Playing competitive golf full-time on the eGolf Professional Tour has made Rotterdam native Bryan Bigley a much more polished and confident player.
The Schalmont High School and Siena College graduate has 18 tournament rounds under his belt already this spring, and his sharpness showed as he fired a two-under-par 70 to grab one of four spots in the U.S. Open Local Qualifier Wednesday at Albany Country Club.
Bethlehem senior and University of Maryland-bound Victor Fox earned medalist honors with a 69, while a pair of professionals, Joshua Cupp, who lives in Saratoga Springs, and Canadian Yanik LaForest each shot a 71 to round out the qualifiers.
Alternates who shot a 72 were Syracuse pro Dan McCarthy, Derek Gillespie, a professional out of the Oshawa Golf Club in Canada, and amateur Josh Holling from The Links of Hiawatha.
The U.S. Open will be played June 13-16 at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa. Local qualifiers must advance through 36-hole sectional qualifying early next month for a chance to compete in the USGA’s premier event. Most of the players in the Albany local qualifier chose to do their sectional qualifying at Purchase.
Bigley, 28, finished in a tie for 10th place at last weekend’s Columbia Open, part of the “e-tour”, a pro mini-tour formerly called the Tarheel Tour. He pocketed $2,750.
“It helps playing more. If you’re not playing your best golf, you can still get around and post a decent score,” said Bigley. “I’ve played 18 times already this year, and that’s a lot more than many players in this field.”
Bigley, a two-time Gazette County Amateur champion, Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year and former CRAGA Stroke Play champion as an amateur, has competed on several mini-tours since he graduated from Siena, but he’s played only part-time until this year. Previously, he split his time as an assistant groundskeeper to make ends meet.
Wednesday, when low scores were scarce, Bigley’s round was solid. After a bogey on the first hole, he ran off birdies on the third, fourth and eighth holes. But a double-bogey on the par-3 ninth hole pushed him back to even par.
On the back side, he posted birdies on the 12th, 16th and 18th holes. His only bogey on the back was on the 17th hole.
“I hit it pretty good. I was solid all day, and I didn’t have any three-putts,” he said. “I made a lot of six-footers.”
Bigley could have tried to qualify at numerous venues around the country, but he chose the Albany-area qualifier because he likes coming back home to see family and friends. His sister recently had a baby, and his father and brother, Rob Bigley and Robby Bigley Jr,, both still live in the area. Rob Bigley, a five-time County Amateur winner, is the course superintendent at Pinehaven Country Club, while Robby is a three-time County Am champion and a teacher at Albany Academy.
“Each year, I’ve gotten better. My swing, my physical game and my mental game have all improved,” said Bigley.
Meanwhile, Fox used a hot putter to tame the Albany CC layout. The top player in Section II last fall, Fox made three birdie putts from at least 20 feet and rolled in five birdies overall. He had a 30-footer on the 11th hole, a 20-footer on the 13th and a 40-footer on the fifth.
“I made a lot of putts,” he said. It feels good to qualify for sectionals. I missed by just one shot last year,” he said. “I had a very consistent round.”
Fox, who has taken lessons from both Western Turnpike head pro Herb Moreland and Cobleskill G&CC assistant Scott Berliner, has an AJGA title under his belt, and he was the qualifying medalist at numerous major events last season before announcing his intention to accept a scholarship to the University of Maryland next fall.
The 39-year-old Cupp is the proprietor of the Thirsty Owl wine bar in Saratoga Springs, but he has a top resume that includes winning the New York State Junior Amateur in 1991. He was among the top 30 players on the Hooters mini-tour twice and once played in a PGA Tour event, the 2000 BC Open.
“I don’t play that much any more, especially with a family and owning my own business,” he said. “I also have some back problems. I’ve been to sectional qualifying two or three times before. I couldn’t be happier with the way I played today. It reminded me a little of the way I used to hit the ball in the past,” said Cupp, who posted four birdies.
LaForest is member of the Canadian PGA Tour.
Qualifiers — Victor Fox (Delmar) 69, Bryan Bigley (Rotterdam) 70, Joshua Cupp (Saratoga Springs), Yanik LaForest (Canada) 71.
Alternates — Josh Holling (Horseheads) 72, Dan McCarthy (Syracuse) 72; Derek Gillespie (Canada) 72.
Other top scores — John Murphy (Wilton, Conn.) 73, Louise-Pierre Godin (Canada) 73, Jamie Lovemark (Tequesta, Fla.) 73, Chris DeJohn (Rocky Hill, Conn.) 74, Ron Philo Jr. (Stowe, Vt.) 74, Glenn Davis (Delmar) 74, Stuart Drahota (Fort Collins, Colo.) 75, Matthew Parrottino (Slingerlands) 75, Michael Tucz (Kingston) 75, Steve Quillinan Jr. (West Sand Lake) 75, Jim Welch (Valatie) 76, Brad Lusenhop (East Haddam, Conn.) 76, Matt Canavan (Saratoga Springs) 76, Phil Cardwell (Mooresville, Ind.), 76, Justin Deitz (Clifton Park) 76, Scott Battiste (Rexford) 77, Jocelyn Falardeau (Canada) 77, Billy Houle (Canada) 78, Tom Oppedisano (Clifton Park) 78, Vincent Dumouchel (Canada) 78, Kevin Haller (Warrensburg) 78, Steve Vatter (Albany) 78, Doug Kleeschulte (Kingston) 78, Marc-Antoine Lamoureux (Canada) 79, Chris Sanger (Red Hook) 79, Spencer Sautin (Saratoga Springs) 79, Luca Greco (Canada) 79, William Virkler (New Hartford) 79, Matt Horton (Troy) 80, Zach Scala (Ballston Spa) 80, Dave Hayes (Loudonville) 80, Wesley Cupp (Rome) 81, Dan Russo (Hagaman) 81, Brian Levi (New Hartford) 81, Jim Gifford (Cliftom Park) 81, Jim Hirsh (New Hartford) 81, Dominic Kanemy (Canada) 82, Garren Poirier (Killington, Vt.) 82, Jess Muller
(Cairo) 82, Lance Hope (Schenectady) 83, Jacob Eckley (Silver Creek) 83, Patrick Boudeault (Canada) 83, Kevin Van Ort (Troy) 83, Jim Maynard (Saratoga Springs) 83, Todd Czepiel (Duanesburg) 85.