KENILWORTH, N.J. (July 5, 2018) — When the 117th New Jersey State Golf Association Amateur Championship, presented by Provident Bank, arrives at renovated Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, it will be played on a date later than usual, on a course that will be unfamiliar to many of the contestants.
The NJSGA Amateur, which comes to Echo Lake for the first time in 51 years, takes place on July 10-12 as part of a revamped championship schedule for 2018 that includes later dates for the Mid-Amateur and the Open, among other changes. The 2018 Amateur comes a month later than the previous year, which was conducted in early June at Tavistock Country Club in Haddonfield in 2017. In addition, Echo Lake has implemented a master plan that has refurbished nearly the entire course, but the most recent finishing touches included a massive rebuild and reconfiguration that included the first five holes. The work was performed by noted golf architect Rees Jones of Montclair.
Echo Lake has hosted important national and state championships over the past century. Many existing and likely future stars have competed on the layout. At the USGA Junior Amateur in 1994, Echo Lake was dubbed by Golf World as a “hidden gem.” LPGA star Inbee Park won the 1999 U.S. Girls’ Junior there. The defending champion and budding star is collegiate golfer Dawson Jones of Jumping Brook, who made up seven strokes with a final round 65 last year at Tavistock. That was a lot of ground to make up for Jones, but a great birdie-eagle start in the final round got him right back into the chase.
“I’m still pretty confident in my game now, so that’s the reason I’m going into the State Amateur not really thinking about the pressure of repeating. Whatever happens, happens,” he said recently.
“I never had a doubt about winning last year because you never know what can happen when you start making birdies and the other guy bogeys. I was just making great putts. I wasn’t hitting it any differently than the way I did in the first three rounds, but the putts were dropping.
“Winning the State Amateur was one of the biggest wins in my career. It led to a positive change in my confidence, now that I know what I’m capable of,” Jones said.
This past spring at the University of Rhode Island, Jones was an All-Atlantic 10 Conference selection for the second year in a row. He led the team in scoring average and was inside the top 15 in seven of his nine tournaments.
“I’ve been practicing a lot harder this year, especially on my chipping and putting. I’ve been watching the pros on TV the past few months and all the guys they show are the ones making their putts,” Jones said.
Last month, Jones competed in the Northeast Amateur Invitational at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rhode Island. He also plans on participating in the NJSGA Open, the Met Amateur and he will enter a U.S. Amateur qualifier this summer.
“My game has evolved a lot since Tavistock. I have become a more aggressive player, and I have spent a lot more time on the most important part of my game, which is my short game. During that week at Tavistock, my short game was the best it has ever been. To win something like that, you have to putt well and make a lot of birdies.”
Making a lot of birdies will, no doubt, make people forget that this Amateur will be played at a new time and place.