By Mike Dougherty
RIVERHEAD – It’s already been a long summer for James McHugh.
The 16-year-old is ordinarily a fixture at Rye Golf Club, but the ongoing issues there with the greens has forced him to find alternatives. He’s been playing with friends at various courses around the county and practicing in the back yard with foam balls.
A rug in the living room helped get him up to speed for The Ike Championship.
McHugh grabbed a share of the lead Monday with a 3-under 68 at Friar’s Head, carding six birdies in the process with a string of lengthy putts.
“The greens at my course are dead right now so I’ve been practicing a lot inside,” said the junior at Rye High School, who’s the second-youngest player in the field. “We have a (sisal) carpet in front of the TV that I putt on, and it’s pretty fast. The greens here are quick, but they didn’t really affect me because I’ve pretty much been practicing on bare wood.”
Ryan Snouffer, who plays at Seton Hall and won the Brae Burn Invitational earlier this month, also shot a 68.
A total of 44 players survived the cut and will play 36 holes on Tuesday.
McHugh and Snouffer are sleeping on a one-shot cushion, but there are 18 players within three shots of the lead.
“I’m going to be nervous, I’m not going to lie,” McHugh said. “But what can you do?”
The next generation of local standouts are in play.
Cameron Young opened with a steady 70 and is two shots back. The 18-year-old from Sleepy Hollow Country Club already has a string of junior championships and invitational wins, so capturing the MGA’s premiere amateur stroke play championship would be a logical next step.
“You look at the list of winners, Cameron Wilson and David Pastore, and then a little farther back, Johnson Wagner, you see where they’re at now and where they’re going, it would be special to have one of these, for sure,” the Wake Forest commit said.
Young kept the round fairly uneventful with three birdies and two bogeys.
“The course is in perfect shape,” he said. “The greens are a little tricky. They dried out in the afternoon, got a little firmer and quicker, so it was tough.”
A persistent wind made scoring difficult in the morning.
Brent Ito is also at 1-under. There was plenty of hard work on the front side, and the Ardsley senior turned at 2-over. He rolled in four birdies on the back.
“Playing here is sick,” the 2014 MGA Boys champion said. “I hit the ball well off the tee. I probably missed one fairway and that wasn’t anything bad. … I think we’re going to have to go a little bit lower tomorrow.”
Sam Bernstein, a Century member, and George Zahringer, a Rye native and Deepdale member, are three shots behind at even par.
60th Ike MGA Stroke Play Championship
At Friar’s Head – Par 71
1. Ryan Snouffer, Panther Valley G&CC – 34-34–68
1. James McHugh, Rye Golf Club – 35-33–68
2. CJ Swift, MGA eClub-Westchester/Fairfield – 35-34–69
2. Jay Linn Card III, Gardiners Bay Country Club – 32-37–69
5. Steven Zychowski, Mendham Golf & Tennis Club – 36-34–70
5. Cameron Young, Sleepy Hollow Country Club – 35-35–70
5. Luke Graboyes, Twin Brooks Country Club – 36-34–70
5. Jared Mactas, Paramount Country Club – 36-34–70
5. Brent Ito, Met PGA Junior Golf Club – 38-32–70
5. Evan M Grenus, Sterling Farms Golf Club – 33-37–70
11. Sam Bernstein, Century Country Club – 35-36–71
11. Ken Bakst, Friar’s Head – 35-36–71
11. Erick Alonso, White Beeches G&CC – 34-37–71
11. George J Zahringer III, Deepdale Golf Club – 36-35–71
11. Trevor Randolph, Arcola CC – 35-36–71
11. Michael Savitt, Century Country Club – 37-34–71
11. Thomas Collins III, Spring Brook Country Club – 33-38–71
11. Stewart Hagestad, Golf & Body NYC – 33-38–71