CRANSTON – Lincoln High junior Jon Wahl achieved medalist honors on Day 1 of the two-day Interscholastic League individual and state golf championships, waving his putter like a magic wand just about every time he set foot on the greens at Cranston Country Club.
Wahl finished the day with an even-par 71, and he’ll take a two-stroke lead into Wednesday’s final round with Barrington’s Stephen Miller and Justin Matrone each carting round 73. Three additional players sit three strokes off the pace Wahl set.
What made Wahl’s performance somewhat surprising is that he got off to a rough start with bogeys on the first and fifth holes. He started to find harmony with a par save on No. 6, which he followed with a birdie on the 344-yard, par-four seventh.
Wahl ended up bogeying the ninth to finish the front side at plus-two 37. Making the turn with confidence in his putting ability, Wahl began the back nine with four straight pars. His birdie on the 349-yard, par-four No. 14 was made possible thanks to knocking in a 20-footer after hitting what he felt was a mediocre approach shot onto the green.
Wahl’s third and final birdie came on the 369-yard, par-four 16th. Swinging an 8-iron from 150 yards out, Wahl landed the ball within 10 feet of the hole. He took care of the rest to post yet another red number.
“Overall, I putted really well today and that helped,” said Wahl as he sat inside the clubhouse with his teammates and Lincoln head coach Nick Maresca. “I was able to get up-and-down four times on the back side, so I’d say that was pretty good.”
Wahl walked off the 18th green shortly before 4 p.m. Prior to his total going up on the board, the cut line stood at any score within 10 strokes of 74. Needless to say, Wahl’s total removed quite a number of contestants from the equation.
“It’s great knowing that I’ll be able to compete (Wednesday) and I hope I can replicate (Tuesday’s round),” Wahl stated.
Joining Wahl as the local entries for day two include Burrillville’s Matt Morse, who teed off at 7:16 on Tuesday morning. Morse finished with a 77 that included two birdies. Morse’s day would have put him nearer to the leaders, but he closed out with a triple-bogey seven on the 355-yard, par-four 18th.
North Smithfield’s Max LaPlante also finished with a 77, though he arrived at his score in a much different fashion than Morse. After struggling on the first side with a plus-six 41 – he closed with a three-putt on No. 9 – LaPlante kicked it into high gear by playing even-par golf over the final nine holes. He birdied back-to-back holes – Nos. 16 and 17 – to wrap up with a satisfying 36. The junior had a chance for a third straight birdie on 18 but came up short on a six-foot putt.
“The front nine wasn’t what I wanted; I wasn’t making a lot of putts,” said LaPlante, who started the season as the Northmen’s No. 1 player before struggles forced head coach Brian Chuey to reshuffle the lineup. “(At the turn) I felt like I had nothing to lose. In my mind, it was a failure of a season so I just wanted to give my best in the state championship.”
Junior Tom Crudale of Mount St. Charles rounds out the local qualifiers after firing an 80. He notched a birdie on the 180-yard, par-three No. 4 to go along with four bogeys and a double bogey on the front nine. Crudale notched four straight pars to begin the final nine before running into trouble on 14 and 15, two holes that resulted in bogeys.
None of the three teams that sent six-person delegations to the states ended up factoring in the team race. Lincoln shot 332 as a group followed by North Smithfield (348) and Mount St. Charles (353). Barrington finished with a four-person score of 300.
With inclement weather expected Wednesday, golf officials mapped out a strategy in the event that players cannot complete 36 holes. In the event that 27 holes cannot be completed, the championship will become an 18-hole event that would be applied to both individual and team.
R.I. Golf State Championships, Day 1
At Cranston Country Club, par 71
1. Barrington 300; 2. Bishop Hendricken 314; 3. Chariho 317; 4. North Kingstown 320; 5. (tie) La Salle, Cranston West 322; 7. Portsmouth 326; 8. South Kingstown 330; 9. Lincoln 332; 10. North Smithfield 348; 11. East Greenwich 349; 12. Mount St. Charles 353; 13. (tie) Mt. Hope, North Providence 389.
Jon Wahl (Lincoln) 71; Matt Morse (Burillville) 77; Max LaPlante (North Smithfield) 77; Tom Crudele (Mount St. Charles) 80; Brendan Guerin (Cumberland) 82; Dave Cavallaro (North Smithfield) 85; Sam Lombardi (Mount St. Charles) 86; James Isabella (Lincoln) 86; Valmore Dumont (Lincoln) 87; Jake Laverdiere (Lincoln) 88; Elliot Ray (Cumberland) 89; Alan Benoit (Tolman) 89; Will Degnan (North Smithfield) 89; Adam Bouley (Mount St. Charles) 91; Victor Dumont (Lincoln) 92; Ryan Blais (Lincoln) 93; Davon Driscoll (St. Raphael) 93; Jacob Mefford (Cumberland) 93; Devin Votta (Mount St. Charles) 96; Ryan Badeau (Mount St. Charles) 97; Nick Degnan (North Smithfield) 97; Jake DeCelles (North Smithfield) 98; Talia Venditti (North Smithfield) 103.
Wednesday’s tee times
Tom Crudale (MSC), 7:08 a.m.; Matt Morse (Burrillville), 7:40 a.m.; Max LaPlante (North Smithfield), 7:48 a.m.; Jon Wahl (Lincoln) 8:04 a.m.