PLYMOUTH, Mass – James Imai showed up at Plymouth Country Club in “America’s Hometown” with one goal – to win the 55th annual Hornblower Memorial – and on the strength of a sizzling final round 66, the prestigious tournament has a new champion.
With his three-under par 66 on Saturday June 1, the tournament’s low round, and with his one-under 68, on Friday May 31, Imai shot 134, four-under par, for the two-day event.
He earned a one-stroke victory over Country Club of Halifax member Dillon Brown and UConn senior Jimmy Hervol, who posted impressive scores of 68-67.
James Imai also won the Junior Medalist trophy, defeating runner-up Colin Spencer, a 15-year-old from Cummaquid Golf Club, who shot 71-75. Imai is an 18-year old senior at Brookline High School who plays out of George Wright Golf Club.
“I had played Plymouth in a junior tournament and just thoroughly enjoyed the course,” a happy Imai said after his round. “Then several of my friends who had played in the Hornblower said it was one of the best amateur tournaments that you could play in. So, I made sure I could fit it into my schedule this year. Even if I hadn’t won, I would have had a blast and would have wanted to return in the future.”
Imai’s birdie on the first hole tied him with overnight leader Mike Kennedy from New Haven Country Club at two-under par. Imai’s successive birdies on No. 5, 6, 10, and 14 propelled him into a four-stroke lead that he refused to relinquish. He was five-under par on his round and 6-under for the tournament through 16 holes. And, as a result, the field was wondering who would win the silver medal.
Then Imai bogeyed No. 17 and 18, his only two blips of the day, and University of Maryland freshman Dillon Brown, who also shot 68 on Friday, suddenly had a glimpse at the gold. Brown had birdied the short par-5 16th – his fifth birdie of the day (No. 1, 4, 11, and 13) – to get to two-under par.
“I was playing in the final group behind James and watched him bogey both 17 and 18 to end up at 66 for the day,” the 2018 Silver Lake Regional High School graduate said. “As I was standing in the fairway on 18, I knew that, if I birdied the hole, I would force a playoff. Unfortunately, I didn’t get my second shot as close as I wanted and didn’t make the putt. But I had another great Hornblower, and I congratulate James on his impressive victory.”
Jimmy Hervol from Hopkinton Country Club birdied No. 18 from six feet and shot 67 as well to share second with Brown. Hervol had birdies on No. 5 and 16 and only one bogey on 8, the tempestuous par 3.
Hornblower first-day leader Mike Kennedy (67) from New Haven CC, who played in the final group with Brown and Hervol, had a tough front side, including a triple bogey on No. 5, to fall out of contention with a 78.
After Imai, Brown, and Hervol, who all shot under par for both days, there was a three-shot gap with two players T-4 at even par 138. Both Sean Fitzpatrick, of George Wright, a perennial contender at the Hornblower, and Brandon Gillis, former champ of Nashua Country Club, currently on the URI golf team, shot 70-68.
Tied for sixth place with identical scores of 70-69 were Ben Spitz, of George Wright, who finished just out of the lead last year, and Tim Umphrey of Tatnuck Country Club, and a member of the UConn golf team.
Nick Harrington was alone in 8th place with his 69-72 (141). Harrington belongs to the E Club of CT and is the third member of the UConn golf team to finish top-10 in the Hornblower.
Five players shared ninth place with 142 scores: Greg DiBona (72-70) of Duxbury, MA; Davis Chatfield (71-71) of Wannamoisett CC; Brett Krekorian (69-73) of Indian Ridge CC; Owen Quinn (74-68) of Wachusett CC; and Ryan Riley (72-70) of Pine Oaks CC.
The best finish by a member of the host club was Jim Bandera, who shot 71-73 for T-15.
“I had two keys: one, my putting, and, two, staying patient,” said Imai, the newly-crowned Hornblower champion summing up the keys to his victory. “I knew that my feel for the speed of the greens had been accurate throughout the tournament. My tempo and swing have felt very comfortable, so I knew that—if I stuck to my game plan and remained very disciplined, trying to keep the ball in the safest spots—I should be able to make some putts and avoid three putting. And that’s exactly what happened for me today.”
Imai will attend Northwestern University in the fall and on Sunday, June 9 he graduates from Brookline High School.
Somewhere in the Brookline High School yearbook next to James Imai’s name his classmates would be wise to include the phrase “most likely to succeed.”
(CREDIT Photography by Leigh MacKay)