FOXBORO — Pars were plentiful, but birdies were hard to come by at Foxborough Country Club Thursday as the 59th edition of the Attleboro Area Golf Association’ City Open got underway.
“You can’t win it on the first day, but you can lose it,” reigning Foxborough CC junior club champion Chad Bearce said of the difficulty that the field had in measuring putts and reading the speeds of the greens.
“The greens were perfect,” North Attleboro High teacher-coach Geoff Burgess said after firing a medalist round of even-par 72 with 13 pars and three birdies on his scorecard.
Burgess heads to Wentworth Hills CC in Plainville Friday for the second round of competition with a two-shot lead, as perennial top-10 finisher Derek Johnson and recent Rehoboth CC club champion Roger Bousquet both came in with opening rounds of 74.
Three shots off the pace is defending champion Kolby Simmons, the pride of Tri-County Regional High and Crestwood CC, finishing with nine pars and three birdies.
Only 19 players among the field of 104 starters broke 80 on the day over the testing par-72 layout with Burgess one of only four players with scores of 75 or better.
“The greens were fast, but the pins were in fair spots,” 2014 AAGA Open champion and five-time Foxborough CC club champion Scott Congdon said.
Congdon had just eight pars and four birdies, two on each side, and finished at 76. But double bogeys at No. 5 and at No. 15, then missing the green at No. 16 and a lost ball at No. 17, both for bogeys, dented his home course advantage.
Burgess relied on a rabbit, the University of Hartford’s Jared Winiarz, by way of Norton High and the No. 5 finisher last year — who came in at 77 — to score well.
“I was motivated to keep up with him,” Burgess said after having seven frontside pars and a birdie at the 524-yard, par-5 No. 4 hole.
On the backside, Burgess played a 1-under-35 with a half-dozen pars, one bogey and birdies at the 339-yard, par-4 No. 14 hole and 165-yard, par-3 No. 17 hole.
“On the frontside I scrambled a lot,” he said, “but on the backside I was solid out of the tee box.
“I just think that it’s better to play early (a 7:20 a.m. tee time),” he added of the threesomes not being impeded by groups ahead of them. “There was a little bit of a dew on the grass and the ball held, so you can see when the course dries out a bit that guys will struggle here.”
Bearce, a sophomore at Bryant University, knows the nuances of the Foxborough CC.
“They rolled the greens Wednesday and early Thursday morning, so for me I want to attack the pin,” Bearce said.
Bearce finished with 11 pars, two birdies and a round of 77. He bogeyed both par-5 holes on the backside and could have very well been within range of par.
“I know where to miss here, it’s not an easy course to score well on,” he said.
For both Johnson and Bousquet, while both left some shots on the the course, coming in just two shots over par at the FCC is a good day.
“I’ve been in construction my whole life, so I can see the level (of the greens),” said Bousquet after completing his career-best FCC round with a dozen pars and three birdies. “Everything just went right for me,”
Bousquet bogeyed the No. 1 hole, then reeled off eight straight pars.
Bousquet notched a pair of backside birdies, at the par-3 No. 13 and No. 17 holes (chipping in from 35-feet) and was within sight of par were it not for landing in a flower bed at No. 18 and taking a bogey.
“I hit every fairway, I hit most of the greens, Bousquet said. “I swung and I couldn’t miss. Sometimes, you actually have days like this.”
Johnson also finished his round with 12 pars, while knocking down a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 1 and an “unexpected” left to right across the green 30-foot birdie putt at No. 17.
“If I wasn’t so defensive, I could have scored better,” Johnson said, having pairs of bogeys on both the front and back sides. “I easily could have been around 70, I was never in any trouble at all. The thing is that you don’t want to shoot yourself out of it.”
Also on the cusp is former Norton High Lancer, 25-year-old Peter Danko, who is five shots off the pace with a FCC career-best 77. He had just one birdie (at No. 3), but a triple bogey at the par-4 No. 7 hole and four three-putt greens.
“That being said, I left a lot of missed birdie putts inside of 10-feet,” Danko said. “My tee ball and my irons were as good as I’ve hit them. If I don’t three-putt, I would have been in the ballpark (around par).
“I’m happy the way that things are going. Like everyone else, you’ve got to keep it going.”
Which is exactly what Simmons, the 2018 AAGA Open champion, was telling himself, scrambling around with trios of bogeys on both the front and backsides — three of the final four holes he played.
Simmons played cautiously, using his drive off of the tee on just a handful of holes. Then he preferred to hit a 3-iron or hybrid iron off the fairway looking for some roll to be below the cup on most every green.
But he three-putted from inside of 10-feet at No. 17.
“The fairways were firm enough, maybe that’s why I hit like 13 greens in regulation,” Simmons said. “Foxborough is the kind of course that you take what it gives you and you go on to the next day.”