Armstrong, Hansen shoot 5-under 67s to share lead
When Mark Armstrong was driving to Fredericton for the 2016 New Brunswick senior men’s golf championship, “I said to my buddy, ‘If I shoot three rounds with the first number 7, I’ll be happy.’ So 6 for a first number, man, I’ll take it.”
The Riverside County Club golfer – a senior ‘rookie’ in the 98-man field for players 55 and over – fired a 5-under-par 67 at the Kingswood course to share the lead with 2012 champion Herrick Hansen of Aroostook Valley.
Armstrong thought “I’d used up all my luck” when he had a 2-under 70 in Thursday’s practise round – the first time he’d played Kingswood in 15 years. “No expectations,” said Armstrong, who’s better known as an accomplished curler. “I hadn’t played an N.B. tournament in 13 years, when I played the mid-amateur.”
Armstrong birdied holes 2, 4, 6 and 7 while bogeying No. 5. “It was hot but the wind kept it cool, and I had a ball out there,” said Armstrong, who was 3-under at the turn. “Everything was working. My irons were spot on. I hit the first 16 greens in regulation and missed the last two. I hit a bad tee shot on No. 9. It was up the left rough but it rolled by a tree, so I had an opening. I had a couple breaks and I got the ball to roll in. “The greens are immaculate,” Armstrong said, “and if you missed a putt it was your own fault. I made a 70-footer on the last hole and about a 50-footer on No. 4. It was just one of those dream days.” Hansen, who was 3-under through six holes, was modest about his round.
“The course didn’t play [par] 72. It was fairly short,” he said. “All the par-5s were pretty much reachable. I hit 16 greens. I missed the last two but got it up and down for par.I had one three-putt on nine [for a bogey], but I was just solid, tee to green, and I putted well.” Hansen knows there are plenty of other contenders lurking. “For sure. It’s the old saying, ‘You can’t win it today but you can lose it.’ I’ll take today’s score and move on.”
Three players are four shots off the pace following 1-under 71s.They are 2013 champ Mike Breen of Hampton, Edward Vail of Riverside and Marty Winslow of Kingswood.Fredericton’s Dan Coulombe is alone in sixth after an even-par 72.
Guy McKnight of Country Meadows, near Moncton, and Fredericton’s Phil Plume are next with 73s. Ralph Michaud of Aroostook Valley is ninth with a 74. Chicago’s Jerry Maatman and Paul Roy of Covered Bridge, near Hartland, are tied for 10th with 75s. “I hit some squirrelly shots but I got away with it,” Breen said. “I made some putts,so I’m quite happy to be 1-under after the way I hit a few shots. I hit the driver really well. There were a couple of just ugly shots, but I kept it in the fairway for the most part. “I hit a lot of greens and sunk a few par putts,” he said. Breen will take his share of third overall. “I don’t want to be shooting 78 or something like that and feel like I’ve taken myself out of it. Anything under par is good, but it’s a long tournament.” Breen echoed others when he said the course “is in fabulous shape; just incredible.” Coulombe said his goal for the first round“was to have a respectable score. I don’t think even par is going to do me too much harm.” Still, Coulombe was thinking lower after he birdied the first three holes. He gave it back by bogeying three of the next four.
“I came out of the blocks really strong, then managed to find three bogeys on the front side,” Coulombe said. “Same thing on the back with one birdie, one bogey.” He regrets the way he played No. 6. “It’s a par-5 but it was reachable in two,” Coulombe said. “It was one of those risk/ reward shots.I was in the rough and I had an iron distance to the green to get on in two. I just caught it a little heavy and it went into the water hazard in front of the green.”
Coulombe said “Kingswood really has to be commended for the work they’ve done. It’s in fabulous condition. The fairways are [PGA] Tour calibre.”
Gary Melanson of Covered Bridge has won this event three times, but he opened with a disappointing 6-over 78. “I three-putted a lot,” Melanson said. “I hit the ball OK but the putter wasn’t working. So I’ll have a different putter tomorrow. I’ve got a basement full of them”
BRUCE HALLIHAN, THE DAILY GLEANER