Scott Berliner has a very tough decision to make, one that most golfers can only dream about.
The 40-year-old assistant pro at Hiland Golf Club shot a 2-under-par 69 to share medalist honors with Siena College graduate Jimmy Sullivan Monday at the local qualifier for the 115th U.S. Open Championship at Country Club of Troy. But Berliner, a resident of Saratoga Springs, isn’t sure he can commit to the next round of sectional qualifying.
It conflicts with one of his favorite tournaments — the Donald Ross Classic, a two-day major event for the local club professionals. Berliner, a native of Luzerne, grew up playing at the two Donald Ross Classic host courses — Glens Falls Country Club and The Sagamore Resort. He’s also won that event three times, and is usually guaranteed a nice paycheck.
“I haven’t decided where I will play the sectionals, or even if I will play the sectionals,” said Berliner, who has dominated the Northeastern New York PGA circuit for the last five or six years. “I love the Donald Ross Classic, and now it conflicts with the U.S. Open sectionals. This is my fourth time qualifying for the sectionals. I played sectionals at Canoe Brook, in Springfield, Ohio, and in Illinois.
“I’m an assistant pro, and I don’t make that much money. If I do happen to play well at the sectionals, then I’ve got to come up with the money for a plane trip to Washington [this year’s U.S. Open is being played at Chambers Bay in University Place, Wash., June 18-21]. These are all tough decisions when you’re a professional.”
Berliner collected five birdies on the day. He admitted to being tired toward the end of his round. All local club pros use motorized carts for their weekly events. Players must walk in USGA events like the U.S. Open.
“I’ll admit that I’m not the best of shape,” Berliner said with a grin. “But I do play Bethpage every year, and you’ve got to walk down there for the State Open. You also must walk in all the PNC [Professional National Championship] events, as well as the U.S. Open. This is a hilly course, and I was a little tired, but I got the job done.”
Brian Hampson, head pro at Burden Lake Country Club, was Berliner’s caddy.
“He did a pretty good job for me. He didn’t lose a club for me or anything like that,” Berliner said.
Although CC of Troy is only 6,084 yards, the Walter Travis layout is tricky because of its hilly terrain and undulating greens.
“The greens complex here are ridiculously hard. Most greens are split into four quadrants. Here, it seems like you have a dozen. Luckily, I got some perfect reads from my competitors, and the greens were in excellent condition. If you were inside 10 feet, there was no excuse for missing a putt.”
The 21-year-old Sullivan, who graduated from Siena over the weekend, used his local knowledge of the course to eagle the seventh hole. He also birdied the fourth and 13th.
“It helped a lot playing here every day,” Sullivan said. “I even played 36 holes of practice on Sunday. I know this course like the back of my hand. I can’t even tell you how long I’ve been a member here, because I always remember playing here all of my life.”
Sullivan said he plans on starting a full-time job next month, but will also continue his eduction with a master’s degree at Union College. He plans on competing in the sectionals at the Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla.
Also qualifying were 23-year-old professional Andrew DeForest, son of Rondout Country Club head pro/owner John DeForest, and Dylan Dethier, another 23-year-old professional from Williamstown, Mass.
Four players tied with 72, including Schalmont High School and Siena College graduate Bryan Bigley, a 30-year-old pro competing on the PGA Latin America tour. But Bigley decided not to stick around for the playoff to decide the two alternate’s spots.
Qualifiers: Scott Berliner (Saratoga Springs) 69, Jimmy Sullivan (Troy) 69, Andrew DeForest 71, Dylan Dethier (Williamstown, Mass.) 71.
Alternates: Alexander Meagher (Corbyville, Ontario), 72, Daniel Gosselin (Brossard, Quebec), 72, Josh Nichols (Kernersville, N.C.), 72.
Other top scores: Bryan Bigley (Schenectady), 72, Nicolas Fortin (Levis, Quebec), 73, Jeb Buchanan (Loudonville) 73, Hugo Bernard (Mont-Saint Hilaire, Quebec), 74, Sun Kim (Ile-Perrot, Quebec), 74, Dan Russo (Hagamon), 74, Casey Komline (Dorset, Vt.), 74, Austin Teal (Loudonville), 74, Jim Gifford (Clifton Park) 75, Marc Hurtubuise (Chambly, Quebec), 75, David Hayes (Loudonville), 75, Garren Poirier (Kilington, Vt.), 75, Glenn Davis (Delmar), 75, Michael Souliotis (Action, Mass.), 76, James Jackson (Islesboro, Maine), 76, Steve Quillinan Jr. (Albany), 76, Aden Ruwet (Torrington, Conn.), 76, Jake Orr (Essex Junction, Vt.), 77, Mike Paukovits (Wyncote, Pa.), 77, Glen Walden (Chappaqua), 77, John Coyne (Williamstown, Mass.), 77, Philippe Gariepy (St. Bruno, Quebec), 77, Daniel Griffiths (Binghamton), 77, Jim Welch (Valatie), 77, Greg Ducharme (Clifton Park), 77, Chris Ferraro (Hurley) 77, Arthur Griffin (Lake Placid), 77.
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