CRANSTON—After playing in a number of tournaments together this summer Charlie Blanchard and McKinley Slade were once again on the course at the same time Tuesday and Wednesday for the 82nd Rhode Island Open Championships.
Rest assured though, it won’t be the last time the two see each other.
In just a few short weeks Slade – a 2013 graduate of South Kingstown High – will be off to Bryant University to continue his academic and golf career, the latter under Blanchard’s tutelage.
Blanchard knew he was getting a strong player when he recruited Slade to come to Bryant but this summer the coach has had a first-hand show to his future player’s potential.
“He’s been playing very well this summer,” Blanchard said Wednesday. “I’m excited to have him at Bryant next year and to be able to work with him for the next few years and watch his game continue to get better.
“Over the last month he’s been playing some excellent golf and as a coach what more can you ask for. He’s a great kid, great student and his game has really turned a corner in the last month or so and we’re very excited to have him.”
When you watch Slade swing a club it’s pretty easy to see why Blanchard scooped up the former Rebel, as he has the ability to hit the ball long yet still has a nice touch around the greens.
“He’s got to learn to control the flight of the ball a little bit but the thing I really like about McKinley is he really has the ability to shoot low numbers and if you have that [ability] those other things are a lot easier to work on,” Blanchard said.
“When somebody’s able to shoot low numbers it’s tough to teach that but he can so now we have to work on when he’s not hitting it good to be able to manage his game to get out of there with a 72 or a 73 and come back the next day and play well.
“He’s got some really good length, he’s got a nice touch around the greens and so when you’ve got a kid that’s got that ability – like I said to be able to play and shoot low numbers – and has got some length he can attack par 5’s, which is very beneficial.
“Even on a golf course like this if you hit your tee shot anywhere around 290 you’re going to have irons into almost all of these par 5’s so you’re hopefully picking up a few shots on the field.”
Slade has certainly put the work in to get to this point but this summer he has ratcheted up his game, playing in numerous tournaments to make sure he’s at the top of his game when he make the move to Smithfield this fall.
“Most of the tournaments I’ve played in have been 54 holes or more. It’s been a lot of competitive golf,” Slade said. “I’m just trying to prepare myself for college because in college every tournament’s 54 holes basically so it’s a lot of golf as well. The best way to get ready is by playing so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Slade entered Tuesday RI Open after a strong showing at the Big I National Championships at the Country Club of North Carolina.
“It was good, it was fun. I had a couple good rounds, a couple bad rounds,” Slade said of the experience. “Just a couple things didn’t go my way in the bad rounds and I don’t know, I didn’t really feel like I played that much different round to round but it was fun.”
The Big I provided a good test for Slade as it was the first four-day tournament of his career in which he qualified for all four days.
“I played two practice rounds before that so it was six days in a row all walking and you wouldn’t think of it as being tiring but it definitely is when you’re out there playing four rounds of stroke play, competitive golf where every shot counts. It’s just a whole lot to handle,” Slade said.
“It’s definitely tiring, especially when you’re playing a tough course. The Country Club of North Carolina is pretty hard. It’s a long course, there are no really easy holes out there so you have to focus on every shot.”
Slade had a tough two days at Alpine, following up Tuesday’s 76 with a 79 Tuesday to miss the cut, while Blanchard fared much better.
After an opening round 67, Blanchard came back with a 76 Wednesday and as of 1 p.m. Thursday was in a tie for 31st place at 3-over-par.
While Blanchard got the better of his new student at Alpine, Slade came very close to beating his coach at the 30th Stroke Play Championship at Crestwood Country Club in July.
After entering the third and final round 3-over-par Slade carded a 4-under 67 to give him what he thought at the time was enough to beat Blanchard, who trailed by a stroke entering the round.
The teacher managed to one-up his pupil that day though as Blanchard carded a 5-under 66 to secure that he and Slade finished tied for eighth that day.
“We’ve played in a bunch of tournaments together, it’s been pretty fun,” Slsade said. “I haven’t beat him yet, close though. I thought I had him until he came in with a 66 but it’s been fun.”
“I saw that going into the last round and I was like, ‘oh I better post a good score, I don’t want to let him beat me here early,’” Blanchard said. “He played great, shot 4-under I think in the last round and if he can do that for us I’ll be smiling every day.”