Massachusetts Amateur golf: Only 12 break par on Day 1
NEWTON — For the first time in 30 years, the 113th Massachusetts Amateur returns to Brae Burn Country Club this week, and the historic golf venue appears to be up to the task of challenging 144 of the best the state has to offer.
Despite the rains that postponed play on Monday making for soft greens and lift-clean-and-place rules, a thick rough made things tough on players as just 12 broke par in the opening round.
With so many young guns in the field, it was a couple of 30-somethings sharing the lead after the first day in George Zolotas and Andy Luther. Luther went out and shot a 4-under 68 in the morning wave and Zolotas matched him in the afternoon.
Both are looking for their first berth in match play at the Mass Amateur.
“That was one of my goals this year,” said Luther. “My coach said, ‘What do you want to do this year?’ and I said I want to play match play at the Am. First you have to qualify, the next step is match play.”
Zolotas, who plays out of Tedesco CC, was 6-under for his first six holes, eagling the 13th, and got it to 7-under before giving back a few shots down the stretch.
The former St. John’s Prep star went pro after an outstanding career at St. John’s University but regained his amateur status 10 years ago. He has not been very active on the tournament circuit recently with young children at home — his last Mass Amateur appearance was in 2015 — but had a window of opportunity and is taking advantage of it.
“I’ve been playing a little more this year, but nothing competitive, just getting back into it,” said Zolotas. “Putter got hot today and I just kind of rode it.”
Luther, a transplant from Alabama, was the steadier of the two, carding six birdies and two bogeys.
“I hit a lot of fairways,” said Luther, who now resides in Milton. “(We are) playing ball in hand so that was the name of the game today, and had the putter going and made some putts. It was a good day.”
One shot back at 3-under is 2018 champion Patrick Frodigh, one of three Frodigh brothers to qualify for the event, and recent Lehigh grad Owen Quinn. Another former champion, Ben Spitz, sits at 2-under.
Among the seven players at 1-under are Frank Vana Jr., a two-time winner of the event and coming off a win in the New England Senior Amateur last year; and former U.S. Mid-Amateur champion Matt Parziale. Current Stanford star Michael Thornbjornsen, who won the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2018, headlines the group at even par.
The field, which ranges in age from 15 (Ryan Downes) to 67 (Vin Bucci), will be cut to 32 players for match play after Round 2 on Wednesday.