RUMFORD, R.I. – A year ago, Dan Woltman entered the final round of the Northeast Amateur in second place. The pressure to win the prestigious tournament got to him. He shot a closing 7-over 76 and tied for 16th.
Fast forward to 2009. Woltman, a 2009 Wisconsin graduate, began the final round in the 48th Northeast Amateur tied for third, three shots behind leader Adam Long.
All Woltman did this time was improve by 12 shots.
With a 5-under 64, Woltman captured the biggest amateur title of his young career Saturday at Wannamoisett Country Club.
In the process, he put his name in the event’s record book with his 11-under 265 total, breaking the previous mark by two strokes set last year by Brendan Gielow, who tied for ninth this year.
“This is so awesome,” said Woltman, winner of the 2007 Wisconsin State Open. “When you look at the players who have won this tournament, and to not only add my name to that list, but to set the tournament record is amazing.”
Woltman finished three strokes better than Long, who set second- and third-round scoring records, David Holmes, the first round co-leader, and Wesley Bryan.
Long closed with a 1-over 70. He led most of the final round, which he started at 9 under, and got to 11 under with birdies at Nos. 1 and 4. But he bogeyed Nos. 7, 12 and 16.
Holmes, like Woltman, started the day at 6 under, and quickly birdied Nos. 2 and 3. He followed bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5 with birdies at 7 and 8. He moved to within one shot of the lead with birdies at 15 and 16, only to see his hopes dashed when his second shot on No. 17 – the course’s only par 5 – sailed out of bounds and he made double bogey.
Bryan began the final day at 3 under and six behind, but closed with a 64. It was an incredible round considering it included a double bogey at No. 7 and a bogey at 18. He had six birdies and an eagle, at the 17th.
“It could have been a 50s round,” Bryan said. “After I made double, I had six holes with makeable birdie putts and did not convert. It was quite a round.”
It was quite a round for Woltman, as well, considering he said he had the swine flu the past three weeks. He was in bed for a week, lost seven pounds, and couldn’t practice. It caused him to withdraw from the Sunnehanna Amateur, where he finished second last year.
“It (flu) just happened,” Woltman said. “I was at the U.S. Open sectional qualifier in Memphis and it just hit me hard. When I got here, I had no big expectations. I just came out and played golf. I got in a few good practice rounds here, but I was taking naps every afternoon.
“I’m feeling much better now. Of course winning has a lot to do with that.”
Woltman quickly put himself in the hunt with birdies on Nos. 1, 5 and 6 to turn in 9 under, one shot behind Long. He added birdies at 11, 13 and 17 to seal the deal. A 20-foot birdie putt on the final hole hung on the lip of the cup, but would not drop.
“I played solid all week,” said Woltman, 22, of Beaver Dam, Wis. “My ball-striking was great, and I hit a lot of fairways. Actually, I hit it the best the first day and shot 70 because I struggled with my putting.”
The next two days, Woltman was the last player to leave the practice putting green. It certainly paid off as he followed with rounds of 64-67-64.
“Without a doubt, this will give me a great deal of confidence for the rest of the summer,” said Woltman, who is hoping the victory grabs the attention of the USGA for a selection to this year’s U.S. Walker Cup team. “Hopefully I can use this as a springboard for a great summer.”
Scores were low from start to finish as recent rain made the traditionally hard, fast greens, slower, softer and more welcoming for approach shots.
A total of 21 players finished under par (with five others at even), topping the previous best of 14, from the 2005 event.
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Ron Balicki is a Golfweek senior writer. To reach him e-mail [email protected]