Nick Murphy splashed his wedge through the sand beside the 18th green and his golf ball obliged with a delicate, near-perfect landing that set it trundling toward the cup. The only surprise, given the way Murphy’s afternoon went, was that it didn’t drop.
Instead, the ball pulled up about 20 inches short and the 25-year-old coolly tapped in for birdie, the ho-hum conclusion for an out-of-body back nine that left him three shots clear of the field.
Round of the day? More like round of his life.
On a day that saw no pins tended or bunkers raked — likely a first in the 114 years of the Vermont Amateur championship, due to the COVID-19 pandemic — Murphy’s 7-under 65 qualified as perhaps the most astonishing fact about Tuesday’s sunny opening round at Stowe Country Club.
He had never broken par before.
“I visualized going under par, for sure. I do meditations. I knew it was possible,” said Murphy, a Rocky Ridge member whose previous best round this year was a 73. “I just didn’t let a bad shot enter my head.”
And a round that featured a pair of eagles didn’t let anyone get close to him either.
Rutland’s Garren Poirier owns solo second place at 4-under after a back-nine barrage of his own. Dorset’s William Hadden, who won at Ekwanok in 2002, is third at 3-under.
Two-time champion Evan Russell, in his first tournament since regaining amateur status, is tied for fourth at 2-under with Kwiniaska’s Brody Yates and Mountain View’s Phil Fairbanks.
Logan Broyles, Max Major and Sam Miles are tied for seventh at 1-under. Four others are at even in the chase to follow three-time defending champion Drake Hull, who opted out of competing this year.
[Full results available below.]
Murphy’s first-round total is the tournament’s lowest score in relation to par in at least a decade. Only Troy Evans’ final-round 64 at Dorset Field Club in 2017 was lower, but it came on a par-70 layout.
After scooting to 2-under through four holes, the former NVU-Johnson golfer three-putted for par at the downhill, par-5 sixth hole. He then compounded that miscue with a bogey after topping his tee shot at No. 7.
But he got that shot back at the 11th with a two-putt birdie after a 9-iron approach. And a 30-footer for eagle at the 14th hole, the last of Stowe’s five reachable par-5s, soon followed.
More fireworks came at No. 16, where Murphy holed a wedge shot from 80 yards for his second eagle in three holes.
“I was leaving shots out there and then just tore up the back nine,” Murphy said.
The spectacular, 6-under 30 on the back nine sent the Northeast Kingdom native hurtling past Poirier, who owned the early clubhouse lead after a binge of five birdies in the final six holes.
“You’ve just got to trust it,” said Poirier, 39, who birdied four in a row at one point. “It’s either going to be the front nine or the back nine and you’ve got to just trust that you’re going to make birdies because there’s tons of them out here.”
Hadden used a 3-under charge in the second half of his round to nose in front of the trio at 2-under that included Russell, a little more than a year removed from his last event as a pro. Russell said Tuesday felt more like an even-par day than a sub-par one, considering Stowe’s ample scoring chances and relatively short length.
“I had a couple good eagle looks that I missed,” said Russell, 27. “I played the par-5s well, had good drives, hit good iron shots into those holes.”
The 2013 and 2014 champion went out in 2-under but matched a pair of birdies with a pair of bogeys on the homeward nine.
“It felt like I was doing a lot better until Garren turned it on on the back nine,” Russell said. “I’ve played with him so much that I’ve seen it but it was nice to see him roll the rock.”
► Caddie’s notes: The VGA announced Tuesday morning it had commissioned a new, permanent trophy to mark the winners of the Amateur that memorializes former executive director Dave Pfannenstein. The former club pro, who stepped down from the VGA after the 2018 season, died April 5 in Florida due to complications of the novel coronavirus. He was 60. … Rutland Country Club (3-under) leads the McCullough Cup team competition standings by three shots over Rocky Ridge (even-par). Burlington is third at 14-over.
This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a subscription to the Burlington Free Press.
