Reading The Greens golf column: Kernwood's Emmerich emerges as junior standout

Reading The Greens columnist Gary Larrabee

We have marveled over the years at some extremely talented brother combinations on the North Shore golf scene, among them the Gillises, O’Keefes, Guyers, Scanlons, Nekoroskis and Whalleys.

But they all take a backseat to what we have observed in recent years from the Turners, James and Mark, of Bass Rocks and the Emmerichs of Kernwood, Christian and Aidan.

The latest to make headlines is Aidan Emmerich, who at 16 was the youngest player to reach the 32-man match play portion of last week’s 112th Massachusetts Amateur at The Kittansett Club. Whether he will qualify as a teen for a USGA championship like Mark Turner has done twice for the U.S. Junior, and brother Christian Emmerich did last year for the U.S. Amateur, or will win the New England Amateur with a record score like James Turner did a few years ago at Hartford, remains to be seen.

But Aidan, a junior at St. Mary’s of Lynn who lives with his family in Swampscott, is off to an impressive start based on his play at Kittansett. The diminutive Emmerich, at 5-7, 120 pounds, scored 73-73-146. The first round was at the Bay Pointe Club, the second at the much more difficult Kittansett course, to finish in an 11-player deadlock at the exact cutoff score.

He lost his first round match, 2 and 1, to Nashawtuc’s Xavier Marcoux, but that did not dim the starry evidence Aidan presented. He led, 1 up, after seven, but won only one more hole, the 16th, to draw within one before Marcoux closed him out with a winning birdie on 17.

“I guess this was a good first step for me at the state level,” Aidan said. “But I also know I could have won that first match.”

Christian Emmerich, by the way, shot 149 to miss match play by three strokes.

“I’ve tried to pick up good habits from Christian and Max (who plays for Salem State and teamed with KCC head pro Frank Dully last week to shoot 140 at the NEPGA Pro-Amateur championship),” Aidan said. “It’s all about consistency, positivity and patience; keeping your emotions in control.”

Aidan is making fantastic progress, according to Craig Pitman, the long-time assistant pro at Kernwood who is working with him.

“As fine as he played at the championship, he also played great at the qualifying round at Renaissance," said Pitman. "He’d never seen the course, where you need to play lots of target golf, and shot 72 – outstanding.”

Not that Pitman was surprised. “Aidan has big big potential,” he said. “Aidan has an excellent short game. His putting and chipping are superb. His ball striking is exceptional. He hits the ball plenty far.

"Every time he steps up to that first tee, he's playing to win, Pitman added. "I’m sure, too, that how Christian (now at Holy Cross) has achieved has motivated him as well.”

Pitman works primarily these days with Aidan’s shaping of his shots, refining his game, and trying to get him gradually bulk up both weight- and muscle-wise.

Aidan showed his mental toughness in his second round of qualifying at Kittansett. “I went out in 38 the second day and knew I needed to play the back nine well to make match play,” he said. “So I started going for a few pins and it paid off.”

Indeed. Aidan made three birdies the back, played the first seven holes in two under, and punched his ticket into match play despite bogeys the last two holes. He also recalled a 40-foot birdie putt he made the first day as being pivotal in hindsight.

“You never know when a long one might fall,” he said. “That one proved to be the difference in my making the cut or not.”

Aidan now figures to be one of the favorites at the Massachusetts Junior August 3-6 at Cranberry Valley in Harwich.

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Easily overlooked at Kittansett was Salem CC’s Steve DiLisio and his valiant defense of the 2019 title. After a first round 76 at Bay Pointe, the Duke University graduate student rallied with birdies the final two holes to shoot a solid 70 at Kittansett, joining Emmerich in match play.

DiLisio won his first match in 21 holes over Ricky Stimets after blowing a 2-up lead with three holes to go, but fell to a buzzsaw in fellow former St. John’s Prepster Nick Maccario of Bradford, 6 and 5, in the round of 16.

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North Shore players dominated Monday’s New England PGA Pro-Pro Stroke Play championship at The Haven at West Boylston. Tedesco assistant Nick Desjardins and Cape Club of Sharon’s Steve Daly won the event, shooting a 14-under 130 better-ball total over 36 holes. Kirk Hanefeld, Salem’s Director of Instruction, teamed with Rick Karbowski of the Auburn Driving Range to shoot 67-64-131. Kernwood’s Dully and Belmont’s Matt Zdon finished tied for seventh at 133.

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Gary Larrabee, who pens the Reading The Greens golf column for The Gloucester Times, has written about golf on the North Shore and beyond for the last 50 years.

 

 

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