Cities Notebook: Age Doesn’t Matter for Harrison (63) and Yfantopulos (16)
TYNGSBORO -- If Vesper’s Peter Harrison holds on to win the 93rd Lowell City Golf Tournament this week -- and as Peter would be the first to tell you, that’s a big if -- he would be the oldest Cities champ by more than a decade.
Right now the oldest champion, believe it or not, is George Popp, who was 52 when he won it in 2014 but to this day looks about 32. Harrison is 63. He looks ... well, we won’t go down that road.
Harrison has played in this event some 40 times. In 1980, his second Cities, he held the lead on the back nine but faltered and finished fourth behind Mark Demaras, who won the first of his three in a row.
And then there’s the player in second place after Wednesday’s first round at Vesper CC -- 16-year-old Mikey Yfantopulos, the youngest in the field. According to the keeper of the flame, Long Meadow pro Gene Manley, Mikey would be the youngest winner since Marshall Forrest, 15, whose 237 total took the inaugural event in 1923.
Yfantopulos, who is representing Long Meadow but whose family also has a Vesper membership, made three birdies and four bogeys in his relatively uneventful round of 1-over 73 in Round 1, three shots behind Harrison. In what other sport could competitors separated by 47 years hook up?
Yfantopulos qualified for the Cities last year at 15. He is a junior club champ and a junior City champ. The Lowell resident is a straight-A student at Central Catholic, where he’ll be a junior in September.
“He’s the best young putter I’ve seen in a long time,” said Manley. “And he’s only going to get better.”
Speaking of Lowell kids from Central Catholic, the Raiders’ all-everything quarterback, Bret Edwards, is also playing in the Cities for Long Meadow and opened with a respectable 81 (three doubles). Respectable given that the UNH-bound scholarship athlete plays about 10 rounds a year, according to his stepfather (and caddy), Dean Emerson.
We watched Edwards for a few holes Wednesday and came away impressed. Physically, he reminds us of a young Dustin Johnson -- athletic, lanky, flexible, hits it a mile. The buzz around the Lowell golf crowd is that if Edwards ever got hooked on the game he could be something special.
But he’s been a little busy. In addition to football (and academics), Edwards is also a basketball point guard who can dunk and a high-jumper (6′4″ PR) in track. He’s a 6-handicap at the Meadow. And the girls are no doubt chasing him.
Doc in town
Emerson is the man who caddied for U.S. Amateur winner Doc Redman last summer, a come-from-behind victory that qualified Redman for the Masters. Redman turned pro and came to New England this week to try to Monday-qualify for the Travelers Insurance tournament in Connecticut.
His 3-under in Hartford didn’t make it in, but he joined Emerson and Edwards for a round at Vesper and knocked in nine birdies for a 64.
Here and there...
“We were right on time! Every group went off right to the minute! And then that happened.”
Those were the first words Vesper pro Stephen Doyle said to us when we arrived at the club Wednesday. “That” was an incident in the second-to-last group when the tee shot of eight-time champ Phil Smith hit a big tree and nobody saw where it went.
LPGA pro Alison Walshe, looping for her brother David in the group behind, said she thought she saw it ricochet into the hazard on the left. After a long delay Smith re-teed. He was fortunate to escape with a double bogey...
Which is better than Mike Walker, our pick to click in Wednesday’s Sun, made out. He carded a triple-bogey on the first hole and finished 6-over...
All agreed the golf course was in tremendous shape, the pin placements were fair, the weather was outstanding and the beer was ice cold. Let’s hope that holds throughout as the tournament shifts to Mt. Pleasant Friday and Long Meadow Saturday...
Shawn Scott, the 2013 champ, was floundering until he went birdie-eagle-birdie on 9-10-11. He’s tied for third with defending champ Rich Campiola at plus-2. While sinking his approach shot for a 2 on the par-4 10th is impressive, making a 2 on the rugged par-3 ninth isn’t far behind. They may have both been skins. Scott is the guy who aced the par-4 sixth at LM a year or two ago. There’s a plaque on the tee box...
Jason Howarth is carrying the Mt. Pleasant flag into his home course. At 3-over he’s in fifth alone. He followed a birdie on 14 with a double on 15 to take the spark out of his charge. Scott Pare of MP, who almost won last year, is at 5-over with Popp and a few others...
Two-time champ (2015-16) Chris Gentle was in the house, following Pare and other Mt. Pleasant players. He turned pro last year and has had a couple of decent finishes in recent tournaments as he grinds it out wherever he can play. “I just need to make a few more putts,” said Gentle, which of course is every golfer’s lament...
It was fitting that the Medalist Trophy won by Harrison was named in tribute to former champ Ken Hughes, a friend and fellow long-time Cities fixture. Hughes finished T-2 with Wayne Burgess in that aforementioned 1980 tournament that Harrison led. Kenny spent his afternoon as a fore-caddy on the 11th hole, where balls have a tendency to disappear. A finer gentleman you will never meet.
Follow Dennis Whitton on Twitter @DAWhitton