Appearance of Pats punter Bryce Baringer brings spice to the 116th Mass Amateur

Ryan Downes, 17, of Longmeadow holds the trophy after becoming the youngest winner in the 115-year history of the Massachusetts Amateur Championship last July at Essex Country Club. (Libby O'Neill/Boston Herald)

History will be made this week at the 116th Massachusetts Amateur Championship.

For the first time, the state's amateur champion will be crowned at Framingham Country Club. The winner will be determined after five days of intense competition in what will likely be sweltering conditions. The winner will not be announced until Friday.

There are many potential champions. One thing is for sure: New England Patriots fans have a special reason to tune in at least to the Monday and Tuesday rounds.

That's because the team's starting punter, Bryce Baringer, will be among those teeing off at Framingham, hoping to advance to match play after two rounds of stroke play.

The 25-year-old, drafted by the Patriots in 2023, qualified for the championship on June 18 when he shot a 1-under-par 69 at Stockbridge Golf Club. Baringer not only qualified that day – his outstanding round also earned him a medal.

The Wrentham resident is a member of TPC Boston. It will be interesting to see if any of his Patriots teammates show up to support him.

Although Baringer is a professional athlete, an 18-year-old amateur is expected to attract a lot of attention ahead of the tournament.

Ryan Downes, 18, is the defending champion. He made history last year when he became the youngest player to win the Mass Amateur. Downes, then 17, surpassed the feats of the two youngest previous champions, Ted Adams and James Driscoll. Adams (1939) and Driscoll (1996) were both 18 when they won the state.

And Downes won the title in convincing fashion. In the final, Downes defeated his good friend Matthew Naumec to win the 36-hole final at the Essex Country Club by 6 and 5. The club in Manchester-by-the-Sea hosted the event for the eighth time.

Downes is from Longmeadow and was the first GreatHorse member to win the Mass Amateur.

Downes is young, talented and used to success. He won the MIAA Div. 1 state championship last fall on his home course. He also won the Ouimet Memorial Tournament for the second year in a row and reached the semifinals of the Mass Junior Amateur.

He was coming off a 12th-place finish at the Mass Open, where he finished with a 69.

Downes will face plenty of elite competition.

John Broderick is a player to watch. The Dedham Country and Polo Club member made waves last July when he shot a course record 62 in the final round of stroke play at the Essex Country Club to secure a medal.

He is coming off a strong first season at Vanderbilt University, where he will be Downes' teammate.

There are plenty of young guns, including 15-year-old Aarav Lavu of Wellesley, the youngest player in the talented field. Lavu shot a stunning 58 strokes to become the 2022 Massachusetts Young Golfers' Amateur champion. The Blue Hill Country Club member also competed in the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals last year at a course in Georgia called Augusta National Golf Club.

Conner Willett, 21, won the 2022 Mass Amateur title and the Wellesley native can add to his trophy collection with this game.

Looking for someone to cheer on? 19-year-old Molly Smith of Westford made history last year by becoming the first woman to compete in the Mass Amateur. The Vesper Country Club member is back and just finished second in the Lowell City Golf Tournament. She was this close to becoming the first female winner in the event's 99-year history.

But don't underestimate “older” golfers like 41-year-old Andrew Diramio of North Hill Country Club. He's easy to spot – he's the guy who uses a one-armed putting style. Diramio has made it to match play four years in a row.

Matt Parziale, 37, has plenty of experience playing in the spotlight. The Thorny Lea Golf Club member and Brockton native has reached the round of 16 eight times in the last decade.

And then there's Joe Harney. The 32-year-old West Roxbury native plays for Charles River CC. Harney made it to the semifinals last year with great enthusiasm and made it to match play at last year's US Mid-Amateur Championship.

Talented teenagers. Experienced veterans. And the starting punter of the New England Patriots.

There should be a lot of excitement in Framingham this week.

New England Patriots punter Bryce Baringer catches a ball during practice at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Matt Stone/Boston Herald)
New England Patriots punter Bryce Baringer catches a ball during practice at Gillette Stadium. (Photo by Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

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