For immediate release: July 10, 2023
MANCHESTER-BY-THE-SEA, Massachusetts – Massachusetts Amateur Championship always serves as the toughest test for the state’s top amateur golfers. To no one’s surprise, the Essex County Club showed its teeth on Day 1, but being patient with the poor weather conditions proved to be Monday’s biggest test.
A four-hour fog delay in the morning followed by a two-hour rain delay in the afternoon made for a stop-and-go opening to the 115th edition of the state amateur, while those with afternoon tee times held out all day, just to play a couple of holes.
Still, four golfers—Wellesley’s John Broderick, from Vanderbilt University; Brooklines James Imai, from Northwestern University; as well as Boston’s Jesse Zorfas of and Gloucester’s Mark Turner — were able to claw their way to the top of the leaderboard at 1-under-par 69, finishing their first rounds nearly 10 hours after hitting their opening tee shots in the early morning.
For a while, it also seemed Westford teenager Molly Smith had to wait another day to make her historic appearance as the first woman to play in Mass Amateur. However, the 18-year-old University of Central Florida commit got his opportunity at 17:51, sending her opening tee shot to the right of the wide fairway on hole 1. She finished the day 1-over through 8 holes.
The game was suspended due to darkness at 19.49. Round 1 resumes at 7.30 on Tuesday morning, after which the second round of stroke play follows. If there is a tie for the last 32 spots in match play, there will be a playoff immediately after the stroke play round ends.
Online: Mass Golf Championship Central | Round 1 Scores | Round 2 start times | Photo gallery | Former champions
James Imai (KOHR Golf) is certainly no stranger to long days, especially having played in the US Open Final Qualifying (aka Golf’s Longest Day) multiple times. Making his first Mass Amateur appearance since 2020, Imai’s putter got hot late as he birdied three of his final five holes, including a 25-footer for birdie on the 17th to earn a share of the clubhouse lead.
“I’m just glad I finished and survived all the delays,” said Imai, who finished with six birdies in his twice-interrupted round. “It’s just turning the mental grin on and off, especially for a few hours of sitting around. You’re trying to get going, but you really don’t know when you can warm up.”
Jesse Zorfas31, a member of Framingham Country Club, had the best start of the day, shooting a bogey-free 2-under par on the first nine that included birdies on Nos. 6 and 9. Despite a few lip-outs has the former Franklin & Marshall standout qualified to play a match for the first time at Mass Amateur.
“Pretty happy to be done, it was a long day but overall very good, very happy,” Zorfas said. “It’s about patience, getting back into the flow and not quite feeling like you’re starting over every time. I think everything was pretty decent. You keep the hole in front of you and everything can fall into place.”
Mark Turner, who just finished his graduate year as co-captain at Dartmouth College, made an eagle on the par-5 5th, one of only two such holes in Essex, to help him to a share of the lead. Meanwhile, Mass Junior Amateur champion John Broderickhad a slide opening nine, but shot 1-under par on the front (back nine) to end his day.
Molly Smith (Vesper Country Club) appeared in Essex just as the second weather delay began. After a long weekend of playing in Long Meadow Golf Club’s club championship, the extra rest was rather welcome. After having lunch with friends and family on Monday, Smith got ready and pulled the driver out of the bag, cared for by his youngest sister Maddie. Playing third out of her group with Nolan Skaggs (Plymouth Country Club) and Owen EganSmith sent his opening tee shot into the gray sky and it rolled into the right rough.
Despite bogeys on holes 1 and 3, Smith bounced back with birdies on holes 5 and 7, getting up-and-down for par just as the horn sounded to end the day.
“I’m definitely glad I got out there and got a few holes in, but I haven’t really experienced this that many times,” Smith said when asked about waiting to get his historic round going. “I’m glad I was in the early afternoon wave and I was able to get eight holes in instead of 2-3 holes. Up-and-down on eight makes me leave the course feeling better , than I wore it. 5th tee.”
Two of the most anticipated tee shots in the history of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship were played this afternoon. Molly Smith became the first woman to tee it up #MassAm and Conner Willett began his title defense. #MassGolf
— Mass Golf (@PlayMassGolf) 10 July 2023
Also a strong start is Thomas Hackett (George Wright Golf Course), who finished the front nine 2-under before play was suspended. Joshua Shepard (Country Club of Pittsfield) and 2009 champion bill drones (Bradford Country Club) finished the day at 1-under but still has more holes to play in the opening round.
WATCH: ROUND 1 OVERVIEW
Here’s some other stuff from Day 1 at the Massachusetts Amateur Championship.
- The Essex County Club most recently hosted the Mass Amateur in 1993 and 2005. In those years, the stroke play cutlines were 148 (8-over) and 149 (9-over) respectively. When Fly Lincoln won in 1993, he shot 6-over in stroke play, while Frank children Jr.who are in this year’s field finished 5-over to qualify for match play.
- Among 10 former champions in the field, Mike Calef (2012 & 2013) and bill drones (2009) are the only ones currently equal or better.
- The players and their caddies had a variety of ways to pass the time during the delays in play on Monday. Among them: cards, naps, driving range (off-site), work, watching Wimbledon on TV.
- While many deputies waited around Essex on Monday, Brendan Kelleher (Hopedale CC) was officially the last player in the field. Kelleher birdied the par-3 14th but had a string of bogeys on his back nine to finish with an 80.
The par-5 5th was the best hole to score on Monday, yielding 2 eagles (Mark Turner and Alex Landry) and 22 birdies for a stroke average of 4.86. However, the par-3 4th was the most difficult Jack Boulger (Walpole Country Club) records the lone birdie.
- This is the hardest round of golf I have ever played. — Ethan Whitneya round of 16 last year, on his round Monday.
- I putted really well and hit my wedges well, which you have to do here in soft conditions, which is not often in Essex. When I made a mistake, I shook it off and mostly bounced back. — James Imai on his opening round in Essex.
- I love it. Mass Golf always organizes the best events. I have been fortunate enough to play in a lot of events put on by other state organizations, but Mass Golf is above them all. It really doesn’t get much better so hopefully it goes my way by the end of the week. — James Imai as he returned to Mass Amateur for the first time since 2020.
- I had Mackenzie Whitney here, so she makes passing that time a little easier. — Molly Smith the time before her opening round.
- I think the greens changed a bit between the breaks, but overall I’ve had a few rounds here so I felt pretty good. — Jesse Zorfasabout reading the softened vegetables on Monday.
For the latest information on the 115th Massachusetts Amateur Championship, visit MassGolf.org and follow @PlayMassGolf on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. To join the conversation, use the hashtag #MassGolf and #MassAm