By Paul Kenyon
EAST PROVIDENCE _ Hockey’s loss has turned into golf’s gain.
In what has been a familiar story in Rhode Island through the years, a kid who grew up spending his time in ice rinks, turned to golf because of injuries and now is the 97th RIGA Junior champion. Nick Petracca, who will be a senior at North Providence High this year, held off Pawtucket’s Sam Taraian, 2 and 1, in the title match Thursday at Metacomet.
The contest was a wild one as the two went back and forth and both had turns on the lead. But it was no more exciting than the girls’ final. Bay View Academy teammates Lauren Dohoney and Alise Knudson were extended to 20 holes before Dohoney pulled it out with a birdie on the second extra hole. It was the second straight title for Dohoney who also has been the medalist each time.
The boy’s match was entertaining from start to finish as Petracca and Taraian took turns winning holes _ 12 of the 17 holes were won by one or the other. The left-handed Petracca finally put an end in style, rolling in a curling, downhill 13-footer for bird on the 17th.
He has played less golf than many others because hockey was his game until he became a teenager. His father, Matt, is a hockey official. Nick was good enough as a youngster that he not only took part in the mini one-on-one contests that were held during Boston Bruins telecast, he won it. He was the goalie.
``Hockey was my real passion but too many hits to the head took it out of the picture for me,’’ he related. He suffered concussions.
``I had four in two years. That was the end of hockey for me,’’ he said. ``I traded in the goalie pads and bought a new set of irons.’’
Because his North Providence team is not strong, he has not received a lot of recognition. But he won the Challenge Cup Tournament in April that begins the area golf season.
``That gave me the confidence to know I can compete,’’ he said.
He carries a terrific attitude on the course, sometimes talking to his ball and maintaining his composure no matter what happens. On the par-4 13th he hooked his drove badly. He turned and saw a friend. And broke into a big smile.
``It was just a bad swing. Bad swings are going to happen on the golf course. It’s how you deal with it that makes the difference,’’ he said.
``This week I felt confident going up to the ball. I knew I could hit a good shot,’’ he offered. ``Rather than thinking miss left or miss right, I’m thinking on the green, at the pin.’’
His composure helped him in the big swing in the title match, the ninth. Taraian, who just graduated from Dighton-Rehoboth and is headed to Manhattan College, won both 7 and 8 to go ahead, 2 up.
With a stiff wind straight in the players’ face on the par-5 ninth, Taraian hit his drive right, into the 16th fairway and had to pitch over the trees well short of the green. Petracca, hit his to the left. It appeared to go into the left rough short of the tree line. However, no one could find his ball.
A five-minute search was conducted with fans and tournament officials helping but the ball was never found. Petracca had to return to the tee and hit another drive. He made five with that ball for a seven on the hole. Taraian went over the left side of the green with his third into the deep fescue then played a little hockey, needing three swings to get on the green. He made eight and lost the hole. Instead of being 3-up, he was 1-hole ahead.
Petracca won 10, 12 and then 13 and suddenly was 2 –up. He never lost the lead.
He becomes the first played in memory to play out of Louisquisset and win an RIGA title, although part of the credit also goes to Button Hole, where he has played all his life. He joins North Providence residents Joey Iaciofano and Shane Drury as stars from the town.
Interestingly, the girls’ played through as the search was being conducted and then Petracca had to go back to the tee. The girls began play eight minutes after the boys and were right on their heels throughout, so that when the boys’ match was delayed by the search, tournament officials allowed the girls to play through.
The girls zipped past and had a terrific match of their own. Dohoney had a slight advantage almost all the way. She was 2 up with two to play, but Knudson, who is headed to the Gilchrist Golf Academy in Clermont, Fla., in the fall, won both 17 and 18 to force extra holes. The two halved 19.
On 20, Dohoney hit her approach from 75 yards to within five feet and dropped the birdied putt to claim her second straight title, with two years of eligibility remaining.
`` This one’s even better it was a way tougher match and it was really close the whole day,’’ Dohoney said. It was emotional, too, because she was facing a teammate.
``We’ve become really close through golf through this high school season. We’ve become good friends. It’s tough someone has to lose,’’ she added.
