Rotterdam native Bryan Bigley enjoyed his first PGA Tour experience so much at the recent Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club in Charlotte, N.C., that he can’t wait to get back.
The two-time Gazette County Amateur champion is well on his way to another shot with the big boys, only this time it will be at one of the most difficult tests in golf, the U.S. Open.
Despite severe weather conditions that included two play stoppages of more than three hours and 40 minutes combined, Bigley reeled off nine birdies en route to a six-under-par 65 and earned medalist honors at the U.S. Open Local Qualifier Monday at rain-soaked Glens Falls Country Club.
Bigley, competing in the final group of the day, didn’t return to the clubhouse until after 8 p.m. His tee time had been 11:18 a.m. In
order for him to play in his first U.S. Open, he must survive a 36-hole sectional test in Summit, N.J., the first week of June.
Also earning sectional spots with even-par 71s were David Hayes of Schuyler Meadows, former Skidmore College standout Chris DeJohn, Normanside Country Club assistant pro Scott Berliner and Siena College student Justin Deitz of The Edison Club.
Five players — Scotia native Ron Philo Jr. of Stowe Mountain Resort, Albany Country Club head pro Glenn Davis, Devin Komline of the Dorset Field Club in Dorset, Vt., Brian Albertazzi of Longmeadow, Mass., and Siena College student Jess Esposito, tied at 72. There will be a playoff this morning for two alternate spots.
Bigley, who works as a course superintendent at the Rain Tree Club near Charleston and competes on the Carolina mini-tours, ignored the extremely challenging weather conditions to dominate the Donald Ross-designed Glens Falls Country Club layout.
“I really like this course,” he said. “I’ve probably played it about 50 times because I know a lot of people up here, like Chris Haggerty. I seem to play well on Donald Ross courses. The qualifier for the Wells Fargo was also on a Donald Ross design.”
Bigley birdied the first hole, and play then was called for the first weather delay when a bolt of lightning lit up the course. That delay kept the players inside for two hours and 40 minutes.
After going back out, he bogeyed the second and third holes. After a par on the fourth hole, play was stopped once more when the course was deemed unplayable because of too much standing water on numerous greens.
After another hour delay, Bigley went on a tear with birdies on the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th holes. He bogeyed the 12th hole, but finished with birdies on the 13th, 14th, 17th and 18th holes.
“I didn’t really miss a shot out there, although I did three-putt on the third hole,” he said. “I hit the ball beautifully all day. I don’t think I was in trouble all day.”
Bigley, who will be making his fourth trip to the sectional round of the U.S. Open, said he tried not to hurry, even though he thought he might have had to come back today to finish his round.
“At about 4:30, I accepted the fact that I might have to come back in the morning,” he said. “But on the 16th hole, it looked like we might have a chance of finishing, so I tried to do everything I could to get in on time.”
Bigley, a former MAAC Player of the Year and CRAGA Stroke Play champion during his amateur career, said a recent golf lesson put him in an excellent groove.
“That lesson got my competitive juices going again. My swing isn’t perfect yet, but hopefully, it will get there by the time Canoe Brook [at the sectionals] comes around. My putting has been awesome lately. I made a lot of puts today. I had good rhythm despite the weather.”
Hayes, the 44-year-old owner of MM Hayes Labor Management Software company, earned his second trip to sectionals with his even-par 71. He birdied the 10th, 13th and 17th holes to offset bogeys on the fifth, sixth and 11th.
“I played very well. I always play well in the rain,” he said. “I was two-over-par after nine holes, and I heard [Glens Falls CC head pro] Tom Haggerty say that he thought even-par would be a good score even in good conditions, so that’s what I was shooting for.”
The last time Hayes competed in U.S. Open sectional play was in 2001, and he played 36 holes with PGA Senior Tour standout Fuzzy Zoeller.
“I remember popping up my drive on the first hole,” he said.
