May 7, 2020.
For many, that mid-spring date holds little to no significance. But for golfers across the state of Massachusetts, it serves as this year’s reintroduction to the game they love.
It was on that day that Governor Charlie Baker allowed private and public courses throughout the Commonwealth to open their doors after a long coronavirus shutdown. It’s also the day that Amesbury’s Chris Francoeur got back out there and attempted to shake off any absence-related rust.
Spoiler alert: there wasn’t any.
Early last week, Francoeur fired a course record 7-under par 65 at his new home course, Renaissance Golf Club in Haverhill. The very next day he carded an equally impressive 3-under par 69 at Connecticut’s Ellington Ridge Country Club. The latter performance, however, held a bit more weight.
In what was Francoeur’s third competitive round of the summer, his 3-under 18-hole score earned him a spot in Monday’s Travelers Championship qualifying event back at that same Connecticut layout. If he can manage a top-2 finish in Monday’s round, he’ll move on to the big leagues and compete (as an amateur) in the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship beginning this Thursday.
“I honestly might have to play a little more aggressive than I did last week,” admitted Francoeur, who knows that even another 3-under par afternoon likely won’t be good enough for a top 2 finish. His score of 69 in the pre-qualifier put him in a tie for eighth place with the top scorer coming in at an 8-under 64.
“Last week I was 5-under through 16 but bogeyed the last two holes. It was still good enough to get a spot in Monday’s round, but I think I’ll have to shoot like 8-under realistically to move on. I got nothing to lose so I’m just going to go after it out there.”
While Francoeur’s recent outings are certainly spectacular, they shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The former St. John’s Prep standout held a scoring average under 70 this past season at Division 1 University of Rhode Island, earning New England Golfer of the Year recognition in the process.
He’s had countless sub-par rounds during his collegiate career and has come out on top in numerous offseason tournaments and events. With that said, the PGA-hopeful talent is arguably playing the best golf of his life right now and hopes to ride the wave in Monday’s marquee event.
His secret weapon? Putting.
“I’m still hitting the ball really well and my irons have been really solid. But I’m making more birdies which is nice and that’s all because of putting,” said Francoeur, who currently rolls a Scotty Cameron flat stick. “The putter can make or break you, especially at this level because everyone hits the ball well. I look at it like you could be hitting the ball really well and shoot even par, but if you were also putting well you’d probably be at like 5-under.”
While Francoeur doesn’t necessarily keep track of his putts per round, he sets a goal for himself each time on the course to not have any 3-putts. Right now he’s been limiting the mistakes on the green and in turn, shedding strokes from his game.
If Francoeur can continue to strike the ball accurately and make his putts, he has as good a shot as anyone to claim one of those top 2 slots on Monday. If he advances, he’ll soon be competing in his first-ever PGA Tour event.
After that, Francoeur will look forward to this year’s Massachusetts Amateur Championship held at The Kittansett Club in Marion on July 13-17.