Bryan Bigley has become very comfortable when his scorecard bleeds red numbers.
The Schalmont High School and Siena College graduate, who is currently playing on the Latin America PGA Tour, blitzed the field with a sizzling eight-under-par 64 to earn medalist honors at Wednesday’s U.S. Open Local Qualifier at Schuyler Meadows Club.
Also earning spots into next month’s sectional qualifier were former Web.com Tour member Chris DeForest (70) of Cottekill, Taconic Golf Club head pro Josh Hillman (70) and amateur Jim Gifford (71) of Mohawk Golf Club, who won a three-man playoff over Dan Russo of the host club and Steve Quillinan Jr. of Burden Lake Country Club with a birdie on the fourth extra hole.
If any of the four local qualifiers advance through the 36-hole sectional qualifying in Purchase, they will earn a spot in the 114th U.S. Open June 12-15 at Pinehurst No. 2.
Bigley, 29, a two-time Gazette County Amateur champion and former Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Player of the Year as an amateur, has won more than 10 times on various pro mini tours. He recently finished second in a Latin America PGA Tour event and came back home with his game sharp.
“I’ve been playing well there, even though I’ve had to Monday qualify for every event,” said Bigley, who recently purchased a Taylor Made SLDR driver that has given him some extra length off the tee.
“Almost every par-4 here is a driver and a wedge,” he said. “If you’re hitting it well, you have to go low.”
Bigley, who started on the back nine, birdied the 10th, 11th, 13th, 14th, 15th, 17th, second, third and sixth holes. He bogeyed the 18th when he missed the green with a wedge and failed to get up and down.
He said his lowest round in tournament competition is a 62, but he once fired a 61 in casual play.
This is the sixth time that Bigley has qualified for sectionals.
“I’m pretty confident,” he said. “I’ve been to Purchase three or four times before. It’s a grind in sectionals, because you’re playing 36 holes. You have to wait to catch a five- or six-hole stretch where you can make some birdies. If you get to the back nine of your second round where you are three- or four-under-par, you have a chance.”
DeForest, son of club pro John DeForest, rolled in six birdies to help offset a double bogey. He qualified for the 2011 U.S. Open and also competed in the Travelers PGA Tour event. He was playing on the Web.com Tour, but tore his rotator cuff and lost his tour status.
“After the injury, I’m just trying to play some golf and play in some tournaments,” he said. “My priorities have changed a little.”
Hillman, a former Northeastern New York PGA Player of the Year, also has switched priorities after the birth of his son more than four years ago and a change in jobs, from Berkshire Hills Country Club to Taconic. He has struggled with his game recently, but converted three birdies Wednesday to earn his fourth trip to the sectionals.
Gifford, a two-time Saratoga Amateur champion and former Edison Invitational winner who opened up with three bogeys, made five birdies on the back side to finish with a 71 and make the three-man playoff. All three players bogeyed the first extra hole and everyone parred the second playoff hole (No. 9). When they went back down No. 1, Russo bogeyed the hole after hitting into a bunker. Quillinan sank a 54-foot birdie putt, but then Gifford, 27, connected on a 21-footer to force a fourth hole. Gifford’s 15-foot birdie putt on the fourth hole (ninth hole again) won the playoff.
“Twenty-two holes is a lot of holes,” said Gifford. “Steve and I played the whole day together. We saw a lot of each other today.”
Qualifiers – Bryan Bigley (Schenectady) 64, Chris DeForest (Cottekill) 70, Josh Hillman (Taconic GC) 70, x-Jim Gifford (Mohawk Golf Club) 71.
Alternates – 1-Steve Quillinan Jr. (Burden Lake CC), 71, 2-Dan Russo (Schuyler Meadows), 71.
Other top scores – Dave Hayes (Schuyler Meadows) 72, Casey Komline (Dorset Field Club) 72, Ron Philo Jr. (Stowe Mountain Club) 73, Scott Kim (Emerson GC) 73, Bob Cain (Rye) 74, Aaron Simone (Pinehaven CC) 74, Luca Greco (Canada) 74, Matt Leger (Oak Hill CC) 74, Scott Berliner (McGregor Links CC) 74, Jean-Hulbert Trahan (Canada) 74, Austin Nowak (Lancaster CC) 74, Jonathan Brisbane (Killington, Vt.) 74, D.J. Tozier (Western Turnpike) 75, Greg Scott (Ralph Myhre) 75, Chris Ferraro (Hurley) 75, Steve Vatter (Capital Hills) 75, Tom Oppedisano (McGregor Links CC) 75, Josh Goheen (Canada) 76, Max Christiana (Westchester CC) 76, Ed Miller (Hiland) 76, Frank Mellet (Colonie G&CC) 76, Paolo Addona (Beloeil GC) 77, Mark Coldham (Ottawa H&G) 77, Garren Poirier (Green Mountain) 77, Jesse Muller (Cairo) 77, Matt Hills (Hyannis GC) 78, Jake Orr (CC of Vermont) 78, Michael Shine (Minisceongo GC) 78, Chris Chiarappa (MGA eclub) 78, Michael Sporton (MGA
e-club) 78, Adam Blackwell (Pheasant Hill) 78, Brendan Quintana (Tumble Brook) 78, Louis Walsh (Van Patten) 79, Scott Battiste (Capital Hills) 79, Justin Hearley (Albany) 79, James Ciufflo (Loudonville) 79, Frankie Sanborn (Rutland CC) 79, Robert Vanauken (Glenville) 79.