She received the championship hardware then received an added bonus. Champions Tour pro Brad Faxon was in the clubhouse meeting with friends. Dohoney spent time chatting with Faxon and having her picture taken with him.
Taraian and Petracca both turned in impressive performances in easily winning their morning semifinals.
Taraian halved the first two holes in his match with Ted Murphy then won the next three, beginning with a bird on the difficult par-4 third hole. Taraian built on the momentum and lost only one hole, the 1th, as he posted a 5-and-4 victory. Petracca bogeyed the first hole in his match with Tyler Clayton, but then won six of the next eight to sweep to a 5-up advantage at the turn. He went on to a 6-and-5 win.
In the girls’ semis, Dohoney built an early three-hole lead and saw Eaton fight back to pull with one through 13. But Dohoney won 14 and 16 for the 3-and-2 decision. Knudson trailed her former Bay View teammate Alana McGuinness. Knudson won 16, 17 and 18 to earn the 2-up decision.
In other divisions, Mason Gilman won the first division over Justin Richard, 6 and 5, Nick Salvatore beat Dylan Kane by the same score in the second division and William Niles beat Jared Moura, 2 up, in the third division.
Bob Ward, the RIGA director, announced that the state team for the New England Junior Championship will be made up of the two finalists, Interscholastic League champ Colin Sutyla, Brendan Fay, Ricky Angeli.
By Paul Kenyon
EAST PROVIDENCE _ It was Upset City at Metacomet on Wednesday in the quarterfinals of the 97th RIGA Junior Championship as both co-medalists and one of last year’s finalists all were beaten.
In fact, in all four matches in the Championship Division the higher seed defeated the lower seed. That leaves seventh-seeded Ted Murphy, ninth-seeded Tyler Clayton, 11th seeded Sam Taraian and 13th seeded Nick Petracca to vie for the title. It also brings out representatives from clubs not often seen in RIGA Championships since the players represent Carnegie Abbey, Agawam Hunt, Pawtucket and Louisquisset, respectively.
The girls’ division, on the other hand, was the opposite as the 1, 2, 3 and 5 seeds advanced in what almost could be called the Bay View invitational. Three of the four semifinalists have played for Bay View, defending champion Lauren Dohoney, Alise Knudson and Alana McGinness. The only exception is Kirkbrae’s Kylie Eaton, who will enter eighth grade at Moses Brown later this month.
It all made for a wild day, with even the weather throwing a curve ball. Rather than the predicted hot and humid conditions, players had to work through breezy and for about a half hour rainy conditions.
The conditions did not help the cause of 12-year-old Maxwell Jackson, who had been the story of the tournament in the first two days when he tied for medalist honors on Monday, then won his first-round match on Tuesday. The weather made the course play longer so that the 4-foot-11, 79-pound Jackson had major trouble keeping up with Murphy, who is a foot taller.
Murphy, who lives in Needham, Mass., but spends his summer in Portsmouth, spoke about how it was a little frustrating at first playing Jackson.
``He hits everything so dead straight,’’ Murphy said. Jackson actually led by one hole after four. But Murphy went par, par, par, birdie over the next four holes and won every one of them to build a 3-up advantage. Murphy won the 250-yard, par-3 12th hole with a par and then closed out a 5-and-3 decision with a bird on 15.
Murphy will face Pawtucket’s Sam Taraian, who knocked off Rio Holzwarth, last year’s finalist, 3 and 2. Taraian, who just graduated from Dighton-Rehoboth and is headed to Manhattan College, jumped off to a flying start. He birdied each of the first two holes, although that gave him only a 1-up lead since Holzwarth also birdied the par-5 second.
``I played really well,’’ Taraian said.
Holzwarth did not go down easily as he was still within one hole through 14. But Taraian won 15 with a par and 16 with a bird to complete the upset.
Both matches in the top half of the bracket were upsets, as well. Colin Sutyla, the Interscholastic League champion, and All-Stater Brendan Fay, the co-medalist in this event, were the victims.
Petracca gave Louisquisset a rare shop in the spotlight. Wearing his North Providence High shirt, Petracca finished strongly to beat Sutyla. The two were all square through 11 before Petracca won 12, 14 and 16 for the 3-and-2 victory. Petracca said Louisquisset, a shorter course, has helped his develop his game.
