Thursday, July 18th
KILLINGTON, Vt. --
Having the opportunity to win a regional title in your home state does not come around often, so Evan Russell (CC of Vermont – VT) was not going to let the chance slip away.
Playing less than an hour from his home on a course he has played so many times before, Russell played exceptional golf this week at Green Mountain National Golf Course and captured the 2013 New England Amateur Championship. He finished with a 54-hole score of 5-under par 208.
It marks only the third time in New England Amateur Championship history that a Vermont player has won the title. Russell follows in the footsteps of Shawn Baker (1989) and Hans Albertson (1990).
"It means a lot to win in Vermont," said Russell, who becomes the first Vermont player to win the title in his home state. "Not many Vermonters have won this tournament overall and I don't know if any have ever won in Vermont. It is nice to do it in front of friends and family and I was happy to have them here."
In addition to its NEGA significance, this is also the first major championship for Russell, who is coming off a sensational freshman year at the University of Hartford. In addition to being named to the America Sky Men's Golf Conference Academic All-Conference Team, Russell was also a Division I PING All-Northeast Region selection.
"This is the best," said Russell. "I have played well in high school and in college but I have never won anything in college. This is the first time that I have won something pretty significant. It's nice."
For three straight days, Russell showed a talented field of golfers representing the six New England states just how good he is playing right now. Through 54 holes, Russell carded just five bogies.
"I think that some people might try to overpower it," said Russell. "It's just not necessary. I didn't hit driver today and I just laid back and hit fairways and greens and missed putts."
With the wind picking up as the day wore on, Russell managed to maintain his composure while other competitors were trying to make a run at the title. In fact, Russell held just a one-stroke lead heading into the 18th hole on Thursday. He found the green with his approach but had to make a three-foot par putt to secure the title.
"I thought that I was a little more comfy than I was," said Russell. "I was going off the other guys in my group, but I am glad that I two putted there."
While Russell maintained a lead over his fellow playing partners – Matt Parziale (Thorny Lea GC – MA) and Billy Walthouse (Longmeadow CC – MA) who finished T6 – he was being chased by Brad Valois (Metacomet CC – RI), who had posted his second straight under-par round to finish with a score of 4-under par 209.
Valois won this title in 2006 and just days ago captured his fourth career Rhode Island Amateur Championship title.
"It was definitely a little bit longer, but the wind made everything so much more difficult," said Russell about the playing conditions. "I was just second guessing everything and backing off. Eventually after five minutes of waiting you have to hit the ball and hope it worked out."
Even after a drive on the 1st tee which found the woods, Russell maintained his compsure. Just before the five-minute search period was up, Russell found his ball. Although he made bogey on that hole, he went on to make 13 straight pars.
"I have been waiting a long time," said Russell. "I have played in this tournament three times now and the first two times I missed the cut so it's quite a big jump to win it the first time that I made the cut. It's only the second tournament of the summer for me, but I am looking forward to the rest and really happy about it"
Russell can now take a moment to enjoy his victory and Vermonters can relish in the fact that they lay claim to the current New England Amateur Champion and the New England Senior Amateur Champion (Peter Metzler won that title last fall).
It is a good day to be from Vermont.
-- Becky Blaeser/Massachusetts Golf Association
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