Shootout Looms at 60th Hornblower Memorial with Five 65’s

Jack Kearney (l), Frank Vana (c) and Scott Copeland on the first tee at Plymouth CC prior to their 9:12 am Round One tee time at the 60th Hornblower Memorial Invitational May 31.

PLYMOUTH, Mass – The strongest field in the 60-year history of the Hornblower Memorial has made its presence felt during round one on Friday. Five players are tied at the top with four-under 65’s at the iconic Donald Ross 34-35 par-69 Plymouth CC. Nine others shattered par, and 11 more are sitting at par. Saturday’s round, which includes the top 60 and ties from the 159 entrants, is destined to be a drama-filled finale.

Defending champion Aiden Emmerich, Kernwood CC and a member of the Temple golf team, almost missed his 2:27 pm starting time because of traffic problems, but hit his tee shot on time, and, after a slow start, shot a one-over 70.

Hunter Stone fired a 4-under 65 where he shares the lead in Round 1 with four other players.

Sitting in the catbird seats are Harry Dessel, Rhode Island CC; Cooper Griffin, Woodland GC; Jake Ratti, Wollaston GC; Eli Spaulding, Brunswick GC; and Hunter Stone, Tedesco CC. Michael Walsh, Burlington GC, has the only 66 and is followed by the six 67’s of John Broderick, Dedham Country and Polo Club; Nick Carter, Plymouth CC; Adam Friedman, Sterling Farms GC; Patrick Kilcoyne, Woodland GC; Jack O’Donnell, Boston GC, and Jake Shuman, Blue Hill CC.

Waiting in the wings at 68 are 2021 champion Tommy Ethier, Portsmouth CC, and Ryan Brown, Cape Cod National.

Tommy Either of Portsmouth CC.

Mike Ellis, longtime Tournament Chairman, said, “The course is in absolutely great shape and the greens are phenomenal and very fast. The rough is not tall, but it is very thick.”

Superintendent Ben Whiting knows the routine and has the course ready again for championship play said, “Yes, we have had a challenging spring with two inches of rain on Wednesday and then another two inches of rain yesterday. We had to postpone the Pro-Am, which was completely booked with thirty teams.”

Jake Ratti of Wollaston GC.

“But the course has recovered sufficiently, and today is sunny with very little wind. I expect to see some low scores today with the soft greens, which will allow the players to go after the pins. My guess is you’re going to see at least 10 players shoot under par today. The record for the tournament is seven under, and I think this year’s winner will be at least five under and may equal that seven under.”

This annual competition is without question the harbinger of the New England amateur summer circuit, and many of the participants here will be seen frequently throughout the amateur, mid-amateur, and Open championships of the six states.

2011 Hornblower champ Bobby Leopold.

Mike Ellis’s guess about how many would shoot under par was a little pessimistic, but Director of Operations Mike Roy couldn’t withhold his enthusiasm for this year’s possibilities. He said, “The overall field gets younger and younger every year and better and better. In my seven years here, this is the strongest field ever. No question. We have the GHIN Index to qualify at 3.0 or lower, but so many of these players have plus handicaps. We have even more plus handicap players and college scholarship players on the waiting list because of the demand to play in this event. Because of the perfect weather today and another perfect golf day in the making for tomorrow and because of accessibility of the softer greens, I predict that it might take a minus nine to win this year, a new record in the making.”

Mike Roy’s assessment about the field’s prowess has been proven with this year’s cut at 72, three over par, and the lowest cut in the history of the tournament. A total of 62 players will compete for the championship on Saturday, starting at 8:30 am, with the leading half of the field starting on one and the rest on 10 with 10-minute intervals.

The 11 par shooters are Mike Arter, Segregansett CC; Eric Boulger, Walpole CC; Andrew DiRamio, North Hill CC; Colin Fowler, Babson College; Connor Goode, Glastonbury Hills CC; Weston Jones, Charter Oak CC; Cael Kohan, Ould Newberry GC; Tyler Lee, Ridgewood CC; 2009 and 2011 Hornblower champ Bobby Leopold, Wannamoisett CC; Matt Williams, Boston GC; Brendan Zinck, Mt. Hood GC.

