Vermont Amateur returns to Ekwanok Country Club
MANCHESTER >> For the first time in more than a decade, 108 players will compete for the title of the top amateur golfer in Vermont at the Ekwanok Country Club.
The 108th Vermont Amateur starts with 18 holes on Tuesday, another 18 on Wednesday and then after the field is cut to the top 40 and ties, they'll play 36 holes on Thursday to determine a winner.
"It's a great honor to be a part of the history of Vermont golf," said Ekwanok's head professional, Tom Mackey. "It's a premier Vermont Golf Association event and we're thrilled that it's here. We want to make everyone feel welcome."
It was 2002 the last time the tournament came to Ekwanok, Bill Hadden won the event on his home course. Before that, it was 1948 when Ekwanok hosted.
The course is a par-70 that plays 6,566 yards from the Gold tees. According to Mackey, there's one simple rule for the players.
"Patience. You have to have it. It's not a long course, it's not going to beat you with its length, but accuracy around the greens is crucial," Mackey said.
Over the past few days, participants have been able to play some practice rounds on the course.
"They get a chance to get used to the different intricacies of the course," Mackey said. "You have to have a good strategy. Par might be a good score on some holes."
Ekwanok opened in 1899 and has hosted U.S. Amateur tournaments and even a president or two onto its private grounds in the past 117 years. The history of the course and its golfers is something that Mackey is proud to be a part of.
"We take a lot of pride in the course and we love the camaraderie of our members," Mackey said. "We really want to keep the traditions alive."
Over the past few months, a lot of preparation has been ongoing, getting everything just so for the annual event.
"John Hand, our tournament chairman, has been working with the membership and everyone has been very welcoming," Mackey said. "We want to create the best experience."
The last time a local player won the tournament was in 2011, when Dorset's Devin Komline won his second straight Vermont Amateur.
St. Johnsbury CC's Alex Rainville won his first Amateur by one shot in 2015. The highest local finisher was Mount Anthony Country Club's Taylor Bellemare, who was 13th.
A handful of golfers will play on their home course, including Hans Albertsson, who won four Vermont Amateurs in a five-year span in the 1990s and Craig Stevens, the Ekwanok club champion.
Burr and Burton Academy's Cooper Bleakie won the Rutland qualifier with a 1-under 69, the only one to finish a qualifier under par.
The weather looks perfect for the week, with sun and temperatures into the high 80s.
"It looks good and Ted [Maddocks, the superintendent] has been getting the course into perfect shape," Mackey said.
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