Patience and experience played a major role for two familiar faces at Monday’s U.S. Open local qualifier hosted by Mohawk Golf Club.
Saratoga Spa Golf Course assistant pro Scott Berliner, the Lake Luzerne native who has dominated the Northeastern New York PGA for the last decade, earned medalist honors with a 3-under-par 68, and Bryan Bigley, a 36-year-old Schalmont High School and Siena College grad formerly on the Korn Ferry Tour, posted a 69 to grab two of the four spots.
Country Club of Troy member Jack Downey matched Bigley’s 69, and professional Matthew Belizze of Stamford, Connecticut, birdied the third playoff hole to beat three other players with 70s to earn the final qualifying berth. Eric Mabee, head pro at the Country Club of Pittsfield, and amateur Anthony Cavotta, a Saratoga Springs graduate and currently a member of the Southern New Hampshire golf team, also shot 70 and earned the first two alternate spots. CBA grad Tom McGinn was the other player who shot 70,
Both Berliner and Bigley have a wealth of experience, whether it be competing against fellow professionals on various tours or trying to earn a berth in the U.S. Open. Berliner has advanced to the 36-hole sectionals several times, while Bigley will be making his ninth appearance in sectional play. Neither player has advanced to the U.S. Open itself, however. This year’s U.S. Open, the 121st, will be played June 17-20 at Torrey Pines in San Diego, California.
Berliner was one of the big favorites to advance, based on his fantastic resume. He’s won the last 10 NENY PGA Player of the Year awards after capturing 10 consecutive NENY PGA Stroke Play Championships and topping the point list. This season, he’s already won the first two individual medal play events of the season at Pinehaven CC and Saratoga Golf & Polo Club, respectively.
“My round was interesting,” Berliner said. “I made nine 4s on the front. I was pretty consistent. Then I knocked it close on 10 for birdie, made a much of pars, and birdied 16 and 17. I told Tom [Tom Oppedisano, the Skidmore College head golf coach who served as his caddy] that I’m working on staying patient. Whatever happens, happens,” Berliner said. “I think I stayed patient at Pinehaven in brutal conditions, with extreme wind and fast greens. Then, I didn’t hit it all that well off the tee at Saratoga Golf & Polo Club but my short game has been pretty good. I’m just trying to stay patient and clear my mind of negativity.
“I’m finally figuring out that you’re not going to play great all the time, but if you stay patient and give yourself a chance, you never know when it’s going to happen.”
Berliner, who had to withdraw from this year’s Professional National Championship and come back to the Capital Region from Florida earlier than usual because of his parents’ ailing heath, hasn’t been able to practice as much as usual, but he said he’s taking his golf game more in stride now.
Meanwhile, Bigley is no longer a full-time professional golfer and is now married and living in San Francisco. He’s currently a stay-at-home dad whose top competition these days is playing in some member-guest tournaments with friends and family.
“I missed a ton of putts inside eight feet, but I grinded it out on the back,” Bigley said. ”I’m not in tournament form, but I my swing is OK. It’s nice to play well and put a good number up. It’s been a while since I put up a round in the 60s in tournament play.”
Bigley remains competitive, despite the change in his job description. “I’m just as hard on myself as I ever was,” he said. ”I made a couple of early mistakes, but I nipped that in the bud. It’s always tough to play in a tournament, but it was nice to come back here. I hit my irons well — the best I’ve hit them in a long time. The course is in great shape. It was fun to get out there and have my dad [longtime Pinehaven CC course superintendent Rob Bigley] on the bag.”
Downey, 24, works for a NYC venture banking team but has been working from home, allowing him to play plenty of golf in Florida this spring. This is his first time advancing in the U.S. Open local qualifier, but he’s previously qualified for both the NYS Amateur and the NYS Open.
“My job flexibility allowed me to spend some time in Florida and play some golf,” Downey said. “I haven’t played much golf up here yet, except for a couple of rounds at my home course at CC of Troy.”
Downey birdied the first, seventh, 13th, 14th and 16th holes. He bogeyed the 17th and had a double-bogey on the tricky par-3 12th.
Bellizze, competing in the same foursome with Mohawk Golf Club head pro Jeremy Kerr, was playing the course for the first time. He birdied the fourth, eighth, 16th and 18th holes.
“This is a beautiful course,” Bellizze said. “I was trying to watch Jeremy to get as much information as I could on how to play it. This is the kind of course where you have to hit your irons well. The greens are very challenging.”
(Mohawk Golf Club, Par 71)
Qualifiers – Scott Berliner 68, Bryan Bigley 69, Jack Downey 69, a-Matthew Bellizze 70.
Alternates – Eric Mabee 70, Anthony Cavotta 70, Tom McGill 70,
Other scores – Jared Nelson 71, Wesley Cupp 73, Jud Langille 73, Taylor Bellemare 73, Nolan Crowley 73, Justin Hearley 74, Devin Delisle 74, Scott Battiste 74, Ian Breen 74, Josh Truman 75, Clint Lange 75, Garren Poirier 75, Stephen Quillinan Jr. 75, Wally Gonzalez 75, Justin Kumpulanian 75, Jack Brown 76, Mike Shine 76, Nick Lyons 77, Ben Rublee 77, Brian Mariano 77, Matt Campbell 77, Clarkie Carroll 78, Jeremy Kerr 78, David Hayes 78, Jeff Schaller 78, James Belogna 78, Jesse Muller 78, Daniel Kinn 79, John Hickey 79, Jim Gifford 79, Travis Koch 79 Cody Cox 80, Mike Sporton 80, Chad Stoffer 80, Jim Welch 80, TJ Wyld 81, David Smith 82, Corey Rutkin 83, Brian Kelly 83, Matt Ferrari 83, Hiio Herne 84, Dennis Estes 85, Alexander Bringsjord 85, Steve Owens 86, Brock Ricketts 86, Rob Resto 87, Jake Amo 87, Justin Brock 89, Daniel McGuirk 89, Joe Monte 90, John Murphy 91, Zach Bonfante 93.
a-Won playoff for final qualifying berth.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected]
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