Bakst Leads MGA Mid-Amateur at Friar's Head
BAITING HOLLOW, N.Y. (October 4, 2021) – It was home sweet home for Ken Bakst on Monday in the 15th MGA Mid-Amateur Championship, as the Friar’s Head founder and managing member fired a 4-under-par 67 to take the top spot on the leaderboard.
Two players did not finish due to darkness and will finish the par-4 18th in the morning, resuming at 8:00 a.m. The cut fell at 5-over 76. Tuesday's second and final round will begin at 8:30 a.m.
Two-time MGA Mid-Amateur champion Trevor Randolph of Arcola, Tim Murphy of Stanwich and Chris DeJohn of Arcola all carded 3-under 68s to sit one shot off Bakst’s lead, while past MGA Public Links champion Alexander Kang of Harbor Links rounded out those finishing under-par with a 1-under 70.
Bakst, the 1997 U.S. Mid-Amateur champion, rolled in seven birdies on the day, with five coming on his opening nine. After an even-par start—par-birdie-bogey on the first three holes—Bakst made birdies on Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 9 to turn in 4-under. His putt on No. 9 came on an 18-foot, hard-breaking, right to left slider.
On the inward nine, Bakst had early bogeys on Nos. 10 and 13, but finished strong with birdies on Nos. 15 and 17 and caught the edge with another birdie look on the 18th.
“It had some move—it had 6-7 inches of break,” said Bakst of his birdie on the par-3 17th. “It was up the hill and—on these greens at this speed—getting it up the hill and not too fast to where you’re not running it by three or four feet—which is easy to do—is challenging.”
Even with the low score, Bakst felt he worked hard for the quality round and felt the difference from his many rounds on the course.
“It was one of those grind rounds, I just got it around,” said Bakst. “It’s funny being out here on a course I know really well. I always tell people competitive golf is different golf. It’s challenging and it gets in your gut. I made some good putts, I made some good shots and I was pleased with the number.”
With 18 holes remaining, Bakst is looking to post another quality round on Tuesday and see what happens. “I’m looking forward to it and it’s an honor and privilege to host the tournament,” said Bakst.
Randolph, who was runner-up in the Met Amateur earlier this year, entered the championship with limited rounds recently, but felt good about heading to Friar's Head.
“It’s a top-five course for me in the world, so I was very excited to be here,” said Randolph, who finished eighth in the Ike at Friar’s Head in 2015. Randolph had a rollercoaster opening nine that included three bogeys, a birdie, and an eagle, but settled in over his last nine and closed hot with four birdies over his last five holes.
“It was good to shake the rust off,” said Randolph. “I had three three-putts in the first 10 holes…so the back nine was just great and I got on a real tear in the last five holes. I like this event, I like this course, so I look forward to tomorrow.”
Murphy and DeJohn had similar rounds, using an eagle on the par-5 14th, three birdies and two bogeys en route to 68s. Murphy had a pair of both birdies and bogeys in his first five holes and had no miscues the rest of the way. DeJohn, starting on No. 10, made the turn in 4-under before a 1-over 37 to close.
Bakst and Murphy make the final pairing, going off the first hole at 10:24 a.m.
Friar’s Head, which ranks No. 13 and No. 16 in GOLF and Golf Digest’s respective top 100 U.S. courses lists, is welcoming its third MGA championship, having previously hosted the 2008 Met Amateur and the 2015 Ike. The 2002 Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design wowed competitors who had not been on the property before and, similar to Randolph, was a highly anticipated return for those who had previously played the course. Even with morning rain, conditions were outstanding, with the greens especially drawing the field’s attention.
The MGA Mid-Amateur Championship debuted in 2007 at Hudson National and has since visited some of the region's most respected venues, with Maidstone Club, Wee Burn Country Club and Somerset Hills Country Club hosting the most recent playings. The trophy, the Westmoreland Cup, is named for longtime MGA Tournament Director Gene Westmoreland who was instrumental in launching the championship and has a great passion for the mid-amateur game.