Bowker Leads Stroke Play After Round 1 at Rain-Soaked Ridgewood
Moultonborough, NH – As the rain came pouring down for half of the opening round of the New Hampshire Stroke Play Championship at Ridgewood Country Club, the field needed to navigate wet conditions to score well. A few golfers were able to manage the weather and course conditions without a problem to record under-par rounds, including Joe Bowker, who has been finding his name among the leaders in recent tournaments. Bowker managed a five-under par, 67 to lead the way after the first round. The field plays one more round at Ridgewood before it is cut for the final round at Atkinson Resort & Country Club.
Starting the day on Ridgewood’s front nine, Bowker quickly got himself to one-over par with a bogey on the 3rd hole but from then on, he went bogey-free. Starting with his first birdie on the 6th hole, he made three-straight birdies getting himself to two-under par at the turn.
“I got off to a little bit of a slow start with the putter”, admitted Bowker after his round. “The course was set up pretty short today, so I was just really trying to keep the ball in front of me, I wasn’t trying to be super aggressive.”
He carried that strategy with him to the back nine where he rolled in three more birdies and avoided the bogeys to get to five-under par, an unmatched score by anyone else in the field. Bowker stated, “I was just trying to set myself up well for good approach shots and keep the ball under the hole because these greens are pretty quick. The putter started coming alive around the 6th hole and I made some good putts.”
With a target on his back heading into the next 18 holes, Bowker maintains a calm demeaner and hopes to repeat his 67 (-5) in Round 2 of the championship. He commented, “I would love to go out and shoot 67 or better. I don’t think I’m going to change my strategy at all, just try to get to good spots on the greens.”
Sitting two shots back of Bowker at three-under par, 69 is none other than New Hampshire Amateur Runner-Up, Rob Henley. Henley started on the opposite side of the course from Bowker yet played a similar game. Starting out with eight-straight pars, Henley was finally able to drop a putt, making eagle on the par-5, 18th hole at Ridgewood to get to two-under at the turn.
Just like Bowker, Henley made a bogey on Ridgewood’s 3rd hole but made birdie on 7 and 8 to redeem himself. Although many of his birdie attempts were not dropping, he was able to card a 69 (-3) to sit in second place after Round 1.
“I made some decent par saves but didn’t make a ton of birdie putts”, stated Henley after the round. He will look to capitalize on more of those birdie attempts in Round 2 with hopes of going even lower tomorrow.
The weather was the big talk of the day as rain came down for about half the round and the course became unplayable for about an hour and a half in the middle of the day. Despite that, Bowker and Henley were able to navigate the conditions just fine. Henley said, “My clubs were wet and my grips were wet, so it was hard to hold onto it at times.”
Many of the players shared the same sentiment of swinging easy to maintain as much control over the club and ball as possible. Will McLaughlin is one of those golfers with the mindset of swinging easy in the wet conditions which paid off for him as he is now tied for third place with Jack Zioze with a 70 (-2) after Round 1 at Ridgewood.
McLaughlin, like Henley, had never played the course before but went into the round with the strategy of keeping the ball in front of him and giving himself good looks when it came to the greens. For McLaughlin, his round consisted of four birdies and two bogeys, keeping him to 70 (-2) and in good position for the next round.
“I hit it really good all day”, stated McLaughlin. “I hit a lot of really good irons really close and gave myself birdie looks and didn’t have many three putts so that helped a lot.”
Heading into the next round, the field will be chasing down Joe Bowker as everyone looks to play Ridgewood Country Club for 18 more holes before the cut to the low 40 players for the final round.
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