LOUDONVILLE — Scott Berliner has worked at numerous golf facilities over his long career in the Northeastern New York PGA, and the 11-time section Player of the Year is not afraid of using his precise course knowledge as a 15th club in his bag.
Berliner, fresh off his 11th NENY PGA Stroke Play crown in the last 12 years, posted a 1-under-par 70 to grab one of five qualifying berths in Monday’s U.S. Open Local Qualifier at Shaker Ridge Country Club.
Also qualifying were medalist Jason Thresher, a touring pro from West Suffield, Connecticut, with a 67, Rome native Matt Campbell (71), a former Korn Ferry Tour member whose father lives in Clifton Park; Bryan Adkison (71), an amateur from Boston; and Brandon Lacasse, a pro from Canada.
Seventy-two players competed for the five qualifying berths into sectional play in a couple of weeks. Those players advancing from the sectionals earn a spot in the 122nd U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, June 16-19.
Berliner, the NENY PGA’s all-time leader in major championships with 29, had an up-and-down round, but he used his expertise on the Shaker Ridge CC greens to his advantage.
“It was all over the place today,” Berliner said of his round. “I didn’t miss a shot in my first seven holes, and I was 2-under-par even after missing three putts inside of 10 feet. I get on 17 [he started on the back nine as the field used split tees], and I pushed my tee shot a little. I was in between clubs for my second shot, and I went to my bag to take one less club.”
Despite his course savvy, Berliner miss-clubbed, and his 7-iron from about 185 yards downhill landed under the lip and into the backside of a bunker. He ended up with a double bogey.
“I’m very much a momentum-based player, and sometimes when I get derailed, it takes a few holes to get it back,” said Berliner, who also bogeyed the first hole and needed a clutch up-and-down par save on No. 2.
“Although I’m older, I hit it about as far as I used to,” Berliner noted. “The lines off the tee [from when he worked at Shaker Ridge CC] are similar. It’s very much local knowledge on the greens that you need here. The saying that every putt breaks to the airport is so true.”
Campbell qualified for sectional play back in 2017 in a local qualifier also at Shaker Ridge CC, and he ended up competing in the U.S. Open that year.
“I was happy to see the local qualifier back here. I had good vibes,” he said.
Campbell played conservatively using a 2-iron often off the tee to record three birdies and one bogey.
“I kept it in play for the most part,” he said. “I had a lot of good numbers [for his approach shots], but the wind was swirling, and I didn’t have as many birdie opportunities as I wanted,” he said.
“I’m trying to minimize my bogeys now. For the last few years, I was making too many bogeys, that’s why I’m hitting 2-irons and 3-woods off the tee, because my driver is my Achilles heel off the tee. I’m starting to value pars gain, and my scores are dropping significantly since January.”
Campbell was playing on the Korn Ferry Tour last year but he lost his playing card. He’s currently coaching at a golf academy in Florida. “I’m going back to Q [qualifying] school again in the fall,” he said.
Thresher, 33, used an eagle on the 13th hole to catapult his round. He hit a 5-iron from 200 yards up the hill and rolled in the 10-foot putt.
“For the most part, I wasn’t in trouble all day, except for the tee shot on the seventh hole,” he said. “Other than that my bogeys were a missed 4-footer and missed 5-footer.”
Thresher said he was shut out of any qualifiers in New England. “This is my first time here,” he said. “All the qualifiers at Massachusetts sites were filled up. I’ve never made it to sectionals before, although I’ve been in playoffs.”
Thresher graduated from Bryant University and helped make that golf program’s transition from Division II to Division I. He won numerous collegiate titles and earned spot in the Bryant University Hall of Fame. He won three straight Massachusetts Open crowns and also won several other state opens in New England.
Thresher was competing on the PGA Tour Latina America and the Canadian Tour. He lost his status on both of those tours recently and is currently battling an injured medial meniscus on his left knee. “I had it repaired last October, but it didn’t feel right, and I got it checked out in January. It was still torn,” he said. “I played all last year on it because I didn’t want to sit out all summer.”
Lacasse registered four birdies and four bogeys, while Adkison recorded four birdies to help offset two bogeys and one double bogey.
Matthew Bellize of Ossining and Matt Shubley of Canada were two of the six players that posted 72s and won playoff berths for the first and second alternate berths, respectively. Another one of those 72s was posted by RPI’s Joey Harrigan, who was named the Liberty League’s Player of the Year and earned a berth as an individual player for last week’s NCAA Division III Championship, where he missed the cut by one stroke.
Rotterdam native and Siena College grad Bryan Bigley, a former Korn Ferry Tour member who had qualified for sectional play nine times previously, withdrew after six holes because of an injury.
U.S. Open Local Qualifier
Qualifiers – Jason Thresher (West Suffield, Conn.) 67, Matt Campbell (Rome) 70, Scott Berliner (Lake Luzerne) 70, Brandon Lacasse (Canada) 71, a-Bryan Adkison (Boston, Mass.) 71.
Alternates – Matthew Bellize (Ossining) 72, Matt Shubley (Canada) 72.
Other top scores – a-Joey Harrigan (Highland Park, Ill., RPI) 72, Baptiste Mory (France) 72, Chris Sanger (Red Hook) 72, Andrew DeForest (Kingston) 72, James Colin Davis (Canada) 73, a-Ben Rublee (Troy) 73, Michael Shine (Troy) 73, Peter Scrimgeour (North Hero, Vt.) 73, Juan Weissenberg (Kingston), a-Jim Gifford (Ballston Lake) 73, MarcOlivier Plasse (Canada) 74, a-James Welch (Albany) 74, Joe Monte (Mechanicville) 74, a-Matthew Cowgill (Weston, Mass.) 74, a-Thomas Fraser (Lee, Mass.) 74, a-Luke Ruffing (Manchester, Me.) 75, a-Jacob Lindsay (Kensington, Conn.) 75, Kevin Johnston (Gloversville) 75, a-Trent Han (Lynnfield, Mass.) 76, Daniel McGurk (Lake George) 76, a-Joseph Quijano (Troy) 76, a-Jack Downey (New York) 76, a-Herbie Aikens (Kingston Mass.) 76, a-Aaron Simone (Niskayuna) 76, Eric Boulger (Walpole, Mass.) 76, a-Travis Koch (Glenville) 76, a-Nate Jordi (Mendon, Mass.) 76, Jordan Meltzer (Melville) 76, a-Connor Lyon (Canada) 77, Justin Kumpulanian (Williamstown, Mass.) 77, a-Trey Smith (Greenville) 77, a-Nick Lyons (Albany) 77, a-Tom McGinn (Niskayuna) 77, a-Evan Forrest (Williston, Vt.) 77, Justin Hearley (Albany) 77, Dan Gaucher (Latham) 78, Phillippe Gariepy (Canada) 79, a-Daniel Bukoff (Plainville, Mass.) 79 a-Ryan Foster (Troy) 79, Blair Davies (Canada) 79, Wesley Cupp (Rome) 79.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected]
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