``It’s helped me improve from 100 yards and in, which is where I really have gotten better,’’ he said. ``When I need to hit longer clubs I go to Button Hole.’’
He will go against Clayton who registered still another upset in fighting off co-medalist Fay, 1 up. That was the lowest scoring match of all as Clayton, who plays for La Salle, posted a 73 including a par on the final hole to win that hole and the match, 1 up. Clayton has played lacrosse the last couple years but decided to switch to golf this summer.
``It’s too hot in the summer to play lacrosse,’’ he said.
Favorites controlled the girls’ division with the only thing close to an upset being when fifth-seeded Eaton beat fourth-seeded Ava Santamaria, a finalist last year. Eaton, who credited Kirkbrae assistant pro Nick Maresca for helping her develop her game, started fast, going 5-up through seven and continuing to a 5-and-4 win.
Eaton will face Dohoney, the defending champion, in the semis. Dohoney received a good test from lefty Kaylie Porter before pulling away to a 6-and-4 decision. Dohoney shot 41 on the front but was only 2-up as Porter had 43. Dohoney then won 10, 12, 13 and 14.
McGuinness, who is spending her final days in Rhode Island before heading to California, beat Olivia Willaims by the same 6-and-4 score. McGuinness graduated from Bay View and is headed to the University of Southern California. McGuinness was 2-up through seven before pulling away.
She will play her former Bay View teammate, Knudson, although Knudson, who is still in high school, is leaving Bay View and will attend the Gary Gilcrist Golf Academy in Clermont, Fla., this year. Knudson, a semifinalist last year, reached that round again by holding off Morgan MacLeod, 3 and 2.
MacLeod who last week won the Wannamoisett girls championship on the same day her mother, Angel, won that club’s women’s championship, was even through 10. Knudson won three of the next four holes to earn her second straight berth in the semis.
Both the semis and finals will be contested on Thursday.
Round of 16 Recap
By Paul Kenyon
EAST PROVIDENCE _ It is rare when a 12-year-old who stands 4-feet-11 and weighs 79 pounds wins a match in a state championship tournament open to 17-year-olds. But it is an even rarer, even more special when someone does it the way Maxwell Jackson did on Tuesday in the 97th RIGA Junior Championship at Metacomet.
Jackson chipped in for birdie twice on the back nine to come from behind and edge Potowomut’s Jack Georgeu, 2 and 1, in a terrific first-round match.
Jackson, who will enter the seventh grade at Blackstone Valley Prep this fall, was 2-down early and 1-down at the turn. On the 250-yard par-3 12th, he could not reach the green _ his longest drives go about 210 yards _ but he chipped in for birdie.
On the par-4 15th, Georgeu was on the green with a birdie putt. Jackson was about 40 yards short in two. Jackson then chipped in for bird and won that hole, too. In keeping with the day’s pattern, Jackson was short on the uphill par-4 17th, but chipped to four feet and made the par putt. Georgeu bogeyed, giving Jackson the 2-and-1 decision.
When it was over, Georgeu had no complaints.
``He’s a great player, I mean a great player,’’ said Georgeu, who stands about a foot taller than Jackson.
Jackson, who is a member of Pawtucket Country Club, had caused waves in qualifying when he recorded a 2-over 72, the lowest score of his life, to tie Brendan Fay for medalist honors.
``I didn’t play as good today. I think I had 77,’’ Jackson said. ``But it was OK. I was able to win.’’
Jackson goes against Carnegie Abbey’s Ted Murphy in the quarters. Murphy, who lives in Needham, Mass., but spends his summer at the family home in Portsmouth, looked strong in ousting Ethan Kusneski, 5 and 4. They were tied through six before Murphy won five of the next eight holes, going even par over that stretch.
Jackson’s victory highlighted an entertaining opening day of match play. Fay, the other co-medalist, had to fight all the way before surviving a 19-hole match against Derek Rivard.
``I shot 72 and lost,’’ Rivard pointed out.
Fay went out in 35 to help build a three-hole lead. But Rivard charged back. He was within two through 16, won the 17th with a par and then the 18th with a bird to force extra holes. Fay, a quarterfinalist last year and a member of the Barrington High team, won it with a par on the first extra hole.
Fay will meet La Salle’s Tyler Clayton in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Clayton got past Newport’s Henry Horgan, 2 and 1.
