Arnie Cutrell of Hannastown Golf Club recovered from a double bogey on the first hole to make six birdies at White Manor Country Club and grab the lead after the opening round of the 104th Pennsylvania Amateur, presented by LECOM, Monday.
Cutrell’s birdie binge enabled him to finish with a 4-under-par 67 total that gave him a one-shot lead over Penn State junior JD Hughes, playing out of Carlisle Country Club.
Five players, including Yardley Country Club’s Christopher Ault, who qualified for match play at last summer’s U.S. Mid-Amateur at Stonewall, and another Hannastown representative, Palmer Jackson, who captured the Pennsylvania Junior Boys’ crown earlier this summer, are tied for third at 2-under 69.
Cutrell had never seen the White Manor layout before playing a practice round Sunday and he was nursing a pulled calf muscle. Things didn’t look good when he yanked his drive off the first tee to the left, where it landed in an official’s cart. He had to lay up and then three-putted and was 2-over walking to the second tee.
“Sometimes that makes you bear down,” Cutrell, a veteran standout on the western Pennsylvania amateur scene, told the Pennsylvania Golf Association website. “I was able to focus and get back on track and end up with a nice score.”
Cutrell got a shot back when he dropped a wedge from 100 yards on the par-5 sixth hole three feet from the hole and converted the birdie putt. When a 35-footer for birdie found the cup on the eighth hole, Cutrell was back to even and ready to roll.
It was the first of four straight birdies and he got one more on the par-3 14th to get to 4-under for the round. That gave him six birdies in a stretch of nine holes from Nos. 6 to 14.
Hughes, who started on the back nine at White Manor, also ripped off four birdies in a row on 16, 17, 18 and one. He fell back to 1-under with bogeys at the second and third holes. But he blasted a 4-iron to the front of the par-5 sixth and then watched his 80-foot putt fall for a spectacular eagle that enabled him to finish at 3-under for the round. Like Cutrell, Hughes had never laid eyes on the White Manor layout until playing a practice round Sunday.
Hughes was in and out of the Penn State lineup last season, but when teammate Ryan Dornes went down with a fractured hand, Hughes played a key role in a run by the Nittany Lions that saw them earn a trip to the NCAA Championship at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
Joining Ault and Jackson in the group tied for third at 2-under 69 were former Radnor standout Carey Bina, playing out of Radnor Valley Country Club, Applecross Country Club’s Liam McAnally and Rutgers senior Matt Holuta, who plays out of Indiana Country Club.
Drexel senior Aaron Fricke, a former Garden Spot standout playing out of Lancaster Country Club, and Jason Wilson, a PAGA individual member, were the only other players to break par at White Manor and are tied for eighth at 1-under 70.
Lurking in a group of seven players tied for 10th at even-par 71 is defending champion Cole Miller, Hughes’ teammate at Penn State. Miller capped his junior year at Penn State by capturing the individual title in the NCAA Washington Regional with rounds of 69, 69 and a closing 68 at Aldarra Golf Club in Sammamish, Wash. that gave him a three-shot victory over a star-studded field.
Miller, a former Northwestern Lehigh standout playing out of Blue Ridge Country Club, will return to Penn State as one of the top players in Division I. He displayed the kind of explosiveness he is capable of as recently as last week when he ripped off rounds of 64 and 67 at Northampton Country Club to beat a field of Philadelphia Section PGA pros in the GALV Lehigh Valley Open by two shots with a 13-under 131 total.
Also in the group tied for 10th at even-par 71 is Aronimink Golf Club’s Michael Davis, a senior at Princeton. Davis won an Inter-Ac League championship at White Manor as a freshman at Malvern Prep the last year the Inter-Ac played in the spring.
Georgetown senior Cole Berman, playing out of Philadelphia Cricket Club, is one of 11 players tied for 17th at 1-over 72. Berman, Davis’ rival at The Haverford School in their Inter-Ac days, defeated Davis in the 2015 BMW Philadelphia Amateur final at Llanerch Country Club.