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MIDDLETOWN ‚ÄĒ The ever-elusive progress of tracking improvement in one‚Äôs golf game ‚Ä¶ it‚Äôs actually not that difficult a chore for Cumberland native son Jamison Randall.
While some players can go months and maybe even years without seeing progress, Randall can look back at his performance at this past week‚Äôs 107th R.I. Golf Association Amateur Championship and say without a doubt that he‚Äôs a better player now than where he stood in late April as a freshman on the Old Dominion University golf team. The 19-year-old Randall backed up such a proclamation by advancing to Friday‚Äôs 36-hole final against Charlie Blanchard, one of the more decorated golfers on the RIGA circuit.
In the end, experience trumped youth as Blanchard captured his second R.I. Amateur with a 5-and-4 performance that did little to dampen Randall‚Äôs mood.
‚ÄúI believe that I‚Äôm a much more solid player now than I was four months ago,‚ÄĚ said Randall shortly after completing what was a banner showing at Wanumetonomy Golf & Country Club, one that saw him take a weed whacker to anyone who dared stand in his path. Prior to Friday, his toughest match came during Wednesday‚Äôs Round of 32 in a 1-up victory that actually saw Randall enjoy a two-hole advantage with one to play.
Other than that test, Randall coasted on his way to becoming one of two golfers left standing. Twice he posted winning margins of seven holes while his semifinal tussle went into the books as a 4-and-3 verdict.
Asked what he planned to take away from the past several days, Randall answered, ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a mesh of a bunch of things, but the way I played in the three matches leading up the finals is the commemorating image for me.‚ÄĚ
Capturing his first R.I. Amateur since 2002, Blanchard paid homage to his opponent, saying Randall was a worthy foe.
‚ÄúHe played great all week and killed everybody,‚ÄĚ said Blanchard, who‚Äôs slated to turn 47 later this month.
Sporting a Bryant University cap ‚Äď Blanchard serves as the school‚Äôs head golf coach ‚Äď he knew that approach shots into the green would go a long way into settling matters, especially given Randall‚Äôs booming tendencies off the tee. Up two holes as the pair made the turn for the second time, Randall ran into trouble from about 75 yards away on the 10th hole, a par-four covering 392 yards. He flubbed his second shot just short of the green, though recovered nicely with a par-saving up-and-down. Blanchard also managed par on the hole.
Down three holes after the Wannamoisett Country Club-based Blanchard birdied No. 11, Randall‚Äôs second shot on No. 13 saw him fly the green, the ball landing in a bunker that was hidden from his vantage point. Once more he was able to save par, though Blanchard was one better en route to recording the last of nine birdies during the 32 holes he and Randall completed.
The last hole of the match ‚Äď No. 14 ‚Äď got off to an inauspicious start for Randall after flying his tee shot into a clump of tall grass. Forced to punch out of the deep cabbage, Randall still had a chance to prolong the match but came up just short on a winding, downhill putt that would have been for par. All that was left for Blanchard was a short tap-in and he would become a two-time winner of this event.
In a preview of coming attractions, Blanchard closed out the morning session in high style, winning the 15th, 16th and 17th holes. The flurry pinned Randall into a four-hole deficit, which he reduced to three thanks to a confidence-boosting birdie on 18.
‚ÄúI thought I didn‚Äôt play that much different than I did during my two matches (on Thursday),‚ÄĚ said Randall when asked for an assessment about the first 18 holes.
The only time Randall led was after the very first hole of the day, when he birdied No. 1 and Blanchard bogeyed. Other than that fleeting moment, Randall was forced to play catch-up golf against someone who knows a thing or two about keeping his opponent at bay.
‚ÄúThere was not one shot that stood out to me today,‚ÄĚ Randall noted. ‚ÄúI was solid, but it was one of those things that I needed to be well under par in order to beat a guy like Charlie. He was Mr. Solid out there.‚ÄĚ
The second 18 holes did feature a defining moment as Blanchard drained a 30-footer for birdie on the par-three, 301-yard seventh. Randall also recorded a one-under score, yet it was Blanchard‚Äôs touch with his putter ‚Äď coming directly after a difficult chip shot ‚Äď that allowed momentum to stay on the veteran‚Äôs side.
‚ÄúI was like ‚ÄėSeriously?‚Äô‚ÄĚ said Randall. ‚ÄúIt was a great putt.‚ÄĚ
Before receiving his second-place trophy, Randall mapped out his tournament schedule that will basically take him into the start of his sophomore year at Old Dominion. On tap is the New England Amateur, set for next week at Falmouth (Maine) Country Club. The Alpine Country Club-based product will also appear at the R.I. Open at Ledgemont Country Club on Aug. 7-9 and the Attleboro Open on Aug. 16-19.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs great to be home and around my family and friends,‚ÄĚ said Randall. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a certain element to playing in college, but playing at home is a much more enjoyable aspect.‚ÄĚ