David Huestis capitalized on some local knowledge for the right to play on one of the toughest public golf courses in the country.
Huestis, a longtime member of McGregor Links Country Club, shot a one-under-par 71 and then got up and down for par from just off the fringe on the first extra hole to earn one of three berths to the New York State Open at Wednesday’s local qualifier at his own course.
Huestis, 37, was the only local player to earn a berth in the event, scheduled for July 22-24 at the challenging Bethpage State Park’s Black Course.
Also qualifying were Chris Malec, a first-year professional from Webster Golf Course, and 61-year-old veteran Rick Vershure. Malec, like Huestis, recorded a par on the first extra hole when he got up and down from the left-side bunker. Vershure, who recently retired as head pro at Quaker Ridge Golf Course, posted a 69 to earn medalist honors.
Left-handed professional Jeb Buchanan, a former UConn standout and member of Schuyler Meadows Club, also shot a 71, but was eliminated from the playoff when he missed the green to the right and ended up with a double bogey. He will be the first alternate.
Chad Stoffer of Town of Colonie Golf Course shot a 73 and won a playoff on the second extra hole to take the second alternate position.
Huestis knew exactly what he had to do in the playoff after both Buchanan and Malec missed the green on the par-3 18th hole. He made sure his ball landed somewhere on the green, in this case about six inches into the fringe. He was able to use his putter, and rolled his ball up to three feet. After Buchanan fluffed his first pitch shot and then pitched the ball about 15 feet past the cup on his third shot, Huestis knew he only needed a two-putt to advance.
“This is very cool to be going to the State Open again,” said Huestis, who has won the McGregor club championship five times in stroke play and another five times in match play in the 11 years he has belonged to the club. “I went back in 2004, and it was an awesome experience. It’s very challenging and very difficult. I will go in with low expectations. I just want to go and have some fun.”
Malec, 24, turned pro last November. He said he just missed getting his card at the Canadian PGA Qualifying School, and has been living and working in Orlando, Fla.
“I’m just trying to get my feet wet as a pro and earn some money,” he said. “This will be my first time playing at Bethpage.”
Vershure, by far the most experienced player among the leaders, recently retired after 27 years at Quaker Ridge during a long career in the Metropolitan PGA. His impressive credentials include being named the Metropolitan PGA Player of the Year along with two Metropolitan PGA sectional titles, two Westchester Open crowns and a New York State PGA crown.
“I wasn’t really thinking about qualifying for the State Open,” he said. “My wife and I came up here for vacation, and we were staying at Union Gables on Union Street in Saratoga. I figured, why not try. I know what to expect. I’ve played in the State Open maybe 10 to 15 times, and it’s a severe test.”
Vershure eagled the par-5 eighth hole and rolled in six birdies to help offset five bogeys.
Buchanan, 23, was steady in regulation play, with birdies on the eighth and 15th holes. He had only one bogey all day, on No. 7. If he gets in as the first alternate, it would be his second trip to the State Open.
“I played pretty conservative,” he said. ‘I’ve been competing on the Latin American PGA Tour, and I’ve been trying to Monday qualify for the Web.com Tour. I’m going to try to get my European PGA Tour card next fall.”
Qualifiers — Rick Vershure (Quaker Ridge GC) 69, Chris Malec (Webster C) 71, David Huestis (McGregor Links CC) 71.
Alternates — Jeb Buchanan (Schuyler Meadows) 71, Chad Stoffer 73 (Town of Colonie).
Other scorers — Justin Hearley (Normanside CC) 73, Tom Falotico (Dick’s Sporting Goods) 73, Jesse Muller (Windham CC) 74, Aaron Simone (Pinehaven CC) 75, Scott Battiste (Normanside CC) 75, Kregg Moyer (Centennial GC) 76, Calvin Beckwith (McGregor Links CC) 77, Edward Hart (Hales Mills CC) 79, Kevin Johnson (Van Schaick Island CC) 79, Ryan Durnberg (Saratoga National GC) 83, Robert Jorgensen (Shaker Ridge CC) 86.