2020 Vermont Amateur scores
First round – Tuesday
At Stowe CC
Nicholas Murphy (Rocky Ridge) — 65
Garren Poirier (Rutland) — 68
William Hadden (Dorset Field Club) — 69
Brody Yates (Kwiniaska) — 70
Evan Russell (Champlain) — 70
Phil Fairbanks (Mountain View) — 70
Sam Myers (Kwiniaska) — 71
Logan Broyles (Rutland) — 71
Jacob Zaranek (Brattleboro) — 71
Taylor Mattingly (Dorset Field Club) — 72
Taylor Bellemare (Mount Anthony) — 72
Nick Ojala (Proctor-Pittsford) — 73
Michael Walsh (Burlington) — 73
Evan Michaud (Rocky Ridge) — 73
Jackson Applebaum (Rocky Ridge) — 73
Bryan Smith (Champlain) — 73
Michael Coakley (CC of Vermont) — 73
Robert Wells-Rogers (Burlington) — 73
Bryson Richards (Barre) — 74
Gary Shover (Lakeside) — 74
Christian Ostberg (Ralph Myhre) — 74
Dave Slayton (Lakeside) — 74
Troy Goliber (Burlington) — 74
Max Major (Rutland) — 74
Brett Roland (Tater Hill) — 74
Cory Jozefiak (Mount Anthony) — 74
Dylan Otis (Barre) — 74
Evan Forrest (Williston) — 75
Scott Rankins (Vermont National) — 75
Alex Leonard (Williston) — 75
Jared Nelson (Rutland) — 75
Cameron O’Connell (Burlington) — 75
Nelson Rohrbach (Lakeside) — 75
Bill Crossmon (Neshobe) — 75
Zach Dukette (Barre) — 76
Reuben Stone (Barre) — 76
Jon Landry (Vermont National) — 76
Clark Brown (Stowe) — 76
Erik Lindahl (Lake Morey) — 76
Aidan Melville (CC Vermont) — 76
Nelson Eaton (Barre) — 76
Andrew Creed (Ekwanok) — 76
Nate Godbout (Rocky Ridge) — 77
Mark Hungerford (Champlain) — 77
Peter Mittendorf (Rutland) — 77
Mitchell Evans (Barre) — 77
Chris Antonez (Dorset Field Club) — 77
Ritchie Snow (Williston) — 77
Greg Gramas (Stowe) — 77
Branden McArtor (Enosburg Falls) — 77
Garett Dukette (Barre) — 77
Paul LaRoche (Montpelier) — 77
Ryan King (Lakeside) — 77
Alex Start (Champlain) — 77
Tim McAuliffe (Rutland) — 77
Chris Turley (CC of Vermont) — 77
Kyle McLane (Vermont National) — 78
Walker Allen (Neshobe) — 78
Kim Perry (Links at Lang Farm) — 78
Tyler Parker (Stowe) — 78
Mathew Smith (Mount Anthony) — 78
Edward Linto (Vermont National) — 79
Cody Blake (Barre) — 79
Brian Casey (Cedar Knoll) — 79
Eric Lajeunesse (Barre) — 79
Jeffrey Maier (Williston) — 79
Ryan Weigand (Burlington) — 79
Bill Wilkinson (Montague) — 79
Hogan Beazley (Ralph Myhre) — 80
Devon Havers (Vermont National) — 80
Benjamin Lacaillade (Montague) — 80
Peter Christenson (Rutland) — 80
Jay Zanleoni (Lakeside) — 80
Brian Cain (CC of Vermont) — 80
Nick D’Alberto (Stowe) — 80
Lance Robinson (CC of Vermont) — 80
Frankie Sanborn (Rutland) — 80
Brett Grigsby (Equinox) — 80
Nathan Benoit (Champlain) — 80
Jordan Villa (Barre) — 80
Stephen Carknard (Mount Anthony ) — 81
Matt Wilkinson (Rutland) — 81
Peter Duncan (Barre) — 81
Greg Wells (Lakeside) — 81
Jon Riggs (Rocky Ridge) — 81
Michael Trimboli (Vermont National) — 81
Cameron Saia (Williston) — 81
Brock Paquette (Burlington) — 82
Jeremy Quelch (Stowe) — 82
William Gage (Burlington) — 82
Steve Merrill (Neshobe) — 82
Kyle Rexford (Williston) — 82
Chalmers Nunn (Lakeside) — 82
Eugene Richards (Burlington) — 83
John Klesch (Vermont National) — 83
Tim Schein (Stowe) — 83
Philip Sheridan (Vermont National) — 83
Dean Ferrara (CC of Vermont) — 84
Hoyt McCuin (Rocky Ridge) — 84
Brady Hathorn (Lake Morey) — 85
Adam Pippin (Lake Morey) — 85
Aaron Wood (Mount Anthony) — 85
Andrew Dieringer (Champlain) — 85
Christopher Handy (Lakeside) — 86
Bryan Pell (Rutland) — 86
Bobby Webb (Vermont National) — 88
Mark Noble (Dorset Field Club) — 89
Josh Graning (West Bolton) — 89
Jeff Luckenbill (Barre) — 90
Sam Spencer (Lakeside) — 91
John Franzoni (Neshobe) — WD
Thomas Deck (Dorset Field Club) — WD