PORTLAND, Maine – Some tournaments are blessed with fine weather, some are hampered by inclement weather and the 2018 New England Amateur Championship, played at Portland Country Club July 17 -19 got a bit of both, but, that did not stop Reese McFarlane, of Purpoodock Club (ME) from firing rounds of 65-69-72-206, 4-under par total, to win by two over Vermont Amateur Champion Drake Hull.
The 89th edition of the New England Amateur championship was scheduled for 72-holes but reduced to 54-holes due to an unexpected rain storm during round one, which hampered play at the beautifully conditioned par 70 Portland Country Club.
In addition to McFarlane and Hull, only five players broke par including Max Theodorakis of Ridgewood CC (CT)), Evan Grenus of TPC River Highlands (CT) and Matthew Paradis of Concord CC (NH), who all finished T-3 at 1-under par.
The battle for individual honors in this year’s New England Amateur turned out to be less of a competitive contest than expected since 21-year old Reese McFarlane, a senior-to-be at the University of North Carolina (Wilmington), delivered a wire-to-wire victory.
“I can’t even remember the last time that I won, but I was probably 13 years old,” said the tall strapping lefty who holds a +1 handicap at Purpoodock. “I felt like I could win the Maine Am and the New Am for a few years, but I have never really been able to get off to the right start and put all three rounds together.”
Patience and accurate ball-striking were the keys to McFarlane’s dominance from a talented field of 132 competitors each with handicaps on less than 6.
“I had a lot of confidence with my tee ball,” said McFarlane describing his week. “It is a lot easier if you can just find the fairway off of every tee and not having to stress about the tee shots. The putter worked really well for me yesterday. It definitely hasn’t sunk in yet,” said McFarlane. “I started to realize walking down the 18th what it was going to be like, but it still hasn’t hit me yet.”
With his win, McFarlane becomes only the fifth player from Maine to win the New England Amateur Championship. He joins John Levinson (1936, ’37, ’47), John Sale (1969), Mark Plummer (1979, ’94), and Sean Gorgone (1991) as the only Mainers to win the event, and the first to win on home soil since Plummer in 1994 at Falmouth Country Club. Like McFarlane, Levinson won the first of his three titles at Portland CC as well.
“I wasn’t looking too closely at the leaderboard,” said McFarlane. “I knew that it was tough, so I figured that if I could just stay right around even par I would check the leaderboard when I got out of the woods and onto 16 and it all worked out.”
So two days after turning 21 years old, McFarlane – in front of a large gathering of friends, family and spectators at Portland Country Club – received the Harry B. McCracken, Jr. Trophy which is awarded to the winner of the New England Amateur Championship.
New England Amateur Notebook
Following the completion of his second round, Reese McFarlane had three hours to rest, hydrate and refuel before he returned to the first tee where he was paired with Steven DiLisio (Salem CC – MA), who had moved into second place heading into the third round after posting a second-round score of 4-under par 66.
While DiLisio was unable to overtake the second-round leader, McFarlane was pushed most of the afternoon by Max Theodorakis (Ridgewood CC – CT), who made birdie on four of his first six holes and then chipped in from off the green on the 408-yard, par 4 9th hole to make the turn at 4-under par 31.
“I knew that I was there and in contention,” said Theodorakis, who was 35 yards off the green on that 9th hole. “I have played this tournament three times and each time I have been close to the lead, but this has been my most successful for sure.”
The final round was a day when even McFarlane’s bad moments looked good. On the 412-yard, par 4 15th hole, he found himself with a downhill lie in the back bunker that he could only muscle into the fringe. He made an aggressive swing which left him with a six-foot putt for bogey that he walked in with confidence. It was a bogey that felt like a birdie.
“It’s always fun being in contention,” said Theodorakis who faded a bit with two bogeys and no birdies on the back nine to finish T3. “I enjoy it, and I don’t get nervous. I like being in contention and competing and maybe next time I can play better on the back nine.”
Also finishing in second place was Drake Hull (Rutland CC – VT) who made birdie on his final two holes of the day to finish just two strokes back of McFarlane. Hull, who won his second straight Vermont Amateur Championship last week, was one of five competitors in this year’s New England Amateur Championship field who captured a 2018 state amateur title. They include: Patrick Frodigh (MA), Jake Bauer (RI), Jack Wyman (ME) and Ben Conroy (CT).
Two Bay State golfers – Jackson Lang (Nashawtuc CC – MA) and Matthew Organisak (Nashawtuc CC – MA) posted the low round on Thursday, a 3-under par 67. Both competitors finished with four birdies and one bogey apiece and, as a result of their performance, moved into the top 10 overall. Lang finished T6, while Organisak was T11.
The New England Amateur Championship will move to Vermont next season. The Quechee Club in Quechee, Vermont will host the 2019 New England Amateur Championship. The top twenty (20) and ties will be exempt into the 2019 New England Amateur Championship.
For more information: http://www.negagolf.org/
(PHOTO CREDIT – David Colt Photography)