Last year, Victor Fox qualified for the New York State Open, but decided not to go because it conflicted with the U.S. Junior Amateur.
This time, Fox, a 17-year-old who just completed his junior year at Bethlehem High School, jumped at the chance to play at Bethpage State Park’s Black Course, one of the most challenging layouts in the country.
Using thicker putting grips to take his hands out of the putting stroke, Fox rolled in seven birdies on the way to a six-under-par 66 that led seven qualifiers in the New York State Local Qualifier Friday at Colonie Golf & Country Club.
The State Open, considered one of New York’s most respected events for both amateurs and professionals, will be played July 17-19. Although the field is usually dominated by club professionals, three of the seven local qualifiers were amateurs.
Also qualifying were pro Joey Fitzsimmons of Mill Road Acres (70), amateur Don DeNyse III of Capital Hills at Albany (73), pro John DeForest of Rondout Country Club (74), pro Rahl Sriram of Sterling Farms Golf Course (74), amateur Justin Deitz of The Edison Club (75) and pro Kyle Higgins of Greenwich Country Club (75).
Scott Battiste, an assistant pro at Eagle Crest Golf Club, was the first alternate after shooting a 76 and knocking in a 20-foot birdie putt on the first extra playoff hole to beat five others. Donny Kirkpatrick, another pro from Greenwich Country Club, was the second alternate with a par on the second extra hole.
Although Fox finished in the top six at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship, which concluded Monday, he struggled with his putting. “I missed 10 putts from 10 feet or closer at the states. It was very frustrating,” he said.
“So as soon as the state tournament was over, I went to bigger grips on my Scotty Cameron putter. It helped take my hands out of the stroke, and I’ve been putting a lot better.”
Fox, who plays out of Normanside Country Club, converted birdie putts on the first, third, ninth, 13th and 18th holes. He also chipped in for birdie on both the seventh and eighth holes.
His only mistake on the par-72, 6,800-yard layout was a bogey on the sixth hole. He hooked his tee shot behind some trees. Even though he had an opening with his layup shot on the par-5, his iron shot went too long and got behind another tree, forcing him to miss the green.
“I had a pretty good round today,” he said with a grin. “I hit 14 greens, and when I didn’t find the green, I saved par or chipped in.”
Fitzsimmons rebounded from a slow start to collect birdies on the seventh, 11th, 13th and 15th holes.
“I’ve been to the State Open twice before, and I’m very excited to be going back,” said the 28-year-old Fitzsimmons. “Bethpage Black is a fantastic layout, and getting another chance to play there is great.”
DeNyse, a two-time Albany County Amateur champ, had a consistent round with 13 pars. He birdied the fourth and fifth holes to offset bogeys on the 11th, 10th and 12th.
“I played in the State Open in 2009, and I missed the cut,” said DeNyse. “It’s a great place to play.”
Deitz, like DeNyse a Siena College product, barely qualified for his first State Open after suffering a triple-bogey on the par-4 17th hole. He pulled his tee shot into the woods near a hazard and never found his ball. After going back to the tee and finding the fairway, he hit his approach shot over the green and then two-putted.
“I had two bad swings out there today. I started slowly, but then I found my rhythm,” said Deitz, who birdied the third, 11th, 13th and 18th holes. “I was playing well on the back until I had that trouble on the 17th hole. My tee shots gave me trouble all day.”
Qualifiers — Victor Fox (Normanside CC) 66, Joey Fitzsimmons (Mill Road Acres) 70, Don DeNyse (Capital Hills at Albany) 73, John DeForest (Rondout CC) 74, Rahl Sriram (Sterling Farms GC) 74, Justin Deitz (The Edison Club) 75, Kyle Higgins (Greenwich CC) 75.
Alternates — Scott Battiste (Eagle Crest) 76 (birdied first extra hole), Donny Kirkpatrick (Greenwich CC) 76 (parred second extra hole).
Other scores — Ed Hart (Rolling Hills) 76, Matt Horton (CC of Troy) 76, Chris Sanger (Red Hook) 76, Tom Kenyon (Brooklawn CC) 77, David Mooradian (CC of Troy) 77, Jimmy Sullivan (CC of Troy) 77, Kevin VanOrt (Shaker Ridge CC) 77, Denis Colligan (Cazenovia CC) 78, Tom Falotico (Dick’s Sporting Goods) 78, Matt Stefanik (Sycamore CC) 78, Louis Walsh (Ballston Spa CC) 78, Adam Bunkoff (Saratoga National GC) 79, Tom Mittler (Fox Run GC) 79, Jeff Palmerino (Colonie G&CC) 79, Lance Hope (Schenectady Municipal). 80, Matt Parrottino (Albany CC 80, Michael Sporton (Bethpage State Park) 80, Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC), Ryan Durnberg (Saratoga Spa) 82, Brad Worthington (Brooklawn CC) 82, Rich Christman (Van Schaick CC) 84, Patrick Murphy (Clifton Park) 90, Billy Lasch (Albany CC) 91.
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