FAIRLEE, Vt. — Justin Bonnett’s first Jeff Julian Memorial Vermont Open championship as Lake Morey Country Club’s director of golf isn’t being held where Bonnett works.
As has happened at other golf courses around the Upper Valley, Bonnett arrived at Lake Morey this spring to the sight of greens damaged by winter kill. The harm was such that Bonnett had to move this week’s 54-hole tournament from its Fairlee home for the third time in the last 10 years.
Instead of eyeing the long par-3 that welcomes golfers to Morey, a field of about 120 professionals and amateurs will face a par-5 opener at Woodstock Country Club — and the 17 holes that follow — when the championship began this morning. Morey made the decision to move to Woodstock about a month ago, Bonnett said last week, when it deemed a return to tournament conditions unlikely for its damaged greens.
“The phenomenal winter we had, with a mix of snow, rain and ice, affected four of our greens, on holes 5, 6, 7 and 14,” Bonnett said.
“The weather was horrific, for a lack of a better word, for the month of May. Things weren’t filling in as fast as we needed to host an open championship. We weren’t satisfied. We certainly could have hosted it, but we weren’t feeling like our conditions would be 100 percent.”
Similar situations forced a move to St. Johnsbury Country Club in 2009 and to Green Mountain National Golf Course in Killington in 2014. Pivoting to Woodstock, however, gives competitors an alternative site that isn’t too terribly different than the usual.
A new Vermont Open champion is more than likely this week. St. Johnsbury’s Alex Rainville, who picked up his first pro victory at Lake Morey last June, isn’t in the field, although 2017 champ Peter French committed to the field late last week. The only former champ at Woodstock, John Elliott, claimed his title 23 years ago, although he still finds a way to be near the top of the leaderboard every year.
That could open the door for a variety of pros. Jamison Sindelar, son of former PGA Tour and current Champions Tour player Joey Sindelar, tied for fifth in the New England Open at the Quechee Club two weeks ago and took fourth at last week’s Massachusetts Open. Bay Stater Mark Purrington shared the first-round lead at Quechee with a 5-under-par 66 and shared sixth place at the Mass Open. New York’s Matt Campbell came within a one-hole playoff of taking last month’s Cape Cod Open.
And Lebanon’s Pat Pelletier can’t be counted out. Picking up from last year’s New Hampshire Golf Association player of the year campaign, Pelletier was the low amateur at Quechee and took second in the NHGA’s season-opening Players Invitational at Baker Hill Golf Club on June 2.
The first two rounds of the Vermont Open will be played off split tees, the first and ninth, with action starting at 7 a.m. The top 60 players and ties will advance from the professional cut for Wednesday’s final round, with top scores getting a piece of a $28,000 purse.
The event bleeds into the N.H. Open, which starts Thursday at Bretwood Golf Course in Keene and runs through Saturday. The second of the three rounds will be played at Keene Country Club.