Robdelo of Houston who won five tournaments in nine tries this season.
  • Cheng-Tsung Pan, an All-American at the University of Washington.
  • Sam Horsfield, a 17-year old who won the Florida Amateur by 11 shots last year and will be a Florida Gator in the fall.
  • Steven Ihm, the 2013 Sunnehanna champion and All-Big Ten pick at Iowa.

Three members of the LSU team that reached the semifinal round of the NCAA’s are coming to town. They include Palmer Cup member Stewart Jolly, Smylie Kaufman and Curtis Thompson, the older brother of LPGA phenom Lexi and younger sibling to Nicholas, a PGA Tour member and former Northeast Amateur contestant.

Mid-Amateurs are annual contenders in the tournament and we have several returnees including 1990 champion Todd White, who is coming off a great showing in the Walker Cup last summer; USGA Mid-Am champion Mike McCoy and runner-up Bill Williamson; and Nathan Smith, another Walker Cupper who is one of the most decorated mid-amateur players in history.

Someone from the Rhode Island area always seems to find a way to compete at the Northeast. Multiple RIGA champion Bobby Leopold is returning after finishing T17 with a plus-6 score a year ago. RIGA Player of the Year Brad Valois, Stroke Play champ Johnny Hayes IV, two-time State Amateur and 8 time Wannamoisett Club champ Charlie Blanchard, Wannamoisett club champion Dan Blessing and Jamison Randall, the Cumberland native who was the team MVP at Old Dominion, are also in the field.

The Northeast Amateur begins with a Sponsor/Contestant Tournament on Tuesday, June 17. The tournament proper begins on Wednesday, June 18, at 8 a.m. Please follow scoring updates on our web site, NortheastAmateur.com, and look for our professionally produced daily video updates from Don Coyne at the site as well.

Please do not hesitate to contact us for any assistance in covering the event. On behalf of our committee, thank you for your interest in the Northeast Amateur.

Cory Whitsett 2013 Winner


Cory Whitsett sank a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole to cap an amazing closing round 6-under 63 and capture the 52nd Northeast Amateur at Wannamoisett Country Club for what he termed his “biggest individual amateur victory.”

Whitsett, who just completed his junior year at Alabama, finished with a 10-under 266 total and won by two strokes over Bo Andrews, who was just as amazing over the final 18 holes with a 7-under 62.

Whitsett’s final round was the lowest shot by the winner the last day in the long and storied history of this world-class tournament.

Meanwhile, the 62 by Andrews, who will be a fifth-year senior at Georgia Tech, equaled this year’s low tournament round, was one-shot shy of the tournament record and the lowest final round ever in the competition.

“This has been a great month of golf for me and to cap it off with a win here is just phenomenal,” said Whitsett, who plans to head back home to Houston and take some time off. “This is my favorite tournament so that makes it ever more special.

“And to be the champion in (Denny Glass’) last year as tournament chairman is the icing on the cake,” Whitsett said. “I’ve know Mr. Glass since I was 16 years old and have played in his Terra Cotta tournament (which Glass also chairs) three times (finishing second twice). This is my third time here so we’ve become good friends.”

Whitsett started the final round tied for second with Patrick Rodgers and Cameron Wilson, two strokes behind Rafael Becker of Brazil, who led or shared the lead in each of the first three rounds.

With a closing 1-under 68, Rodgers finished third at 5-under 271 while Becker struggled home with a 4-over 73 and placed fourth at 2-under 274.

Todd White, with a most impressive 4-under 65 finish, was the event’s low mid-amateur at 1-under 275, seven shots clear of fellow mid-ams Bobby Leopold and Mike McCoy. White tied for fifth with Wilson (72) and Max Homa (69).

Ben Tuthill

Ben Tuthill has been named chairman of the Northeast Amateur Invitational, replacing Denny Glass, it was announced on Tuesday morning.

Tuthill, 32, is a financial adviser in Providence, R.I., and has been a member at Wannamoisett Country Club since 2007, with his family dating to 1988 at the club.

Tuthill played in the Northeast Amateur in 2001, 2004, 2009 and 2012. He is a former Rhode Island Amateur champion.

"I am extremely excited about leading the Northeast for years to come," said Tuthill. "This tournament has been a part of my life since 1988 and I have had the pleasure of taking part as a caddie, player, committee member and sponsor through the years. My goal will be to attract the strongest field in amateur golf and to ensure the players and the Wannamoisett membership continues to have a wonderful experience the third week of June."

Read the Golfweek article here.