MANCHESTER, Mass. — Maplegate’s Peter French and Bretwood (N.H.)’s Damon Salo lead the way after 18 holes of the 48th edition of the Francis Ouimet Memorial Tournament, both firing 2-under 68’s at Essex County Club’s par-70, 6,511-yard layout. The pair compete collegiately at Johnson & Wales (Miami) and were part of the 2015 Sun Conference Championship squad.
“I was solid all day,” French, a semifinalist at the recently-completed Mass Amateur said. “I just need to stay patient and being smart off the tee and hit solid iron shots.”
French made the turn at 3-under 33, coming home in 35 to share the lead. Salo, had three birdies and two bogeys on the front and bogeyed 12, before making birdies on 15 and 17 to play the side in 33 and total a 68.
“It was a well put together round of golf,” Salo, a rising senior said. “I hit crisp iron shots and found a way to make some putts. I need to come back tomorrow with a well put together gameplan.”
Five players recorded one-under par 69’s, including defending titlist Jack Whelan of Myopia and Charter Oak’s Matt Hutchins and Atkinson (N.H.)’s Nick Pandelena.
The defending champion looks forward to playing tomorrow on familiar soil. “I am just going to take it like a regular round at Myopia, try to birdie the holes I usually birdie and be aggressive where I am usually aggressive. The event doesn’t end tomorrow though, there’s 18 holes left to be played at Woodland.”
Hutchins, bound for Chico (Calif.) State, credited a solid mental approach to his success. “I hit 17 greens and my speed on the greens was great,” the Charter Oak CC product said. “We’re playing on three awesome golf courses. I just need to stay in the present and continue to focus on each shot.”
In the Lowery Senior Division, 63-year old Jack Bichajian of Ipswich fired a 2-over 72 to lead the way by one over Woodland’s Jim DiBiase and two over a pack of four, notably past champions Jack Kearney of Elmcrest and the 2014 winner Kevin Carey of Dennis Pines. Bichajian turned in 39, coming home in one under 33, putting together eight pars and a birdie on the par-3 14th hole.
“It was such an enjoyable day out there,” Bichajian, who survived the 36-hole cut at the 2014 installment of the OMT. “The course was in fabulous shape and it was such a pleasure to compete at Essex. Having been a member of Woodland for 16 years, the noose will be pretty tight Friday (for the final round) if I have a chance to win.”
The Ouimet Memorial Tournament continues tomorrow as the scene shifts seven miles west to Myopia Hunt Club. Following the completion of play, the field will be trimmed to the low 40 and ties in the Championship Division and the low six and ties in the Lowery Senior Division.
As always, fans can follow all the action by logging onto ouimet.org for the latest news and notes as well as links to live scoring.