EAST PROVIDENCE — The 50th annual Northeast Amateur got off to a rousing start on Wednesday when University of Illinois standout Luke Guthrie broke the tournament scoring record for 18 holes with an opening round of 61 that vaulted the Big Ten champion into a five-shot lead after one rainy day of action.
The rain started early in the morning, softening the greens and allowing players to fire right at the pins. Guthrie teed off at 12:32 after play had already been suspended once. The 22-year-old made eight birdies and did not record a bogey all day. His scintillating effort beat the previous tourney record of 62 held jointly by Mike Harris (1998) and Billy Horschel (2007). Harris won the tournament the year he shot his 62, while Horschel tied for fourth behind winner Dustin Johnson in 2007.
Oklahoma State’s Peter Uihlein, the world’s top-ranked amateur, teed off around the same time as Guthrie and came home with a 66 that tied him for second place with Georgia Tech’s Paul Haley and Virginia’s Ben Kohles.
Stanford’s David Chung, a pre-tourney favorite along with Uihlein, shot 68 and is tied for ninth place heading into his 8 a.m. tee time this morning off No. 10.
Guthrie and Uihlein will also get an early start this morning. Guthrie goes off 10 tee at 8:32 and Uihlein follows him at 8:40 a.m.
Today’s weather forecast is calling for rain showers in the afternoon. This morning could be dry and cooler, making low scores a distinct possibility for players on top of their games.
Bellingham’s Brian Higgins rode a roller coaster during his opening round of 73. The 2010 New England Amateur champion teed off on No. 10 at 8:32 in the morning and promptly birdied his first two holes with putts in the 10-foot range.
Higgins then ran off four consecutive bogeys. He finally steadied his ship with four pars in a row and then a birdie on the tough second hole. At this point, he stood at one-over par but bogeys on the sixth, eighth and ninth holes left a sour taste in his mouth.
“I hit a few loose shots,” Higgins admitted after finishing his round. “When I birdied No. 2, a tough hole, I thought I was in good shape. Then I bogeyed three holes coming in. I had a few putts run the edges of holes today. It was kind of a disappointing round for me.”
Higgins will begin his second round at 12:24 today from the first tee.
Cranston’s Bobby Leopold, who will be a strong contender in this year’s New England Amateur set for Metacomet C.C. in East Providence next month, shot a solid 68 to lead the local contingent. North Providence’s Charlie Blanchard settled for 73. East Greenwich’s Jonathan Pannone carded 76 and Barrington’s Matt Broome finished with a 77.