EAST PROVIDENCE — Davis Chatfield expected to be playing professional golf by now.
That’s what a traditional timeline would have dictated when the Attleboro native and Bishop Feehan graduate enrolled at Notre Dame in fall 2017. Four years with the Fighting Irish, maybe one final summer on the amateur circuit to find some extra sharpness, then showtime.
COVID-19 had different plans for Chatfield — for all of us, frankly. Society’s suffering well beyond the course beginning in March 2020, and college students putting their respective futures on hold was only one aspect of the difficulty. Chatfield exercised a blanket NCAA waiver to suit up as a graduate student in South Bend last year, and it turned out to be a life-changing decision.
Chatfield carded a 1-over 70 at the opening round of the Northeast Amateur, playing in Wednesday’s more difficult afternoon wave. Players teeing off later were greeted by a stiff breeze that carried across Wannamoisett Country Club. Defending champion Dylan Menante opened with a 7-under 62 while going off prior to 9 am
“I would say it made it more challenging,” Chatfield said. “We’ll see how the rest of the week pans out.
“I don’t envision 15-under winning unless we get great weather. I don’t think it’s going to play any easier than it was.”
Chatfield’s lone year as a graduate student in South Bend was just about ideal from a personal standpoint. He finished second at the late-season Stitch Intercollegiate, 10th at the ACC Championships and 15th at Notre Dame’s NCAA Regional site in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Chatfield’s stroke average of 71.27 in 2021-22 was the fourth-best in program history, and his career number of 71.63 ranks second.
“I could have finished in four and been on my merry way, but to be honest, I finished last year and didn’t feel like I was ready for professional golf,” Chatfield said. “It gives you that whole year — it’s huge.
“We played a full schedule. We traveled a ton in the spring. We played a lot of good tournaments. It’s kind of a no-brainer in my eyes —it looks like a lot of kids do it.”
Chatfield’s ascent started with a top-5 finish here last year. He followed by reaching the quarterfinals of the US Amateur, including a match play victory over Alex Fitzpatrick — younger brother of newly crowned US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick. Chatfield was brimming with confidence when he returned to campus for a fifth time in the fall.
“Since then, I really feel like I belong in this group of people,” Chatfield said. “I feel like I’ve shown it.”
Chatfield narrowly missed qualifying for the field at The Country Club, closing one shot out of a playoff at a sectional site in Columbus, Ohio. Denny McCarthy, Joel Dahmen, Hayden Buckley and Adam Schenk all finished in the top 25 at the US Open after taking four of the 13 available spots. Buckley defeated two opponents in extra holes to secure his place out of the Kinsale Golf & Fitness Club/Wedgewood Golf & Country Club.
“That extra year goes a long way for professional golf and feeling like you’re ready for it,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield had familiar faces with him on the practice tee prior to his 1:09 pm start. College teammates Andrew O’Leary and Palmer Jackson went off at 1 pm and 1:27 pm, respectively. The trio warmed up together and prepared for the first of what they hoped would be four competitive days here.
“Warming up with each other felt like college again,” Chatfield said. “It was nice to be around them. It felt like any other college tournament for us.”
Chatfield carded 15 pars Wednesday in his first tournament round on his home course. Offseason renovations to restore bunkers, expand greens and remove trees cost $3.5 million and have drawn rave reviews from club members and visitors. Only 20 players broke par to begin the tournament — 16 of them played in the more benign morning conditions.
“It just pinched all the bunkers in play now for everybody,” Chatfield said. “It’s a lot more narrow where I’m hitting it and where these guys are hitting it. It makes it tougher.”
On Twitter: @BillKoch25