AAGA Rnd 4 8/19/18

Kolby Simmons holds the winner’s trophy from the 2018 AAGA City Open at Norton County Club last August.

NORTON — Having won seven championships at their respective ‘home’ golf courses, Billy White and Geoff Burgess are intent upon finishing much better than their top-10 placements during the 2018 Attleboro Area Golf Association City Open.

Mike Pyne knows the value of being awarded the No. 1 parking spot at Foxborough Country Club as the reward for becoming club champion.

But will a club champion emerge atop the field of some 104 golfers who begin their quest for the 59th annual Attleboro Area Golf Association’s Open championship Thursday at Foxborough CC?

“I’m used to Foxborough and I can put up a good number there, but with four different courses on four different (weather-related) days, it truly is a grind,” Pyne said.

“I think that I have a few good rounds left,” said White, the reigning Norton CC champion and 2007 AAGA Open champion who is coming off of his home course with the club crown after having topped David Yurek.

“I think that the hardest part, is just getting used to the different speeds of the greens,” said Burgess, the reigning club champion at Crystal Lake Golf Course in Burrillville, R.I.

After the field tours Foxborough CC on Thursday, the tourney will move on to Plainville and Wentworth Hills CC for the second day of competition. After 36 holes, the field will be reduced to the low 50 scores and ties.

The third round of the City Open will be staged at Heather Hill CC in Plainville, with the final round Sunday at Norton CC.

White finished eighth last year after being runner-up in 2017. Pyne has a pair of top-20 showings over the past three AAGA City Opens with a No. 7 spot in 2017. Burgess also has a pair of top-20 showings over his last three City Open outings, finishing 12th in 2016.

“The last couple of months, I’ve been hitting it well,” White said of his golf game. “The key is that you just want to keep the ball in play and put the ball onto the right spots on the greens.”

White is coming off of competing in the three-day Norton CC Member-Guest Tournament.

“I’ve been hitting it OK, but that’s only because I don’t get to play much, maybe a Saturday or a Sunday,” said Pyne, a South Boston resident who makes the trek down to his home course in Foxboro on weekends for practice and maybe nine or 18 holes. “My wife thinks that I play a lot of golf, but not really.”

Burgess, the North Attleboro High School boys’ soccer and wrestling coach, participated in the R.I. Amateur Tournament and several other stroke play tournaments to prepare himself for the AAGA City Open.

Burgess won’t be defending his Crystal Lake club title for a few weeks. He won the 2018 title as the No. 1 seed, being the best of an eight-man match play championship series.

“There are so many good players in the Open that it’s really hard to win it,” Burgess said.

The competition includes defending champion Kolby Simmons, perennial contender Derek Johnson coming off two straight top-10 showings, the University of Hartford’s and Norton High-trained Jared Winiarz (fourth last year) and Scott Congdon of Foxborough CC, who not only claimed the 2014 and 2017 AAGA City Open championships, but was third last year, sixth in 2016 and seventh in 2015.

“Playing in some tournaments helps me get through the grind,” Burgess said of the Open’s 72 holes of competition. “Reading the greens is tough — you know that Foxborough will be fast, while Wentworth Hills is relatively slow and you never know what you’ll get at Heather Hill.

“The question for myself, like everyone else, is can you put four good rounds together?”

When White won his AAGA Open title in 2007, he won by eight shots. Last year, Simmons won by just one shot.

“Playing four days, I’m not worried about it physically,” White said. “It’s the mental part that is the most exhausting. Playing four days of the Open, it’s more about being steady and avoiding the big number (double or triple bogey and three putt greens). If you can keep it under 75 for all four days, your chances of winning it are good.”

There are a slew of college-trained players in the field. They include Cam Moniz (Salem State), Marcus Costa (University of New England), Mike Philipp (Bryant), Jason Hindman (Bridgewater State), Brandon Nolan (Fordham) and Brandon Goold (Wentworth) to name but a few.

“There are some good young players, some good players period,” White said. “Having those younger guys around is good for the game of golf and the AAGA, but a lot can be said for experience!”

Pyne hopes that the “home” course advantage and being the defending club champion at Foxborough CC will have its perks, especially after the first 18 holes of the AAGA Open Thursday.

“I hope to, because I’ve always struggled at Norton,” Pyne said. “”I know for myself and like a lot of the other guys playing, everyone is in the same boat. Most guys are competing against work — they don’t get out to play as many rounds of golf as they once did.

“So it’s good to get up there as high as you can on the leaderboard heading into the last day.”

Peter Gobis may be reached at 508-236-0375

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