The road to the most grueling test in golf begins Monday when the Country Club of Troy hosts the local qualifier for the U.S. Open.
Fifty-three pros and amateurs will vie for three qualifying spots and two alternates. Those qualifiers advance to a 36-hole sectional qualifier the first week in June. From there, the very best non-exempt competitors from the sectional qualifier earn a spot in the 119th U.S. Open June 13-16 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in Pebble Beach, California.
The U.S. Open is generally regarded as the most challenging of the four majors. Part of its allure is the fact that every scratch amateur golfer (handicap index not exceeding 1.4) or pro has at least an opportunity to fulfill a dream of competing for this country’s national championship.
More than 9,000 entries were received. The United States Golf Association accepted entries from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 77 foreign countries. This will be the sixth time that Pebble Beach Golf Links has hosted the U.S. Open.
Monday’s field is loaded with talent. Among the notable pros competing are Rotterdam native Bryan Bigley, currently competing on the Web.com Tour, and Scotia native Ron Philo Jr., a club pro now living in Jacksonville, Florida, and working at Sawgrass Country Club in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, as the director of golf and golf instruction.
Both Bigley and Philo have qualified for sectionals many times out of this local qualifier, and it’s always an enjoyable homecoming for them. Bigley, a Schalmont High School and Siena College graduate, won numerous Capital Region events, including two Gazette County Amateurs and a CRAGA Stroke Play title, before turning pro. He’s competed on several professional tours ever since. Philo is a former PGA Professional Championship winner (2006 at Turning Stone Resort). The son of former local club pro Ron Philo Sr. and the brother of LPGA Tour competitor Laura Diaz was the first-round leader in this year’s PGA Professional Championship.
Numerous local pros threw their hat in the ring, including eight-time Northeastern New York PGA Player of the Year Scott Berliner, an assistant pro at Hiland Park Golf Club, Normanside Country Club assistant pro Justin Hearley, Mohawk Golf Club assistant pro Paul Pratico Jr. and Trevor Jaycox from Gloversville.
An elite bunch of amateurs are also competing, including Dan Russo, 61, from Hagaman, who owns 18 local major championships. He’s advanced out of local qualifying before, along with Siena College grad Jim Gifford of Ballston Lake, who has many local titles under his belt, including several Saratoga County Amateurs.
Former Bethlehem High School standout Austin Fox, who dominated the scholastic scene for many years, is also in the field, along with area standout David Hayes from Schuyler Meadows, former CRAGA Stroke Play, Troy Invitational and NYS Mid-Amateur titlist Jim Welch of Winding Brook CC, former Troy Invitational, Tri-County Match Play and Rensselaer County Amateur champion Steve Quillinan Jr., Greg Bennett of Mohawk Golf Club, Louis Walsh of Clifton Park and the Troy contingent of CC of Troy general manager Daniel Cardella, Taylor Bellemare, John Downey, Alexander Bringsjord, Eamon O’Brien and Bryan Gorman.
Tee times run from 9 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.
MAJOR JUNIOR EVENT AT BALLSTON SPA CC
Ballston Spa Country Club will host a national-caliber junior championship this summer when the American Junior Golf Association visits the course July 28-Aug. 1. UHY LLP CPA will be the title sponsor.
The AJGA, for players age 12-19, develops outstanding junior competitors who hope to earn scholarships to play collegiate golf. AJGA alumni include PGA Tour standouts Jordan Spieth, Richie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas, as well as LPGA Tour stars Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson, just to name a few.
This will be a rare opportunity for Capital Region fans to watch and support this level of elite junior golfers. The only other time an AJGA event was held locally was at Windham CC a couple of years ago, and that tournament attracted players from 15 states and 10 countries.
This year’s event will include a Sunday qualifier, a Monday junior-amateur event and a 54-hole stroke play tournament Tuesday through Thursday. Ninety-six juniors will be competing, as well as another 100 playing for 10 spots in the qualifier.
Ballston Spa CC is also looking for sponsorship help to offset the cost of this tournament, which raises scholarship money for the AJGA, as well as donates to local charities. This year’s local charity will be the Double H Ranch.
If you are a golfer and want to donate to a great cause while enjoying your favorite pastime, Make-A-Wish of Northeast New York offers plenty of charity tournaments this summer. Among the events scheduled are the Team Dame Golf Outing & BBQ June 16 at Fairways of Halfmoon; the Kingsway Community Annual Golf Tournament at Mohawk Golf Club June 17; the 11th annual Tech Valley Charity Golf Tournament at Saratoga National Golf Club July 17; and the Play It Forward 518 Golf Tournament to benefit Make-A-Wish Northeast New York Aug. 10 at Van Patten Golf Club. For more information, contact Make-A-Wish Northeast New York at 5 Washington Square, Albany, New York. 12205 (518-456-9474).
Top local amateurs finish off their first major event of the season today when the semifinals and finals in both the open and senior divisions are contested in the Tri-County Match Play Championship at Colonie Golf & Country Club.
Meanwhile, local club professionals vie for their most coveted trophy in the NENY PGA Stroke Play Championship May 21-22 at Wolferts Roost Country Club.
Airway Meadows in Gansvoort hosts the next Eastern New York Golf Association event on Wednesday.
Senior Cody Latimer was named the MVP of the SUNY Cobleskill golf team. He won an individual title and recorded six top-10 finishes this season.
The first New York State Golf Association state championship event will be the Men’s & Senior Men’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship May 19-20 at Leatherstocking Golf Club.
Country Club of Troy hosts the inaugural Northeastern Women’s Golf Association event with the Four-Player Scramble May 21.