Jake Shuman of Blue Hill CC posted a 67 for T-7 after Round 1.

The 60th Hornblower Memorial began at 6:30 am when 12-year-veteran starter Ken Camerota, always resplendent in his golf apparel and bowtie, announced that Hunter Stone had the tee. When Stone nailed his drive down the fairway, the Hornblower was underway, and Camerota would command that first tee until the 53rd threesome teed off at 3:03 pm.

At 9:40 am, three hours and 10 minutes after they teed off, the threesome of Stone, Kevin Blaser from Segregansett CC, and 2023 runner-up Ricky Stimets finished the 18th hole and recorded their scores of 65, 73, 74, respectively. In the second group was Jake Ratti with his 65. Those two 65’s would hold up until the duo of Harry Dessel and Cooper Griffin, also in consecutive threesomes, and Eli Spaulding, in one of the last groups, turned the leaderboard into a most elite fivesome.

The Hornblower Memorial is an invitational tournament. with entry fee of $250.00 to the 159-player field and the format 36 hole stroke play event with field is cut to the low 60 players and ties after the first round.

Hunter Stone, a graduate of Deerfield Academy and Rollins College, said, “I had a chance to win last year when I was tied for the lead with Aidan Emmerich with 10 holes to go, but when that weather rolled in, it was pretty brutal. So I was very happy to play out here in the sun today. The course was ‘gettable’ with the soft and perfect greens and the lack of wind. I kept the ball below the hole all day, was able to putt a little aggressively, and made some birdies early. If you are above the hole, then you have to start playing defensively and protect against the three putt. I would guess the greens were Stimping at around 11.5 to 12.

“I was sharp with my irons and putter and made seven birdies against three bogeys, shooting a 30 on the front with five birdies and one bogey. Considering how much rain fell in the last two days, the course was in unbelievably great shape. I always enjoy playing in this event because the staff and the super always do such a fine job. I am pleased to be in contention again and to have a chance to win tomorrow.”

Plymouth CC is a Donald Ross design par 69 hosting iits 60th Hornblower Memorial Invitational.

Currently a caddy at Boston GC, Jake Ratti, who grew up in Hanover just a few miles away from PCC and went to Thayer Academy and then Bryant University said, “My 65 today was good because I didn’t leave myself in any tough spots, was able to pinpoint a lot of my irons at the pins, kept the ball below the hole, and made several longer putts. I had four birdies on the back to shoot a 31 after two birdies and two bogeys on the front.”

Harry Dessel shot 32-33 with four birdies and two bogeys on the front and 33 on the back with three birdies and one bogey. Cooper Griffin also shot 32-33 with five birds and one bogey. Eli Spaulding went out in four birdies for a 30 and came in with an even-par 35 with two birdies and two bogeys.

Former Hornblower champion Tommy Ethier said, “I was pleased with the 68, of course, but not with my start of three over after seven holes because of missed second shots. I stopped the slide and changed direction with a perfect iron shot and a birdie on the tough par-3 eighth and turned at two-over 36. I then shot a three-under 32 and played with confidence. I would like to think I am playing as well as I did in 2021 when I won The Hornblower, but it’s tough for me to get out to practice as much as I would like now that I am working as an accountant for PwC [Pricewaterhouse Coopers]. My game does feel good, the three poor irons aside, so we’ll see what I can do tomorrow.”

A lot of other contenders will also see what they can do individually tomorrow, but the many spectators who will be in attendance are the ones who will see the entire drama unfold.

(PHOTOS: Vicky MacKay)

As a caddie, greenkeeper, and Ouimet Scholar from Marshfield Country Club on Boston’s South Shore, Leigh developed his love for the game at an early age. The BA from Amherst College and MA from Dartmouth prepared him for his 36-year career in education, most of it teaching Advanced Placement English and coaching varsity golf. In 1986, a sabbatical from teaching students to writing stories for “Golf World” magazine prepared him for his second career in golf journalism. Leigh is a low-handicap golfer who has won the Golf Writers Association of America’s championship seven times. He is currently a member of Southers Marsh Golf Club in Plymouth, MA, and PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL.

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