Another of the day’s highlight matches came with a showdown between Hendricken High stars, Colin Sutyla and Ricky Angeli. Sutyla won the Interscholastic League title by six strokes this year while Angeli was a second-team All-Stater as a freshman.
Sutyla, who is headed to Iona, escaped with a 20-hole thriller. Sutyla was never ahead until he won the 20th hole. Angeli, whose father, Rick, is the Hendricken coach, birdied the first hole and was ahead through 14 holes. He was 2-up through 12 before Sutyla birdied both 13 and 14 to pull even. Both players parred out from there (both shot 71 for the 18 holes) before Sutyla won on the 20th, the par-5 second hole.
Sutyla will face Lousquisset’s Nick Petracca. Petracca, a North Providence star won the first hole and led all the way in topping Crystal Lake’s Jacob Trimble, 4 and 3.
The bottom quarter of the bracket will pit Moses Brown All-Stater Rio Holzwarth, last year’s beaten finalist, against Pawtucket’s Sam Taraian. Holzwarth began birdie-birdie and went on to a 4-and-3 decision over RICC’s Harry Dessel. Taraian battled RICC’s Jack Steckler in another excellent match as both players were near par before Taraian won the 18th for a 1-up victory.
Only two matches were played in the girls’ division. Kaylie Porter of Crestwood turned back Emily Trainor of Metacomet, 4 and 3, and Morgan MacLeod of Wannamoisett got past Hanley Correia of Ledgemont, 2 up.
By Paul Kenyon
Qualifying Round Recap
EAST PROVIDENCE _ Everyone knew that the 97th RIGA Junior Championship would usher in a new era for the state’s young players, but no one knew just how new and fresh one of the contenders would be.
Patrick Welch, who won the event a record four times, Davis Chatfield and Will Dickson have combined to own the title for the last six years. Now, all three have moved on to bigger things, all with Division I scholarships at national golf powers, Welch to Oklahoma, Chatfield at Notre Dame and Dickson at George Tech.
Rio Holzwarth, who lost to Welch in last year’s title match, spoke about the feeling many of the competitors have this time around. ``It feels more open,’’ Holzwarth said, ``more like anyone can win.’’ Holzwarth easily qualified as the third seed with a 73.
Anyone in this case includes a 4-foot-11, 79-pound soon to be seventh grader at Blackstone Valley Prep, Max Jackson.
Jackson shocked everyone, perhaps even including himself, when he put together a 2-over-par 72 at Metacomet to tie Brendan Fay for medalist honors. ``That’s the lowest score I’ve ever had in my life,’’ Jackson said proudly after posting three bogeys and a birdie on the par-4 16th for the 72.
The score was not a complete shock, though. Jackson already has his handicap down to a five. Even at age 12, Jackson already is a veteran in this event.
``I shot 90 my first time, then 81. This one was much better,’’ he said. While he will compete against some players a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier than he is, Jackson thinks he can do well.
``I don’t want to get ahead of myself,’’ he said, ``but I think I can do all right.’’
Fay was much less a surprise. A star on Barrington High’s golf team, Fay reached the quarterfinals in this tournament last year and earned a berth on the Rhode Island team for the New England Junior Championships. Fay had two birds and four bogeys on the way to his 72 and finished with five straight pars.
All 16 qualifiers for the championship division were bunched with five shots. A playoff was held for those who posted 77s.
The qualifiers include Interscholastic League champion Colin Sutyla and his Hendricken teammate Ricky Angeli and Henry Horgan of Newport, the son of PGA Tour and Champions Tour pro Patrick Horgan.
Defending champion Lauren Dohoney and her Bay View teammate Alise Knudson both posted 79 to tie for medalist in the girls’ division. The two went about it differently. Dohoney was in great shape before going 5-over in her last three holes. Knudson had birds on 1 and 9 and only one bad hole, the par-4 13th where she took a double bogey.
Dohoney was in good spirits as she spent time accepting congratulations. She made her first hole-in-one on Sunday on the 15th hole at Alpine, her home course.
It was one of two aces being discussed at the tournament. Thirteen-year-old Joe Nardolillo had one last week. That came on the par-4 second hole at Wanumetonomy, his home course.