Hayes, who has competed in both the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Mid-Amateur, said he has plenty of experience for another shot at the U.S. Open.
“I don’t have any delusions or illusions,” he said. “But on any given day, a good amateur can play well in this kind of event.”
DeJohn was four-under-par through the first 10 holes, but the inclement weather slowed him down. He birdied the first, fifth, sixth and seventh holes. He’s been playing on the Hooters Tour since graduating from Skidmore, with a best finish of 11th, worth $1,800.
“Traditionally, I play well in the rain,” said the 24-year-old DeJohn. “But I hit 3-irons off the tee on several holes, and I think I played too conservatively today.”
Berliner, no stranger to Glens Falls Country Club, will be making his third trip to the sectionals.
“I grew up here, and played here for the first time when I was 12 years old,” said the Luzerne native who won the Donald Ross Classic at Glens Falls Country Club a couple of years ago.
Berliner, who will receive his Class A card as a full-fledged member of the PGA on May 24, birdied the fourth, seventh, 16th and 17th holes. His worst hole of the day was a double-bogey on No. 8.
“Actually, I played badly when the rain stopped,” he said. “I tried to stay as patient as I could.”
Deitz will be making his first trip to a U.S. Open sectional event.
“It was a long day,” he said. “I had two birdies and two bogeys, all on the front nine. My swing was good, but I couldn’t get anything to fall on the greens. The weather was annoying. I’m not usually good in cold and rainy conditions, but I tried not to let it bother me.”
Qualifiers: Bryan Bigley (Rotterdam) 34-31-65, David Hayes (Schuyler Meadows) 38-33-71, Chris DeJohn (Jupiter, Fla.) 32-39-71, Scott Berliner (Normanside CC) 37-34-71, Justin Deitz (The Edison Club) 36-35-71.
Alternates (playoff this morning): Brian Albertazzi (Longmeadow CC) 36-36-72, Jess Esposito (Newman Municipal) 35-37-72, Ron Philo (Fernandina Beach, Fla.) 37-35-72, Glenn Davis (Albany CC) 36-3-72, Devin
Komine (Dorset Field Club) 37-35-72.
Other top scores: Kevin Hughes (Saratoga G&P) 36-37-73, Vincent Dumouchel (Canada) 38-35-73, Ian Breen (Colonie G&CC) 38-36-74, Frank Tanguay (Canada) 41-33-74, Mathieu Rivard 37-37-74, Jeb Buchanan (Wolferts Roost CC) 37-37-74, Joshua Cupp (Rome CC) 37-37-74, Ryan
Gabel (Poughkeepsie) 37-37-74, Aaron Marks (Stuart, Fla. 37-38-75, Jim Gifford (Saratoga National) 36-39-75, Wesley Cupp (Rome) 37-38-75, Garren Poirier (Green Mountain) 37-38-75, Matt Felber (Albany CC) 37-38-75, Todd Czepiel (Shaker Ridge CC) 39-36-75, Chris Barber (Canada) 41-34-75, Joey Fitzsimmons (Latham) 38-37-75, Paul Griffi (Huntington) 37-38-75, Stuart Drahota (Fort Collins, Colo.) 37-39-76, Frank Mellet (Colonie G&CC) 36-40-76, Trevor Jaycox (Cobleskill G&CC) 35-41-76, Marc Hurtubise (Canada) 39-37-76, Jim Welch (Winding Brook CC) 37-39-76, Paul Jaycox (Cobleskill G&CC) 38-39-77, Tom Siddon (Massena CC) 38-39-77, Mark Balen (Orchard Park) 38-40-78, Dan Russo (Rolling Hills) 39-39-78, Jean-Sebastien Legare 39-39-78, Tim Quirk (Longmeadow CC) 36-43-79, Jocelyn Falardeau (Canada) 39-40-79, Kevin Haller (Cronins Resort) 40-39-79, Jesse Weinstein (Canada) 42-37-79, Ben Boudreau (Canada) 38-41-79.